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


  1. At a recent "meet and greet" incumbent Orland Village Trustees Schussler and Gira did not want to talk about the Orland Fire Protection District. This was troubling, but understandable given the incestous, and often overlapping politics with the troubled Fire District.
    The Fire District increased its budget expenditures from 2005 to 2009 from 20 million to 32 million.
    Yes, a 64% increase. Legal fees to the same lawfirm which represents the Village more than tripled. Numerous political hires were made: The Orland Mayor's sister becomes a high paid receptionist, a former Village Trustee is hired as a "community liason" and Todd Stroger's former spokesman is hired too. Much of this information was known and made available to Village Trustees.
    What was their response? Stay quiet and protect their political sponsors.
    The current fire board president is the son of Village Clerk Maher.
    The ethically challenged son was a secret business partner with the president of the firefighter's union - as you can imagine the firefighter's union was very happy with this arrangement. No wonder they are now supporting Maher ally
    There are many other examples of
    pay to play and abuses in the Orland Fire Protection District. Every single current fireTrustee was installed or supported by the Schussler/Gira team, working with the Orland Mayor.
    Cacciato was a reliable vote for his backers - but the taxpayers never had a fair chance. It is time to change the fire district and Village Boards.

  2. The Southtown's John K. Ryan explores the Fire Protection District tax controversy. Here's the link.