Thursday, April 7, 2011
The real victors in Tuesday's Orland elections
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