Thursday, April 7, 2011

If the Orland Park village elections had been one-on-one, the incumbents would have lost

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There's no doubt that the incumbent trustees in Orland Park would have been thrown out of office if the race did not include so many candidates.

We know the majority of voters in Orland Park voted against the incumbents, Ed Schussler, Pat Gira and newcomer Carole Ruzich. (Read the story.)

But compare the results in the Orland Fire Protection Distirct and the Orland Park Village elections, and you can see a fascinating pattern.

Orland Trustee FPD - 6yr., 
61 of 61 Precincts Reported, Vote For 2 % Votes

Christopher G. Evoy .............28.25% ..........................3,474
Blair Rhode ..........................27.15% ..........................3,339
Salvatore ''Bob'' Cacciato .....19.04% ..........................2,341
Patrick Maher .......................14.72% ..........................1,810
Janice Brooks .......................10.84% ..........................1,333

Orland Park Village Trustee
58 of 58 Precincts Reported, Vote For 3 % Votes

Patricia A. Gira (Orland Park United) .........................13.75% ............2,597
Edward G. Schussler (Orland Park United) .................14.36% ............2,711
Carole Griffin Ruzich (Orland Park United) ..................12.2% .............2,304
Molly McAvoy Flynn (Fiscal Voices for Orland) ..........11.09% ...........2,095
John M. Brudnak (Fiscal Voices for Orland) ................10.96% ...........2,070
John S. Fotopoulos (Independent) ...............................10.39% ...........1,962
Tom Cunningham (Independent) ..................................10.05% ...........1,898
Steven Williams (Fiscal Voices for Orland) .....................9.5% .............1,794
Rich Kelly (Independent) ................................................7.7% ............1,454

As one reader pointed out, Pat Maher, the president of the Orland Fire Protection District who dropped out of the race, received a higher voter percentage than the Village of Orland Park incumbents, Schussler, Gira and newcomer Ruzich.

Take out three of the village candidates and add the majority of their votes to the results of the challengers, and the votes would have reflected the huge protest in the Orland Fire Protection District.

It's all math, and issues folks.

-- Ray Hanania

The real victors in Tuesday's Orland elections

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I had a chance to meet John Brudnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steve Williams, the courageous citizen volunteers who decided to set aside their personal lives and throw reason to the wind to fight for the rights of taxpayers under the Fiscal Voices slate. They invited me to their post-election rally where they watched the results come in with the other candidates, Blair Rhode and Chris Evoy.

In 30-plus years of covering elections, I rarely go to a post-election gathering.

I have to say they are all nice people, including the incumbents they challenged. I knew they were, though. Running for public office is not easy. The challengers are tasked with explaining to voters why the incumbents (who usually have dug themselves deep in to the system and are difficult to unseat) have not done the best job possible. And the incumbents are tasked with explaining what they have done while in office being paid on the taxpayer's dime.

I think the Fiscal Voices slate of candidates did what they were supposed to do, explain why the incumbents have not done their jobs. And I think that the incumbents did a poor job of defending their record, avoiding the big issues and throwing out cute phrases that were meaningless.

Yes, Orland Park is a great town and that's why I moved him in the early 1980s.  But the argument of the Orland Park United party  (Ed Schussler, Pat Gira and newcomer Carole Ruzich) didn't seem to move me, especially when they argied things were fine and why change them?

I hate that "why change it" argument because it suggests we can't do better.

So when the Fiscal Voices slate did their job, instead of showcasing their achievements, the Schussler-Gira slate led by Mayor Dan McLaughlin, instead used a diversionary tactic to respond, accusing the challengers of "throwing mud."

They used the exact same picture the last time of candidates standing behind a glass with mud thrown on it to make the point attacking their critics. But the point they made was stupid. Seriously. Criticism is NOT mud. But if you don't fall in line with their agenda, they don't like you, they bad mouth you, they attack you, they slander you and they do to you exactly what they claim others are doing to them.

I think Schussler and Gira did a POOR job when it came to defending their performance in office. They have a record they could have used, but why win arguing your record when calling your challengers mud-slingers works better.

I like most of the elected officials, maybe some more than others. Mayor Dan McLaughlin is a good person who always seems to get edgy when I start criticizing the people around him. He takes it personal. But so what? He's the mayor. That's his job to listen to the criticism and make changes.

That might explain the silly robo-call that Mayor McLaughlin mad in which he started out by saying, "I hate robo-calls ... " Yea, right. So that's why you and your slate did so many. And then he tried to distract voters from the real issues, accusing the Fiscal Voices slate of throwing mud, too.

In fact, that's about all you heard from Schussler, Gira, Ruzich and McLaughlin. That the opponents were throwing mud.

It's not mud. It's legitimate questions that the incumbents refused to answer.

Questions involving 1) their support of the over-taxed Orland Fire Protection District which they backed shamelessly and 2) the broken promise of the property tax rebate.

The problem is, the incumbents rarely make changes. They are comfortable doing nothing to change. They take their mandate and use it to pad their egos, even as weak as it is this election -- the weakest mandate I have ever seen for incumbents. Schussler and Gira were elected on the weakest vote any incumbent has ever received, far less than a majority.

And that's a point they can't escape, although they probably don't care. Most voters in Orland Park don't agree with them and rejected them. The majority of voters embraced the alternatives.

I would venture to say that they owe John Fotopoulos a thank you. Had Fotopoulos not run, I think Schussler and Gira and Ruzich would have lost. But that's politics.

But here is a salute to Brudnak, Flynn and Evoy, and to the first candidates ever to break the headlock the incumbents have on Orland Park politics, Rhode and Evoy. You all deserve praise for conducting a very informative and lively election.

Don't listen to the incumbents. They are the real losers. They lost their souls. They lost that drive that I am sure pushed them to leave private life and enter public service. They lost the commitment to be accountable to the public, because that is the biggest problem we have in Orland Park, whether Mayor McLaughlin wants to admit it or not. There is no accountability to the public in Orland Park at all.

In contrast, Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman has listened, not just to her friends but to the critics -- and I was one of her biggest critics. She discovered it wasn't personal. It is about addressing the issues and without a doubt, no one listens to the concerns of voters more or even better than Liz Gorman. And she is a better public servant for it. Her actions leading the fight against higher taxes are legendary in this county and impacted this recent election. Yes, in fact, Gorman's support for the challengers gave them a huge advantage and fueled their victory in breaking the mold of the past elections.

We are a great town. But we'd be even greater if the people we elected to office spent the time they volunteer to spend focusing not on themselves but on the concerns of the public. Great leaders don't listen to their friends. They listen to the criticism and then address them and make changes.

That's what I think separates the real winners from the real losers in this past election.

But the door is open and you can't close it. The incumbents have begun their slide. The next election in Orland Park won't be like the ones in the past. Brudnak, Flynn, Smith, Rhode, Evoy and Gorman made sure of that!

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

And now the dizzy spin in Orland Park follows a record election

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Salvatore Cacciato will leave office at the Orland Fire Protection District with a big chip on his shoulder. He can't understand why the voters threw him out of office. He complained that he's a better person and criticized the "negative" campaigning. But that's the problem with incumbents who lose touch with the public and are not accountable. They think that when the public questions their actions, that is some how negative.

That's why you are out of office, "Bob." You just don't get it.

The other spin is that while voters are fed up with the excessive spending and wasteful policies at the Orland Fire Protection District, they are also fed up with the excessive spending and increased taxes in the village of Orland Park. Yes, increased taxes.

When a village gives you a property tax rebate and then takes it away, you are actually paying more in property taxes. The village officials don't want you to know that, though. They're too busy wiping their brows from a very close call that almost threw them out of office.

Here are the facts: More than 6,000 voters cast ballots to select three candidates in a field of nine candidates.

With a three-way contest for each of the three available seats, the so-called "winners" actually lost the public mandate.

Ed Schussler and Pat Gira and newcomer Carole Ruzich received ONLY the largest vote. But the fact is more people voted against them in Orland Park than fore them. Schussler got only 43 percent of the total votes cast (2,711 out of 6,200). Gira got only 41 percent of the total votes cast (2,597 out of 6,200) and Ruzich got even less, 36 percent of the total votes cast (2,304 out of 6,200).

That's not a mandate. That's not an embrace of their tax and spend policies. That voter margin is embarrassing. And it was driven by a last minute push by Mayor Dan McLaughlin, who clearly wields some influence in the village.

But the message is that voters ARE tired of the way the village is being led and the lack of accountability and even the arrogance that is being displayed, that they don't have to answer any questions about their actions.

Voters in Orland Park want change. They got change at the Orland Fire Protection District election Blair Rhode and Chris Evoy. But they also demanded change in the Village and they did not get change at all.

So if 43-percent Schussler and 41-percent Gira and 36-percent Ruzich are happy with their results, it only explains why the village faces the problems it does. There is nothing to be proud about in those numbers, unless of course you only care about winning.

I would love to hear them say that!

Regardless, change is coming. This is the first election in nearly 20 years where challengers came so close to tossing incumbents out of office in the village, and achieving that miracle in the Orland Fire Protection District where wasteful spending and excessive taxation has raised the ire of voters.

-- Ray Hanania

FINAL VOTE RESULTS -- Incumbent trustees win in close contests; Fire District to see change

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Final unofficial election results from Cook County Clerk in Orland Park. Click here for vote results in other communities.

Orland Trustee FPD - 6yr.
61 of 61 Precincts Reported, Vote For 2, % Votes

Blair Rhode (Fiscal Voices)

Christopher G. Evoy (Fiscal Voices)

Salvatore ''Bob'' Cacciato (incumbent)

Janice Brooks

Patrick Maher (incumbent)

Orland Park Village Trustee
58 of 58 Precincts Reported, Vote For 3,
% Votes

Patricia A. Gira (Orland Park United) (Incumbent)

Edward G. Schussler (Orland Park United) (Incumbent)

Carole Griffin Ruzich (Orland Park United) (Incumbent)

John M. Brudnak (Fiscal Voices for Orland)

Molly McAvoy Flynn (Fiscal Voices for Orland)

Steven Williams (Fiscal Voices for Orland)

Rich Kelly (Independent)

John S. Fotopoulos (Independent)

Tom Cunningham (Independent)

Orland Park Village Library Trustee - 6yr.,
58 of 58 Precincts Reported, Vote For 3, % Votes

George R. Sims

Nancy Wendt Healy

Brian K. Wydajewski

Denis P. Ryan

Thomas M. Dubelbeis

Julie Ann Craig (Fiscal Voices)

Renee Poppie

Faith Swanson Pavlick

Bassam Abdallah

SD Bd. Of Ed. Orland 135 - 4yr.
50 of 50 Precincts Reported, Vote For 3, % Votes

Gregory H. Okon

John Carmody

Tina M. Zekich (Fiscal Voices)

Joseph S. LaMargo


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ELECTION FLASH: Lowest turnout in years -- Orland Fire District perched to elect Gorman backed slate

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The voters wanted change and voted overwhelming to elect new leaders, but they got stuck with two incumbents who got less than 50 percent of the votes cast in the early projections.

The voter turnout was one of the worst in Orland Park history but the results in early election counting show that incumbents Village Trustee incumbents Ed Schussler and Patricia Gira and newcomer Carole Ruzich are clinging to a slim leader against challengers John Brudnak, Mary McAvoy Flynn and Steve Williams. However, their victory shows they will receive less than a majority of the voters, indicating that most voters wanted them out of office. It's a reflection of the upcoming race for Orland Park mayor that will pit incumbent Mayor Daniel McLaughlin against Cook County Board Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman. Each backed their own slate. (About 5,500 votes were expected cast and only Schussler, a former village mayor, will come close to winning 51 percent of the votes cast.)

Another big win for Gorman's slate was Tina Zekich in School District 135.

Only 170 votes separate Challenger Molly McAvoy Flynn from ruling party candidate Carole Ruzich. Although the incumbent village elected officials paid lipservice to the American Arab voters, they clearly bailed on Bassam Abdallah who was backed by the incumbents showing that racism is still alive in Orland Park.

But the big news is that voters were prepared to oust the pro-tax incumbents from the board, Salvatore Cacciato appears headed to a major defeat to Blair Rhode and Chris Evoy. Cacciato was trailing a possible second place finish by more than 900 votes at 8:35 pm with 51 of 61 precincts reporting in.

Although the incumbent village trustees appear to be clinging to their seats, the vote shows that they would have been ousted easily if the race were head-to-head. That is great news for Gorman who pulled the election rug out from under McLaughlin's backed slate of candidates.

If the Flynn votes come within 100 behind Ruzich, the Fiscal Voices Slate will file an election challenge to Ruzich.

The other big news is that former village trustee and McLaughlin ally Tom Dubelbeis was blown out of the water in defeat for the Library Board. Dubelbeis was the strategist behind the failed bid of Patrick Maher for Cook County Board. Clearly, Maher sank the incumbent's hopes for a mandate. Julie Craig, also backed by Gorman's Fiscal Voices slate, appeared headed for an easy win over Dubelbeis.

Here are the early election results from the Cook County suburban election board (8:35 pm):

Orland Trustee FPD - 6yr.
51 of 61 Precincts Reported, Vote For 2 % Votes

Blair Rhode

Christopher G. Evoy

Salvatore ''Bob'' Cacciato

Patrick Maher

Janice Brooks

Orland Park Village Trustee (As of 8:25 pm)
50 of 58 Precincts Reported      Vote For 3       % Votes

Edward G. Schussler (Orland Park United)

Patricia A. Gira (Orland Park United)

Carole Griffin Ruzich (Orland Park United)

Molly McAvoy Flynn (Fiscal Voices for Orland)

John M. Brudnak (Fiscal Voices for Orland)

John S. Fotopoulos (Independent)

Tom Cunningham (Independent)

Steven Williams (Fiscal Voices for Orland)

Rich Kelly (Independent)

Library race edges to closure:

Orland Park Village Library Trustee - 6yr.
50 of 58 Precincts Reported, Vote For 3, % Votes

Nancy Wendt Healy

Denis P. Ryan

Julie Ann Craig

Thomas M. Dubelbeis

Faith Swanson Pavlick

Brian K. Wydajewski

Renee Poppie

George R. Sims

Bassam Abdallah

Click HERE to check the final results as they come in Tuesday night.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Liz Gorman slams Trustee Gira for outlandish letter in SouthtownStar

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Cook County Commissioner and Republican Township Committeeman Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman slammed Orland Park Village Trustee Patricia Gira for an outlandish letter Gira published in the SouthtownStar this week.

The Gira letter went beyond the bounds of politics and attacked Gorman personally, distorting facts and trying to attack the slate of candidates that Gorman has endorsed including her challengers John Burdnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steve Williams. Gorman is also backing Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy in the important to taxpayers race for the Orland Fire Protection District against Salvatore Cacciato, Gira's running mate.

Gorman sent this response to Gira's last minute letter in the SouthtownStar newspaper:
Dear Editor: 
Does anyone else find it strange that when Orland Park politicians want to hide from their back door tax increase and continue to push for the wasting of millions of tax dollars, they must find a scapegoat to attack?  No, they don’t want taxpayers to concentrate on the wasting of millions of tax dollars on the 143rd Street condemnation and “Metra Triangle,” and McLaughlin’s no bid contracts, so they attempt to make me the issue by having one of their village employees, write libelous and personal attacks on me.
The fact is Ms. Gira’s party is responsible for record high taxes and fee increases, including a 900% hike in the fee for Senior Citizen vehicle stickers as well as a repeal of property tax rebates for Orland Park residents.  
Could it be that Ms. Gira is upset with me for openly supporting a slate of candidates who will bring fiscal sanity and the balance of power back to the community where I live? Since when am I or any other resident of Orland Park exempt from the right to support candidates in their community? Anyone who knows my legislative record, knows that I fight needless tax and spend policies in Cook County government, so why wouldn’t I want to fight for the community I live in by supporting candidates who will bring fiscal responsibility to Orland Park? 
Currently the “Dan McLaughlin Club” holds all village offices, all fire district offices and numerous school board positions.  You’ve seen how the excessive spending in the Fire District was exposed by the SouthtownStar. Ms. Gira’s power is being challenged and her vitriolic response is merely evidence of her anger. 
Ms. Gira is upset that I defended myself against the personal attacks from her friend and neighbor, who just happens to be employed by the village and hosted a political gathering in support of Gira’s campaign.  
These are terrible times for taxpayers and it’s time to decentralize power from the Dan McLaughlin club and give it back to the taxpayers.  I have seen what one party rule can do. In Congress, one party rule ravaged our economy. In Springfield, one party rule has given us the largest tax hikes in history. In Cook County, one party rule has created the largest cesspool of corruption in the country.  It is simply my hope that the voters of Orland Park will not allow this to happen here and will support the candidates of the Fiscal Voices for Orland – John Brudnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steve Williams for Village Trustee and Blair Rhode and Chris Evoy for Orland Fire Protection District Trustee. 
Liz Gorman 
Cook County Commissioner 
Resident of Orland Park

Gorman's slate of candidates have given the incumbent village trustees the first real challenge in 20 years, and Rhode and Evoy have challenged the taxing record of incumbent Cacciato and his running mate who quit the race Patrick Maher.

The incumbents, Gira, Ed Schussler and new candidate Carole Ruzich have avoided answering the questions about why Orland Park property taxes are so high and why they haven't challenged the high taxes and outrageous spending and budget of the Orland Fire Protection District. And that prompted a tough mailer from the Gorman-backed Fiscal Voices slate which compared the tax records of the incumbents to Todd Stroger, whom Gorman singlehandedly threw out of office.

No one wants to be associated with Stroger, who raised more taxes than King John in Nottingham (the 12th Century brother of King Richard the Lionhearted). But when you increase taxes and fees, eliminate the Orland Park homeowners property tax rebate, and then refuse to discuss the issue and point fingers of blame at School District 135 and try to make the argument that what District 135 is doing is different from what Orland Park is doing, the comparison with Stroger is justified.

Okay. She didn't do it on her own, but had it not been for Gorman's persistence in successfully battling Stroger's many tax hike proposals and leading the fight against the increase in the sales tax and then its repeal, Stroger might still be in office.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, April 1, 2011

Two leaders headed for mayoral contest release their endorsements: Gira goes off deep end in Letter to Southtown

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Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin and the candidate who is most likely to challenge him for re-election in two years, Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman both released their endorsements for Tuesday April 5 election.

McLaughlin's letter to residents supporting the Orland Park United Party dropped today. It reads:

"Because this election is so important I wanted to write and ask your consideration for candidates that I know are dedicated to improving our community and are running for the right reasons. Many of these candidates are experienced with many years of service to the community and some are new to public service bringing fresh ideas and a new energy.

"Please vote on April 5th and please consider the following candidates:

Village Trustee
Patricia Gira
Edward Schussler
Carole Griffin Ruzich

Library Trustee
Denis Ryan
Tom Dubelbeis
Bassam Abdallah

District 135 School Board
Joe LaMargo

District 230 School Board
Rick Nogal
Oatrick O'Sullivan
Kathleen "Kathy" Quilty

Orland Fire District
Salvatore "Bob" Cacciato

"I have also enclosed a card with these candidates listed which you may bring into the polling place as a reminder. Orland Park is a great community. Let's keep working together to make it even greater. Thank you for your consideration.

Daniel J. McLaughlin

McLaughlin is not only the mayor but he is also the Democratic committeeman of Orland Township. Gorman is the Republican committeeman of Orland Township. I like both Gorman and McLaughlin, and it's good to see McLaughlin at least picking up from my suggestion that the Orland United Party should change their innocuous slogan, adding the important phrase "Orland Park is a great community. Let's keep working together to make it even greater."

Here is the slate endorsed by Liz Gorman for the Fiscal Voices of Orland Park and the newsletter she distributed this week:

Village Trustee
John M. Brudnak
Molly Flynn McAvoy
Steve Williams

Orland Library Trustee
Julie Ann Craig
Renee Poppie
Faith Swanson Pavlick

School District 135
Tina M. Zekich

MVCC Unexpired Term
Lisa Zynalski

MVCC Trustees
Susan Murphy
John R. Coleman

Orland Fire Protection District
Blair Rhode
Christopher G. Evoy

Here's the newsletter Gorman mailed:

Gorman Newsletter Page 1. Click image to view larger image.

Gorman Newsletter Page 2. Click image to view larger image.

Gorman Newsletter Page 3. Click image to view larger image.

LaMargo is the village deputy clerk and Cacciato, running mate of former candidate Patrick Maher, is an incumbent. Tom Dubelbeis is a former village trustee and was one of Maher's campaign strategists for the failed bid for Cook County Board commissioner.

Gira's strange letter in the SouthtownStar

Gira wrote a scathing letter attacking Liz Gorman personally that appeared in the Southtown Star. Click here to read the link.

The accusations against Gorman are vicious, never mind the FACT that Gorman was re-elected to office with one of the highest votes ever from Orland Park for the Cook County board district, slamming Patrick Maher who is Gira's friend.

I am not sure what Gira is talking about though, except that the letter seemed like a gratuitous attack at Gorman's personal financial issues which were wildly debated and the voters brushed aside as inconsequential. Frankly, Gorman has done so much to defend the rights of taxpayers that whatever mistakes she may have made regarding her own personal finances are insignificant and irrelevant.

She seems to be defending an employee at the village, but Gira doesn't give the employees name. And she says Gorman did something, but doesn't explain what she did. I gather though that the person Gira is defending is filling in for someone at the village hall and she wrote a letter criticizing Gorman and Gorman may have responded, which is her right.

I have received a lot of mailers from the Schussler-Gira slate but I haven't read about what they hope to do when re-elected, explained why the village had to raise fees so high or why the village eliminated the homeowner's property tax rebate, which was promised to us in exchange for the local Orland Park sales tax hike.

When you are in office, the responsibility is on the incumbent to explain policies. And there hasn't been much explaining going on around Orland Park by its village officials in a long time.

- Ray Hanania

When businesses appear to take sides in supporting election candidates

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Terry Kunes and Terry's Automotive Group purchased a full page advertisement in the Orland Park Prairie this week praising the Village of Orland Park elected officials. It was a little surprising that a local business would get so heavily involved in a contentious election and appear to take sides.

I guess it is far smarter to do that then simply let those you support fill your business frontage with their election signs as many other businesses are doing. At least Kunes is doing it the right way, using his money to back the officials he supports. I wish the village would remove ALL of the campaign signs that litter the fronts of businesses along LaGrange Road.

The headline of the paid advertisement is "Congratulations."  Congratulations for what? The Ad says that the village officials have done a great job with making Orland Park one of the best in the nation.

Writers on other web sites have published comments that the dealership is taking sides in the election to help the two incumbents who are running for re-election.

The dealership, according to published reports, has received many contracts to provide vehicles to the village. I think it's great that a village buys products and services from local businesses. But, is it wise for a business to be so obvious in village politics by appearing to take sides?

Kunes must be well-versed on village politics because the advertisement promotes six bullet points in the public advertisement that address the state of the village's finances and tax policies.

Although the advertisement gives the elected village officials great credit in the bullet points for the villages great financial status, it doesn't address other financial concerns raised by residents including: the village has 1) broken its promise to rebate property taxes, 2) recently dramatically raised fees for vehicle stickers and more.

Maybe Terry's (where I have leased cars in the past) has purchased such Ads heaping accolades on the elected officials in the past that I have not seen. But this ad being purchased just before the election is curious.

It seems to me that it might be risky for any major business to be so out front on a contentious political election, if that's what he meant to do. Maybe Kunes didn't intend it to be political, although that's how some readers might view the advertisement. However, the timing will lead some to believe he is taking sides.

Here's a nice profile of Kunes from the Orland Park Prairie that ran in August of 2007. Click to read article. Kunes, it says, started his dealership in 1971 and began working on cars in Oak Lawn.

-- Ray Hanania