Thursday, March 31, 2011

Will be live on WYCC Ch 20 TV tonight (Thursday) 6:30 pm with Garrard McCLendon

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I'll be on Off 63rd with Garrard McClendon live tonight at 6:30 Ch 20 WYCC TV. The focus is Chicago and Rahm Emanuel

Also on the show with me will be:

Warner Todd Huston, a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,, and, as well as,,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis 

Also, The Chicago Defender's reporter Kathy Chaney will join us in this live panel discussion.

McLendon's web site is and you can call in to the studio during the live show at 773-487-3630

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Don't be fooled by old political tricks," including by people who say that

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I am not going to say that Pat Gira and Ed Schussler are the worst candidates we've seen run for re-election to hold their jobs. I'm not going to say they are bad candidates, either. But at the same time, the burden is on them, the incumbents, to address the issues, and the challengers to tell us what the incumbents did wrong and how they, the challengers, would change things.

So far, the incumbents have done a poor job of telling us what they plan to do for the Village of Orland Park, except imply that they will continue doing what they have been doing. Their slogan is "Orland Park - a great place to live ... Let's keep it that way!"

That sounds good, I guess. But not at a time when increasing numbers of homeowners have lost their jobs, many of us can barely pay our property taxes and village fees, and the government that oversees how we live our lives is spending money foolishly.

Yes, I do hold the Village Trustees partly responsible for the financial mess and the wasteful spending we see at the Orland Fire Protection District. They are the most bloated, over-taxing government agency in Illinois. They have taken $30 million in property taxes and other taxes and fees from us to cover their luxury work lifestyle. And they fought how many fires last year for $30 million? Four? That's almost $8 million to fight one fire.

But then, who cares about what the Orland Fire Protection District spends, hiring all their friends, and their friends' families and their political pals and giving consulting contracts to pals who help them run for higher offices, and keep secrets?

Well, the incumbents should care. And the fact that the incumbents haven't said a word about the Fire Protection District does bother me as a voter.

So the incumbents pay a fortune for another full color mailer -- I looked at their campaign contributions and for the life of me, can't figure out how they are paying for everything. And that mailer tells us that their challengers are "throwing mud."

Throwing mud? You mean, asking the questions that no one around here in public office -- with one exception  -- wants to have answered?

How is our tax money being spent?

Here's the "mud" that Gira and Schussler claim is being thrown at them from their challengers, John Brudnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steve Williams.

1 - Did the incumbents increase village spending by 13 percent in the last four years even as village revenues decreased? That's a claim Brudbnak, Flynn and Williams are making. Is that "mud?" No. It's called a campaign issue. 
2 - Did the incumbents increase the cost of our vehicle sticker fees 100 percent. That's a claim Brudbnak, Flynn and Williams are making. Is that "mud?" No. It's called a campaign issue.
3 - Did the incumbents increase vehicle sticker fees on seniors by 1000 percent. That's a claim Brudbnak, Flynn and Williams are making. Is that "mud?" No. It's called a campaign issue.
4 - Did the incumbents cut property tax breaks for local residents. That's a claim Brudbnak, Flynn and Williams are making. Is that "mud?" No. It's called a campaign issue.

Instead of addressing any of these issues, the incumbents are pretending they don't exist. Why? Maybe they think we're all morons, stupid sheep who just write checks to pay our steadily rising property taxes each year.

They promised to give us our property taxes back in return for the increase in the Orland Park sales tax. Then they took that property tax rebate away and we still have to pay that increased sales tax.

That's an issue the incumbents call mud?

The one official in Orland Park and the Orland area who has stood up for the taxpayers is Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman. And Gorman is backing Brudnak, Flynn and Williams. Why? Because the incumbents tried to throw her out of office and install a political hack, the relative of the powerful Hynes family in her place, Pat Maher. Maher, the son of the village clerk David Maher, runs the over-taxed Orland Fire Protection District. And the incumbents are on his side.

This isn't about you, the incumbents. This is about us, the taxpayers.

Maybe some elected officials should get that straight for a change.

And maybe tell us how any of the four points above are, as your latest campaign mailer claims, "Lies, distortions, half-truths and misrepresentations."

I'd like to hear that some time. And so would the voters in Orland Park who slammed Patrick Maher's candidacy down by a landslide margin in Gorman's favor. I guess that possibilityw ould make anyone desperate to make accusations of mud slinging.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Candidates Talk Budgets and Businesses at Orland Township Forum

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Candidates Talk Budgets and Businesses at Orland Township Forum 

Orland Park, March 29, 2011- A forum, moderated by WLS radio host, Dan Proft, was held in the Orland Township Activity Center, 14807 S. Ravinia Avenue, on Friday, March 25, 2011 with eight of nine candidates running in the April 5 Consolidated Election.

Candidates, Pat Gira, Edward Schussler, Rich Kelly, Tom Cunningham, John Brudnak, Steven Williams, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Carole Ruzich were present to speak during the regularly scheduled Senior Drop-In Center, allowing regular attendees and additional guests to gain clarification on the issues before submitting ballots in Tuesday’s election. Candidate John Fotopoulos was unable to attend due to a work commitment.

Each candidate was given two minutes for opening and closing remarks and one minute to elaborate on questions submitted by the audience prior to the start of the forum. Candidates also answered questions from their counterparts, including Orland Township Assessor Rich Kelly, who was asked by Carole Ruzich if he planned on resigning from the Assessor position. Kelly clarified that if he wins the election, he will maintain his position at the Township.

The morning’s event went without much debate amongst the candidates, aside from the issue of new building developments. Candidate Brudnak inquired to candidate Schussler whether apartments would go up in the Main Street Triangle District and if there could be a guarantee they would not become Section 8 housing. Schussler assured the forum that the developments are of the high-end variety.

“It’s  phony baloney to throw out Section 8 and get people emotional,” said Schussler.

Supervisor Paul O’Grady, who welcomed the candidates and audience to begin the forum, expressed his satisfaction in Orland Township’s role in the forum.

“I’m pleased that Orland Township residents had this first-hand opportunity to hear the candidates’ views,” Supervisor Paul O’Grady said. “Townships remain the most basic unit of local government, as well as the closest to the people. There couldn’t have been a better place for our residents to gather their information in order to make an informed decision.”

Orland Township will serve as a polling place for precincts 31, 40 and 48 on April 5 from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and the Highway Department, 16125 S. Wolf Road will serve precincts 57 and 65. For precinct information, please visit

About Orland Township
Orland Township (, established in 1850, is the level of government closest to residents. Its purpose is to educate and coordinate programs and services that will enhance community life and promote activity and overall wellness for residents.

Campaign disclosures tell a lot about candidates: Fire District PAC supports village trustee incumbents

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The biggest factor to influence voters in the last election in November and in this election April 5 is the role of the Orland Fire Protection District (OFPD). It is the most over-taxed agency in Illinois, collecting more than $30 million to provide fire protection services that other communities can provide for as little as $7 million.

The Fire Protection District has been under siege by taxpayers, angry at the excessive taxes, and the abuses in the misuse of fire department equipment. So which candidates do you think the firefighters are supporting?

Well, they are donating to the campaigns to re-elect Orland Park trustees Ed Schussler and Pat Gira, and newcomer Carol Ruzich. The Orland Professional Fire Fighters PAC is backing them, donating just last week $1,200.

Schussler, Gira and Ruzich are running under the Orland Park United Party (OPUP) banner. The committee doesn't show much but recent A-1 forms, which are required when donations of $500 are made in the 30 days before an election, show that loads of money has been coming their way, including from the firefighters.

Ruzich has a committee, but it had no funds as of the last filing. Ruzich is a team player though and donated $3,200 to the OPUP. Gira's campaign fund has about $2,173 as of the last required filing, and much of that was transfered as a donation to the Orland Park United Party.

Schussler gave himself about $6,200, and he transferred or donated about $3,500, listed as being from his own pocket, to the OPUP.

In contrast, Trustee candidate John Fotopolous has given himself a few thousand dollars through his law firm.

Blair Rhode, who is running with Christopher Evoy and are considered the lead candidates for the Orland Fire Protection District's two contested board seats, donated money from his own pocket to the Fiscal Voices campaign fund. Rhode donated $5,000.

The truth is, the disclosure forms don't tell us much in terms of who is backing who, other than the money from the firefighters and the OFPD. Molly McAvoy Flynn, who set up the Fiscal Voices for Orland Park Party, donated $1,000 to the fund after filing it. She is running for Village Trustee along with Steve Williams and John Brudnak. Williams also donated $5,000 in two separate checks. (They are backed by Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman who handed outgoing OFPD President Pat Maher his lunch in the Cook County November election. If she handed Maher his lunch, Gorman may hand the incumbent village trustees dinner on April 5.)

I wonder how much money Schussler spent on the robo-call that hit Orland Park last weekend. In the robocall, Schussler (whose voice is apparently heard on the call) alleged that his opponents were making up lies in their robo-call which he said had hit homes in prior days.

I didn't get a robo-call from the Fiscal Voices people, as Schussler alleged had been made to voters, and the Fiscal Voices People claim no such robo-call was made. Maybe someone called Schussler's house and he thought it was a robo-call.

I can only imagine how that conversation must have gone.

Although, there was no such robo-call. A member of the Fiscal voices group offered a $100 reward for anyone who taped the AWOL robo-call allegedly made last week.

I'd write about Tom Cunningham's campaign for village trustee, but he got handed his lunch in an exclusive expose detailed at the Orland Park Patch, the online newspaper that I enjoy reading. (Click here to read the story.

How about this. If you are going to run for public office and you have an arrest record of some sort, why not just get it out in the open when you announce instead of hoping no one finds out. Like most media, the Orland Park Patch asked all of the candidates if they have any past convictions. It's the new "Maher Law of Politics." Apparently, Maher didn't think anyone would find out that he had been charged with assault against another student many years ago. One of his consultants must have told him, don't worry. But everything gets out, eventually, and it caught up with Maher. The mother of the boy he brutally pummeled in college did a robo-call detailing her son's serious injuries from the attack by Maher.

I met Cunningham. And everyone has problems. But he should have done a better job at addressing his own past problems and police reports. You can't run for office and hope no one finds out. It doesn't work that way. And, when it does come out, people will conclude you did everything you could to hide it or keep it from coming out. And that's not good.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, March 28, 2011

Library board choice: more politics or literary independence

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Tom Dubelbeis is running for the Orland Park Library Board. Voters should reject his candidacy.

Dubelbeis, if you remember, is a consultant who works for the Orland Park Fire District and was a campaign strategist working with Pat Maher, the outgoing OPFD President.

I know that because it was Dubelbeis who called to introduce me to Maher, the poor guy. I had barely had a conversation with Dubelbeis before that meeting, but I got this feeling that he was telling Maher that he was an "insider"  who knew people and could hook him up and help with his election.

Dubelbeis' pal, Maher, had his lunch handed to him by Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman in the county board race last November. Maybe Maher's loss reflects Dubelbeis' great campaign work.

The Orland Park Fire Protection District has the distinction of being one of the most overtaxed agencies in Illinois. Fire Departments in other communities provide professional services for as little as $4 million and $8 a year. But not in the Dubelbeis Fire Protection District, which slams the taxpayers for more than $30 million in taxes ... to do what? Buy big brand new SUV's so the fire battalion chiefs can drive their families around to baseball games and stores outside of the township?

Maybe Dubelbeis wants to do for the Orland Park Library District what he is doing for the Orland Park Fire Protection District?

Dubelbeis was a political consultant for Pat Maher, and he supports Maher. Maher has serious issues in his past that were brought out during the November elections in his failed bid to unseat Gorman. If you want Maher's allies controlling the Library Board, go ahead and vote for Dubelbeis. But if you think the Orland Fire Protection District is a bottomless pit of tax spending, and you want the Library to be something better, you should reject Dubelbeis' candidacy.

There are some great alternatives running for the Library Board. The library board has seven trustees and three seats up for election Tuesday April 5.

They include George Sims, Denis Ryan, Brian Wydajewski, Bassam Abdallah, Julie Ann Craig, Renee Poppie and Nancy Wendt Healy.

Don't put your library board in the hands of politicians.

-- Ray Hanania

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Orland United Party pushing Fire Protection lackey Cacciato

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Ed Schussler's brother must not have known what he was in for when he knocked on my door this morning. I didn't get his name but he has the same laid-back, nice temperament of his brother. But when he handed me a stack of election literature and after I shuffled through it all, I gave him a piece of my mind and he listened intently.

The literature was promoting Pat Gira and Ed Schussler, the two incumbent trustees who are seeking re-election.  Their biggest downfall is that they are the incumbents and incumbents always deserve to get more pushback than the challengers. Why/ Well, the incumbents are in office and they have to justify their past actions.

What bothered me the most, though, was not that Schussler's brother was asking me to support their re-election, and the election of a third running mate who I still don't know much about -- Carol Ruzich -- but that he gave me a flyer for Salvatore "Bob" Cacciato.

Cacciato is the incumbent board member of the Orland Fire Protection District, which is one of the most bloated government bodies in Illinois. The residents pour taxes into the system and get what other communities get for far less. The Orland Fire Protection District hammers Orland Park and Township residents with nearly $30 million in taxes every year, up several million from last year.

Oh, they'll argue it's not all taxes, but if it comes from a public source, directly or indirectly, every dollar is a dollar that comes from the taxpayers in one form or another. The money is spent to pad the payroll of the high-salaried fire battalion chiefs, who get to drive their taxpayer-purchased SUV's not only when they are on duty, but when they are off-duty taking their wives to stores outside of the township and the county, or their kids to play baseball. And the fire district honchos love their kids' baseball.

If you compare the bloated Orland Fire Protection District to other communities, you discover that they charge four times more for services here than they do in other communities, like in Tinley Park where the budget for their fire department is only $7 million.

So why are we paying so much? Because, the elected officials and incumbents like it that way and their slogan is "Heck, why change anything?"

So I went off on Schussler's brother, asking him why Gira and Schussler are endorsing Cacciato and the Orland Fire Protection District's bloated budget? Why are they backing the colleague and running mate of the district's controversy-plagued and outgoing president Pat Maher.

I know the answer. It has nothing to do with whether Maher did a good job or a bad job. It has everything to do with the fact that Schussler and Gira are pals of Pat Maher's father, David Maher, who is the village clerk. So the head of the Orland Fire Protection District is part and parcel of the campaign platform of the incumbents, and frankly, I don't like it. I don't like the fact that neither Gira nor Schussler have ever spoken out about the Orland Fire Protection District's outrageously high budget.

But they do talk about how low the "tax rate" in Orland Park is. The Tax Rate has NOTHING to do with how taxes are set on Orland properties. The tax rate is basically a mathematical formula to help divide the taxes that the village seeks and divides it up among homeowners based on their size of their properties. In other words, the taxation comes first and the tax rate only helps to figure out how to divide up who pays what. If the Village of Orland Park and their pals at the tax-bloated Orland Fire Protection District did their jobs properly, the taxes would be low and the tax rate would be even lower.

I like Pat Gira and I like Ed Schussler. But just because I like them doesn't mean they don't have a responsibility to speak out when the taxpayers get taken to the cleaners on taxation. Why are Gira and Schussler supporting the Orland Fire Protection District?

I think they need to answer that very important question. It's just because elected officials turn a blind eye to the excessive taxation of government agencies like the Orland Fire Protection District that we have to look at their challengers for answers.

And who is challenging Gira and Schussler?

The challengers are John Brudnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steve Williams. They oppose increased taxation and they especially are against the bloated budget of the Orland Fire Protection District. They have the backing of the one politician in Orland Park who has fought long and hard against increased taxes and earned my respect because of her hard work and fearless actions over the past few years, Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman.

I was one of Gorman's biggest critics a few years ago and she had the guts, no the courage to stand up to that criticism and show me how I was wrong about her intentions.

Elected officials have no right to whine when residents and taxpayers question their actions or even criticize them. Criticism is a PART of their jobs. Take it, or get out of the kitchen, folks. Gorman took it and then answered every concern I ever had. Upfront. Honestly. And without reservation.

What are our elected officials doing about taxation? Only Gorman has the courage to speak out and explain what she has done. And she is backing Brudnak, Flynn and Williams on the Village of Orland Park board, and Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy who are running for the Orland Fire Protection District, against good old boy Cacciato and his former running mate Pat Maher who withdrew from the race.

I think  it's time we focused on the village's tax policies and ALSO on how our elected officials conduct themselves with regards to bloated budgets in other overlapping taxing bodies.

The Orland Fire Protection District is one of the most expensive, overtaxed government bodies in Illinois. It gets away with it because it's board members don't care, and more importantly because the elected officials in Orland Park don't question the Orland Fire Protection District's board's spending and taxing policies. They should. And I think Brudnak, Flynn, Williams, Rhode and Evoy will not only ask the right questions about the Fire Protection District, but they will more importantly do something about those outrageous, excessive taxes.

I'd love to hear Schussler and Gira denounce the policies at the Fire Protection District, but I doubt that will happen. Instead, they'll keep handing out Cacciato's literature and pretend that everything is hunky-dory in Orland Park, when it's not as great as it could be.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, March 25, 2011

What are we voters of Orland Park? Chopped liver?

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How many of you are doing well financially? Raise your hands. Not a lot, I imagine. So it bothers me that the theme of the expensive mailers being sent out by the Orland Park United Party (Pat Gira, Ed Schussler and Carol who?) is "Orland Park -- a Great Place to Live. Let's Keep it that way."

Orland Park is a great place to live and your predecessors used that theme two years ago and two years before that. The real issue is that yes, we are a Great place to live. I love living here. But I don't want to keep it just that way. I want to make it better.

The most recent mailer -- four pages of full color -- plays with the numbers about taxation, claiming we have "one of the lowest tax rates" in the southwest suburbs.

Tax rates are not what drives your property taxes, though. The village asks for a budget and can increase their spending. Then, they divide it up among the homeowners and that becomes the tax rate. So if the tax rate is low, it doesn't mean they haven't raised your property taxes.

In fact, our property taxes skyrocketed this year. Yes, I'm paying about $2,000 more a year in property taxes. And, I no longer get the village property tax rebate that was promised to us to off-set the increased sales tax by Mayor Dan McLaughlin way back when. We kept the sales tax hike and threw out the rebates.

Worse, Orland Park is the home to the worst taxed fire protection district in the country. The Orland Fire Protection District spends nearly $30 million a year to do what? What Tinley Park does for only $7 million a year? I want a good fire protection district, but not one lined in gold. So that guy, Salvatore Cacciato has to go because he was Pat Maher's running mate and pal. And they are the pals of the officials in Orland Park who backed Maher and are remaining quiet about the outrageous taxes levied by the Orland Fire Protection District.

The slogan "Let's keep it that way" suddenly sounds terrible.

I like Gira and Schussler. It's not the point though. When are they going to speak out and be leaders and scream about the stores that are closing because they can't afford the high taxes any more, instead of trying to tell me that "Hey, you know. Things are not that bad. Let's keep them that way."

Keeping things "that way" has forced many people to the edge of bankruptcy. Mortgage foreclosures are up and the economy stinks. Are we managing our money, or using phony campaign buzz words like "tax rate" to distract voters from the real issue.

Look. I'm not being unfair. I'm being honest. And if you run for public office, get ready to take the criticism and listen to the howls. And if people are not howling then you, as elected officials should be howling for us and screaming to get our taxes down.

How many of the trustees voted against eliminating the property tax rebate?

How about a fancy, expensive mailer on that.

And, maybe you should fire your campaign consultant and find someone who can write to the real concerns of the taxpayers of Orland Park. Because the "Hey, it ain't so bad" theme really sucks.

Gira and Schussler and Carol Ruzich are being challenged by John Brudnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steve Williams on the Fiscal Voices slate backed by taxfighting champion Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman.

John Fotopoulos is also running, and he needs better literature, too. Although at least Fotopoulos is addressing the real issue: "Stop balancing the budget by increasing taxes."

Yes. And there is also Tom Cunningham who is running. Formerly with District 135, Cunningham does not have the money, it seems, to inundate homeowners with brochures and fancy, schmancy four-page brochures. His website is

The website for the Orland Park United Party is (Shouldn't it be, "

The website for the Fiscal Voices candidates backed by Gorman is

And, Fotopoulos'web site is ... (it's not on your literature, John. Come on. Put it there fer Cris Sakes!) I'll look it up. I can't find his campaign website. But his law office website is

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Social media changes face of Middle East and maybe in Orland Park

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Social media like Twitter and Facebook are the foundations of the social change being used to unseat dictators and tyrants in the Middle East. The Tweets and Facebook friend posts have forced many presidents-for-life to leave office before they retire or are carried out on their backs.

That's also rare in Chicago's suburbs where many elected officials remain in office until the very end, dragged out even with their fingernails scratching the chalkboard after they die and go to that big patronage haven in the sky.

But at least one candidate for public office in Orland Park is using social media in a big way. That's Steve Williams who is running on the Fiscal Voices Party (backed by Cook County Commissioner and anti-tax hike champion Liz Gorman) for Orland Park Trustee.

Not only does he have a Facebook page but, he is also using Facebook advertising which is very effective and easy and low cost when you know how to use it. Here is his link to his Facebook page.

Click here to view his Facebook Page.

Williams can purchase the ad that runs on the pages of anyone who designates on their Facebook account that they are from Orland Park. That is how Facebook Ads can target people so effectively. People who don't live in Orland Park won't see the Ad which saves huge money.

There are other candidates with Facebook Pages, including from the opposition, like Trustee Ed Schussler.

Click here to view his Facebook Page.

I couldn't find one for his running mate and incumbent Pat Gira. And I looked for and found one for Carole Ruzich, too.

Click here to view her Facebook Page.

I checked for one for John Fotopoulos. Like Rhode, Fotopoulos is a "friend"among my list of contacts. (John is a friend, but not everyone who friends is a real friend, but someone who wants to connect. They should create a category and split it to designate real Friends and the rest would be Connections. But who am I to tell the guy who made billions on the Internet how to do his job?)

Click here to view his Facebook Page.

Steve William's running mates are Molly McAvoy Flynn and John Brudnak.

Click here for Flynn's Facebook Page.

I couldn't find one for Brudnak, but maybe this is his relatives. Click here to check that out.

I couldn't find a Facebook Page for Tom Cunningham.

All of the candidates should have one, but not all do. They should have campaign web sites, too. And they should have a Twitter account. They all help.

Social media brought about dramatic change in the Middle East. Maybe we can see the same thing in Orland Park.

-- Ray Hanania

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Candidates for Village Trustee and Fire Protection District to cut salaries if elected

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Candidates for Village Trustee and Fire Protection District to cut salaries if elected

You can tell which candidate is backing the Fiscal Voices for Orland Park slate in the April 5  elections. Fiscal Voices is a coalition of pro-taxpayer candidates running for the Orland Park Village Board and the Orland Fire Protection District.


They include Fire District Candidates Dr. Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy, whose signs are being ripped down across Orland Township, are members of the Fiscal Voices for Orland Park slate. While the Orland Fire Protection District incumbents have been raising taxes faster than they have been ripping down Rhode and Evoy campaign signs, Rhode and Evoy have promised to return their monthly stipend if elected to the Fire Protection board.

The monthly $250 fee may not sound like much, but that's $3,000 a year. And while it doesn't off-set the huge taxes that the Fire District has imposed on taxpayers over the past four years -- it's now knocking on $30 million a year -- the proposal to reject their wages for their service symbolizes how serious they take the issue.

And, as I mentioned, you know who is backing them, Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Gorman who led the fight to repeal the oppressive one per cent sales tax imposed by former County Board President Todd Stroger. In fact, Gorman's persistence forced the board to repeal the tax and even convinced the commissioner whose vote made the tax hike possible in the first place, Larry Suffredin, to change his mind. (Had Suffredin voted against the Stroger sales tax in the first place, it would never have passed.)

Rhode and Evoy are made from the same anti-tax mold as Gorman, and that's fresh air in Orland Township and Orland Park where taxes have only increased -- again, faster than campaign signs are being pulled down in the village and that's pretty fast. (There should be a law on how fast a campaign sign can be torn down by opponents. Oh yea, there is. It's called destruction of private property. It was an issue in the last countywide elections when former County Commissioner Tony Peraica lost re-election when he was accused of ripping down signs of his opponent and now Commissioner Jeff Tobolski.

Rhode explained the decision in a release Saturday night: "We decided to run because the Fire District's expenses are out of control. Taking any money in this financial climate would be wrong."

I couldn't agree more. 

Evoy also charged that incumbent Trustee Salvatore R. “Bob” Cacciato has campaign signs that say they are backed and paid for  by the fire union, arguing "This is exactly what's wrong on this Fire Board. How can any candidate take money from the very union they are expected to negotiate against?"

Evoy is noting that the Orland Fire Protection District has to negotiate salaries and union wages with the fire union. Seems a little odd to me. I've reached out to Cacciato for his response.

Evoy added, "I also will lead by example and refuse any pay whatsoever. This election is about the people of Orland Township."

Cacciato is the running mate of Orland Fire Protection District President Patrick Maher who withdrew from the election.


Village Trustee candidates John Brudnak, Steve Williams and Molly McAvoy Flynn have also followed closely in the footsteps of Liz Gorman. They have proposed that they will take a pay cut of 10 percent when elected and will take another 10 percent cutback "if  the current economic climate doesn't get better."

In a release Saturday, Brudnak said, "Now is the time to let actions speak and to get the village back running the way people want and deserve."  

Flynn agreed adding, "In tough times elected officials must lead by example, we can't cut the tax rebate out and charge higher fees while still taking a full salary,that's hypocritical in every way." 

Williams agreed with his running mates saying, "Talk is cheap but actions speak volumes."

When contacted, Gorman praised the decisions saying, "This is exactly why we are backing these Five candidates. The steps they are taking by volunteering to do this really speaks to there moral and ethical character. I am honored and proud to have my name associated with their campaign."

Brudnak, Williams and Flynn are challenging incumbent village trustees Ed Schussler, Pat Gira and Carole Ruzich


Friday, March 18, 2011

Sign wars hit Orland Park elections

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There are so many issues out there in the election but one that always seems to pop up is the issue of campaign signs.

John Fotopoulos put out a press release and accused deputy village clerk Joe LaMargo of saying that signs placed on private property should be removed. Of course, when I talk to Joe, that’s not the case at all.

I know them both and they are both good people, but I think John’s frustrations about his signs being removed are focused on the wrong person.

Here’s what Fotopoulos said in his press release of March 16, which included his letter to LaMargo:

Dear Mr. LaMargo: 
This letter confirms our earlier conversation wherein you called my office and advised me that you authorized village staff to enter private property to remove my signs. These actions fly in the face of the Illinois Constitution and the United States Constitution, specifically, violating the First and Fourth Amendments. As such, please cease and desist from any action that results in the removal of said political signs from private property.
 Please accept this letter as my formal objection to your removal of my campaign signs from private property. Furthermore, I respectfully ask that the Village of Orland Park and its agents immediately cease and desist from contacting any residents and businesses that exercise their Constitutional rights to support my candidacy for Orland Park Trustee. I will take any and all action necessary to protect the fundamental Constitutional rights of the residents and businesses.

Fotopoulos’ letter though doesn’t reflect what LaMargo told me when I called about it.

“I was shocked at Fotopoulos’ accusation. It’s not true. I would never say to remove signs from private property. I don’t have the authority to do that. He is absolutely exaggerating this. The process is we will call the property owner, not the candidate, and state there is a sign not in compliance with the village code and ask them to remove it. If it is not removed we would issue a citation. We can’t and wouldn’t go on private property to take a sign,” LaMargo said.

“I do give a courtesy call to a candidate when we get a complaint. But Mr. Fotopolous has turned it around completely into something else. The problem with Fotopoulos’ signs is that many of his signs are over sized and will be removed. We called him and said his signs are oversize.”

LaMargo is correct. Fotopoulos has huge signs, just like Rich Kelly.

I have also heard from Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman who believes the village procedures have changed from the last election to this election and that signs of challengers are being removed. They are being removed.

“On March 14, went to public works after weekend to see what signs were picked up since many of the Fiscal Voices were taken as other candidates. I wanted to verify that the signs were either being stolen or picked up by public works. I spoke with Ed Wilnes, the public works director and he said that they are not picking up any ones’ signs. He said if they are wrongly placed in easements [public property, not private property] then they are to place the signs legally on the property. That’s very different than when I ran against [Patrick] Maher. Obviously the rules have changed because I see that the incumbents have illegal signs all along roadways.”

Gorman makes the point, “I even mentioned, ‘You are not in the sign business in this race, because you sure were in mine.’ It’s a double standard."

Gorman is right. I have also noticed that the campaign signs promoting incumbent village trustees Pat Gira and Ed Schussler are up all over the place, including on public property. No one has bothered them. But signs for their challengers, John Brudnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steven Williams.

LaMargo insisted he only addresses the issue when someone calls his office and he doesn’t pull over when he is driving through the town to pull down signs.

“I can’t remove it if it is on private property. We can only call the property owner and explain the sign is over-sized. If you are in compliance with everything there won’t be a problem,” LaMargo said.

“If Public Works sees signs illegally put up, sometimes they will remove them. No one is telling them to target any signs. I’m just doing my job. There were signs removed from all sides in the last election. I only get involved and make the courtesy call in this when it is brought to my attention. I don’t call any departments about this either.”

But there is no doubt in my mind that some employees for the Village of Orland Park are stealing and destroying signs for candidates who are challenging the incumbents endorsed by the village. It doesn’t make them look good and maybe they are sitting back smiling at all this. But it makes Gira and Schussler look bad when their signs are all over and everyone else’s signs are taken down.

Anticipating the issue, LaMargo said that Orland Village Manager Paul Grimes distributed copies of the rules for sign placement in early March. Here’s what was sent out: (Click the images to view a larger copy.)

Response from village to Fotopoulos:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Joe LaMargo calls for Orland School District 135 board to recall high tax levy

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                 Contact:   Joe LaMargo
March 9, 2011                                                                   

Joe LaMargo calls for Orland School District 135 board to recall high tax levy

                        Orland School District 135 board candidate Joe LaMargo is recommending that the school district board evaluate its decision to increase the tax levy by 4.68% arguing that the excessive increase is not needed and places too high of a tax burden on the community it serves.
            “I have closely scrutinized the school district’s financial documents, and there’s simply no reason to extend a greater financial burden on the school district’s taxpayers,” LaMargo said. “ The financial statements clearly state that there are enough funds in reserve as well as expected revenue to subsidize the school district for the entire 2010-2011 school year.”
             LaMargo accessed the financial documents on the school district’s website. According to the statement of net assets, School District 135 had $50,968,476 in cash and investments as of June 30, 2010. This amount was enough to sufficiently cover 72% of the school district’s expenses for the upcoming fiscal year. The remaining 18% of the total $70,780,954 in expenditures would be funded by expected revenues, and NO increase in the tax levy would be necessary.
            “As taxpayers, we are entitled to know why the School District 135 board voted unanimously to increase the tax levy when the district’s documents show that the hike wasn’t
 necessary,” LaMargo added. “This money should either be returned to the taxpayers or used immediately to benefit our children’s education.”
            If elected, LaMargo’s first priority will be to establish a fund balance policy for Orland School District 135. His extensive background in finance and government will be useful in designing the policy.
            “School districts receive the largest portion of our property tax bills and directly affect our property values,” LaMargo said. “Fiscal responsibility is imperative.”
            LaMargo recommends that any excess funds should be used to enhance technology and help teachers at all the School District 135 schools.
            “Our schools shouldn’t have antiquated, rebuilt computers that operate intermittently,” LaMargo said. “In order to prepare our children for a competitive world, we have to provide all classrooms with technology including interactive whiteboards to ensure that our children are part of an engaged learning environment.”
A nine year resident of Orland Park, Joe LaMargo is employed as the deputy village clerk for the Village of Orland Park, a separate entity from Orland School District 135. Joe offers Orland School District 135 nearly 20 years government experience at the state, county and municipal levels. He holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership with an emphasis in public policy from Lewis University.  Joe earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics from Loyola University.  He is a graduate of Marist High School.  Joe and his wife Melissa have three sons, all of whom attend Orland District 135 schools


Monday, March 7, 2011

Taxes are still a major issue in Orland Park

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Your property tax rebate is officially dead. It was born out of selfish politics and it died out of selfish politics, slain in a plan to cut it in half, and then quietly abandoned. No more property tax rebate.

Daniel J. McLaughlin

I think all of the candidates need to address this issue, but you probably won't hear a word from the incumbents.

The vehicle sticker fee has doubled from $15 to $30, valid for two years. The cost for Seniors will go from $1 to $10.

I think these are questiosn that maybe Village Trustees Pat Gira and Ed Schussler might want to explain especially since Mayor Dan McLaughlin is telling the Orland Park Chamber of commerce that despite the two worst years in a decade, Orland Park experienced a "net gain" in new businesses of 95 percent rate.

Okay, who learned me English and math? That sounds like a loss of 5 percent, not a net gain. But them, statistics are easy to mess with.
Elizabeth Ann Doody GormanImage via Wikipedia

I like Mayor McLaughlin. He's a good person. I just wish he were hanging around with some different people and maybe getting new ideas on how to trim costs. Because I don't like the fact that the village board dumped the property tax rebate which was specifically approved to off-set the .75 percent sales tax hike that Orland Park and the village board imposed 10 years ago.

So now the promise of off-setting the jacked up sales tax with a property tax rebate just fades in to the night and the shallow memories of the sheep -- Orland Park voters, baaaaaaah!

It's ironic that the property tax rebate was massacred by the Orland Park Village Board, considering that voters are in a protesting mood, awakening from their lamb-like slumber? Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman has slayed the sales tax dragon almost singlehandedly, the ONLY county board member to refuse to accept the sales tax increase by the former board President Todd Stroger. She fought and reintroduced the repeal repeatedly and din't just give up the way some village trustees are following orders. And guess what? The Stroger county sales hike has been repealed.

So why not repeal the tax hikes in Orland Park? Or, re-implement the property tax rebate program. It's a genius program. Visitors to Orland Park who shop here pay the sales tax and the village makes money. Residents who shop in Orland Park and contribute to the village sales tax would get their property taxes reduced through a rebate.

Schussler and Gira are being challenged by a slate backed by Gorman who embrace Gorman's eliminate the waste rather than increase taxes policies. They are John Brudnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steven Williams.

This isn't about politics when I say this:


It's called a back door tax.

Here's an overview after piecing it all together from the village of how vehicle sticker fees are going up:

Vehicle sticker increases
Passenger/Motorcycle increases from $15 to $30
Recreation increases from $22 to $40 
Senior Citizen's Fee increases from $1 to $10
Trucks:B Plates increases from $22 to $30
D Plates increases from $30 to $40
F, H, J Plates increases from $52 to $55
K, L, N, P Plates increases from $82 to $85
Q, R, S, T, V Plates stays the same at $105X, Z Plates increases from $127 to $130
(Thank GOD we only have 26 letters in the alphabet!)
Other Vehicles
School Bus increases from $30 to $60
Antique Car increases from $7.50 to $15
Auto Dealer's First Car increases from $22 to $30
Auto Dealer's Additional Cars increases from $4 to $10
Replacement and/or Transfer stays the same at $1
But be sure that your property tax is increasing dramatically in Orland Park, in a large part due to the poor financial management of the Orland Fire Protection District.

OFPD President Pat Maher fell on his sword to save his family the campaign abuse from his past problems, but that doesn't let the Fire Protection District off the hook from imposing huge property tax hardships on residents.

We not only need a new president, we need to get rid of the trustees immediately. And that means that Trustee Salvatore Cacciato should withdraw from the election contest, too. Where was Cacciato's voice questioning Maher's past problems? Silent because of politics? Where was Cacciato's voice questioning the excessive spending and the huge budget of the Orland Fire Protection District? Silence is endorsement which means Cacciato supported the OFPD district spending.

And how about addressing the issues Cacciato?

Cacciato and Maher are being challenged by Christopher Evoy and Blair Rhode.

The Orland Fire Protection District is one of the most expensive in the state and nation, a budget of more than $28 million that should be scaled back to maybe -- maybe -- $10 million a year. How about getting rid of some of the politically clouted battalion chiefs? How about changing the policy to prevent battalion chiefs from using OFPD vehicles and property for personal use?

Orland Park once was known as a growing community with a strong retail center. Now, we're just known as that expensive place to live with little if any benefits and hugely increasing taxes? Oh. We have a lot of restaurants. But who can afford them?

-- Ray Hanania
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Friday, March 4, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Patrick Maher quits race for re-election in Orland Fire Protection District Race

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Patrick Maher, the son of Village Clerk David Maher, withdrew his name from the April 5, 2011 election, citing family concerns and issues. Maher was pushed in to a challenge of Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman last year, winning the Democratic Primary but losing in a landslide to Gorman in the November 2010 general election.

Maher had the financial backing of many contributors to the Village of Orland Park and received thousands from Mayor Dan McLaughlin and newly elected Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, almost as if Preckwinkle was firing a declaration of war against Gorman who has risen to become one of the county board's most respected members.

Maher was elected in 2003 as president of the Orland Fire Protection Board, one of the largest and most expensive in the nation, second highest budget in Illinois, more than 28 million. He was elected president in 2006. He has been under intense pressure to run for higher office as he is the first cousin of former Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, the 19th Ward scion. Orland Park has been a target of the 19th Ward politicians for years and at election time they often inundate polls with 19th ward precinct workers

Although Maher is a decent person, his past exploded in the middle of his race for the Cook County board when it was discovered that Maher had been charged with brutally beating another student when he was in college. Maher was charged in 1991 with felony aggravated battery and the case went to trial. Although the first trial ended in a hung jury, Maher pled guilty to misdemeanor battery.

There were too many issues involved not only in the case but in the way the case was addressed by Maher himself. Several media sources claimed he had lied on candidate response forms saying that he had never been charged with a crime. And, his birth date on some records had been changed by one day. Today, the court system doesn't use social security numbers to index court records. Cases are often filed by birth dates. Changing the birth date, or an error, would result in records not being found. (Read and watch Dane Placko's news report from the election on that issue.)

Maher's loss crowned Gorman as one of Orland Park's strongest politicians and there are rumors that she is considering running for mayor of Orland Park in the next election against McLaughlin. Maher's candidacy in this election and his loss in the countywide election and the story of his past criminal charges has put many races in jeopardy. Candidates running with the backing of McLaughlin and Clerk Maher are being challenged by a slate endorsed by Gorman not just at the Orland Fire Protection District but on the Village Board.

There is no doubt that the candidates with Gorman's backing will sweep the elections. Maher was being realistic.

I called Commissioner Gorman and asked her for a comment. She was very reserved and polite considering the mud that was thrown her way by some of Maher's minions and by some of the political people who backed Maher. She said, "I respect his decision and I wish him and his family well in his future endeavors."

Maher's exit from the race will not change the fact that his name will remain on the April 5 ballot. Is it a brilliant campaign trick, to build sympathy. Sources say no, that Maher is being honest and working to repair his public image. His release cites concerns for his family, avoiding a rehash of the past criminal charges and the campaign in which the mother of the boy who was beaten in 1991 spoke to voters twice in robo-calls to voters' homes.

There's no doubt she would have urged voters again to vote against Maher in the election.

April 5 election:

There are 36 candidates competing for 14 seats in five Orland Park races.

There are races for School Districts, where 11 candidates are in the field including in District 135 Joe LaMargo, the kindly Orland Park Village Deputy Clerk under Clerk Maher.

Maher's presence in the race put in jeopardy two seating trustees and allies, Edward Schussler and Patricia Gira, backed by McLaughlin. They are running on the Orland Park United Slate along with newcomer Carole Ruzich, an unknown name.

Gorman is backing the candidates of the Fiscal Voices for Orland slate including John Brudnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steven Williams. Gorman's backing has given these three candidates voter power and the edge. Also running are independents Tom Cunningham, John Fotopoulos and a name from the past, Rich Kelly. Kelly, according to CapitolFax, is a cousin of former Cook County Assessor James Houlihan and Kelly serves as the Orland Township Assessor. (How many jobs can one guy hold?)

In the Orland Fire Protection District, Gorman's backed candidates include Christopher Evoy and Blair Rhode, seeking to replace Maher, who is both a trustee on the board and its president, and Maher ally Salvatore Cacciato. Janice Brooks is also running.


Maher Withdraws from Fire District Race

"I'm Honored to have Served"

Orland Park, IL - Patrick Maher, president of the Orland Fire Protection District announced today he will not seek re-election to the board of trustees and is withdrawing his name from the April 5th ballot. Maher stated, "I gave the issue of running for another term a lot of thought, discussed it with my wife, Karrie, and my father, and decided that after eight years on the board, it's time to focus on my family and their needs."

Maher listed some accomplishments that the board made during his stewardship. "I've worked closely with the board members and fire chief to bring greater productivity and efficiencies to the department. I'm most proud of the fact that we simultaneously returned over $4 million to the taxpayers while improving OPFD's Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating to class 2," Maher said. The district's class 2 ISO rating places it within the top 3 percent of the best fire departments in the United States. "As a small business owner and homeowner, I always felt an obligation to provide the best service without imposing a bigger tax burden," Maher said.

Maher thanked his colleagues on the board, Chief Bryant Krizik, the firefighters and staff for working so hard to improve the district's performance during his time as president.

On a personal note, Maher said, "My wife and family went through a lot during the Cook County Commissioner's race and I couldn't ask them to endure another grueling political campaign." Maher ran unsuccessfully last November for Cook County Commissioner (17th District) against Commissioner Liz Gorman. "Karrie and I are glad not to rehash the same old issues that campaigns tend to bring. For the kid's sake and ours, it's time to move on," Maher said. "I'm honored to have served and glad to leave the district in good financial shape and among the best in the country," Maher stated.


-- Ray Hanania