Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Main Street or Main Problem

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I admit, I haven't spent a lot of time analyzing Mayor Dan McLaughlin's Main Street plan. And while I have confidence int he abilities of some of his advisers -- the Village Manager Paul Grimes for one has done a great job over the years and is an asset to the village -- I just can't fall in  love with this latest development plan.

It's called Main Street. Or "Ninety7Fifty on the Park." It's supposed to be the Park Place of Orland Park. It's supposed to attract the really rich, and I assume their money to Orland Park. It's supposed to be financed by the Village. Officials say it doesn't involve tax dollars but that's not really true. Every dollar that government spends is basically a tax dollar that comes out of our pockets. And that is the first red flag. Why is the village and McLaughlin using village funds to build an upscale apartment complex for the rich? Can't they afford to do it themselves?

I understand the argument. The developers want help to get it done. Every developer wants help to get their projects done but we don't help them all. And we certainly haven't helped developers to the extent that the village and Mayor McLaughlin want to help "Ninety7Five on the Park." That's a lot of money we're going to be floating for the developers. They say it will work. Maybe. And maybe not.

And who gets stuck with it? The taxpayers.

But I have a concept problem with the whole deal, besides legitimate concerns about the financing plan Mayor McLaughlin has developed for the developers.

To put it simply, the Village of Orland Park is going to put up $62 million to help build this project, expensive luxury apartments that will be bought by the wealthy -- I assume these are people who don't already live in Orland Park and have pots of gold stashed away in their 6,000 square foot homes that haven't fallen to the mortgage banker robber barons for foreclosure. 295 units of luxury apartments -- why not call them expensive condos? That are supposed to "anchor" the new Orland Park downtown. Downtown. My family fled Chicago specifically to get away from "downtown." Maybe Mayor McLaughlin has been working downtown too much to see the pitfalls of a downtown.

Anyway, seriously. Some rich dude with loads of cash is going to move to Orland Park to live in a luxury condominium which is supposed to be the anchor of a yet unbuilt "downtown?"

I don't think so.

Worse. They are going to drop how many hundreds of thousands in today's crappy real estate market where condos are the last to sell and the first to go in to foreclosure?

I don't think so.

And even worse. The idea that some rich dude is going to buy a luxury condominium apartment next to a train station -- the METRA train station?

I don't think so.

Didn't Tinley Park try to build a bunch of expensive condos near their train station and didn't that fall through specifically because rich people don't want to live near train stations?

We just finished an ugly debate a few years ago about giving seniors free CTA transportation because Gov. Quinn and others said that rich seniors shouldn't get free public transportation. They can pay for it. So some rich guy will millions is going to take the train from Orland Park's "downtown" where he moved to, in order to go to Chicago's "downtown" which everyone is trying to escape from?

I don't think so.

Mayor McLaughlin has a few good advisers. And he has a few goofs, like his buddy on the planning commission who has run-of-the-mouth disease on the Orland Park Patch hate board. Or the District 230 idiot who thinks she can be five things at one time, who also publishes here stupid comments on the Orland Patch hate board. (I love the Patch but I think its chat board is too filled with viciousness and hatred.)

I think there is a tinge of pre-election jitters involved here. McLaughlin knows that he is in for an election fight this next go around. The last few elections have been a breeze. The candidates were good people who couldn't get their acts together. But this next election, I think, the mayor is going to have a serious challenge. And I think he wants this to work so bad to help him get re-elected.

I could be wrong. But, I don't think so.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, August 26, 2011

Open Letter to the Officials of the Village of Orland Park From Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman

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Open Letter to the Officials of the Village of Orland Park
From Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman

For some time, the Mayor and Trustees of Orland Park have been proposing a “Downtown” Orland Park development plan.  A cornerstone of this plan is to be a Luxury Apartment/Commercial Complex to be built adjacent to the Metra Train Station at 143rd Street.  As these plans are now being finalized, it has come to light that contrary to what was previously assumed to be a private-public partnership, is in fact a plan where the village will be financing 95% of this project through its bonding authority.

Now you will have a monumental decision that impacts all of the taxpayers in the community.  It should be an easy decision to make if village officials make as their priority protecting the best interest of those taxpayers.

There are many questions that must be answered.  And given the village’s push for full transparency, providing the answers to these questions to the public should be simple.

For example, is it in the best interest of the taxpayers to double Orland Park’s debt in order to finance constructions of the proposed luxury apartment /commercial complex?  I’m certain there would be local taxpaying developers that would love the opportunity to put up $1,000,000 and have the village finance the remaining $62,000,000 coupled with the well over $40,000,000 that has already been spent on this project.

Making the assumption that the sales tax will remain constant is a reckless risk.  We know that Governor Quinn is seeking to roll back sales tax returns to the municipalities in order to bail out our deeply debt-burdened state.  Mayor McLaughlin is keenly aware of the risks of relying on sales taxes to repay the debt because he attended a press conference at which local mayors plead with the Governor not to reduce sales tax returns to local governments.  If Governor Quinn gets his way, you will be putting every Orland Park property owner in serious peril.

Increasing debt has its consequences.  Look what happened to the nation’s bond rating in the wake of the recent public debate about increasing the debt.  Is it wise to risk all this for a speculative venture?

Who is going to pay that type of rent, $1,500-$2,000?  Young professionals, who the village is targeting, will choose Lincoln Park or the South Loop without the travel time or expense.  Orland Park has a growing inventory of vacant retail space and rental property.  Only a handful of the units at The Park Station at 153rd Street Metra Station (behind Colette Highlands) have been purchased, where an empty foundation lies.

More importantly, we just had a village-wide election in which all of these issues could have been brought to the public for discussion and debate.  Instead, these plans were held back until after the election as if to avoid public discussion.

Orland Park should not rush in to this venture.  The financing and the debt it will bring needs to be examined more closely.  It has taken years to get to this point and now the village officials want to fast-track this?  It doesn’t sound right.

It is my understanding that the Village will be hosting an “open house” regarding this development on August 29, 2011 at the civic center.  Holding a meeting the week before Labor Day with a planned vote the day after Labor Day is simply not enough.  Most people are busy getting their kids back to school and focusing on the holiday.  I would hope village leaders would schedule several public hearings in September with a final vote on the issue in October.  Don’t muzzle the taxpayers on this issue.  Please hear us out.


Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman
Orland Park Resident and
Cook County Commissioner 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


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ORLAND PARK, ILLINOIS – The Village of Orland Park will hold its annual golf outing on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at Silver Lake Country Club. The outing benefits Open Lands of Orland Park and Art In the Park.
“This is a beautiful day on the golf course to benefit two great programs in Orland Park, Open Lands and Art In The Park,” said Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin.
            Check-in and continental breakfast begin at 8:30 a.m. with a shot-gun start at 9:30 a.m. The outing is limited to 144 golfers, so golfers are encouraged to send in their reservations as soon as possible. Tickets are $130.00 per person and include eighteen holes of golf, ½ cart, continental breakfast, lunch on the course, cocktails, dinner and door prizes. For those who are unable to golf, dinner tickets are available at $50 per person. The outing is open to the entire community.
            Golfers will enjoy testing their skills for prizes in contests at several of the holes, including the Hole In One Contest, sponsored by Terry’s Lincoln.
Additional sponsors to date for the outing include The Private Bank, Peace Village, Buffalo Wild Wings, Costco, NAVA Disaster Services, Inc., V3 Companies, Monee Rentals and Sales, Day & Robert, P.C., Apple Chevrolet, Christopher Burke Engineering, Robert J. Sheehy & Sons Funeral Home, Fox’s Orland Park, William Filan, Ltd., and Petey’s Restaurant. 
Opportunities are still available for businesses to sponsor a hole, sponsor the cocktail hour, and lunch. The committee is also seeking door and raffle prizes for the event. All sponsors and prize donors will be listed in the event program that is given to all attendees.
For more information and to sponsor the event and/or donate a prize, please contact Patty Vlazny at 708/403-6145 or visit the village’s website at www.orland-park.il.us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

LaMargo's plan to bring full transparency to District 135 is long overdue

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I guess I am not surprised by the outrageous response that Joe LaMargo got when he suggested that District 135, with all of that taxpayer loot stored away in its checking accounts, start posting public records publicly. Tom Cunningham attacked LaMargo calling his proposal to educate the public "offensive." Sorry Tom. What's offensive is that the district has so much money in its coffers and it is always asking for handouts from the taxpayers. What's really offensive is that when the board finally gets some clear thinking board member and some good proposals, the board reacts with knee-jerk secrecy concerns.

Transparency is the best way to prove that a government is doing a good job. The Orland Fire Protection District where I work as a media consultant launched its transparency in May posting all contracts, budgets, financials and even the actual salaries that fire fighters receive on their web site. Soon after, the Village of Orland Park under the leadership of LaMargo, the deputy clerk, and the village manager, Paul Grimes, posted all of their documents online, too. Both initiatives are modeled after proposals by the Illinois Policy Institute, which I have been working with as a radio talk show host for years promoting full transparency.

Not everyone wants that, though. Each effort needs to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. But LaMargo is right to push at the school board.

My biggest beef with the District 135 board is that too many of its board members have children who don't even attend the public schools they regulate. That's outrageous, Tom Cunningham. How about if District 135 required its board members to send their children to the public schools. Do you think we might start seeing even more concern for the District 135 students when their children start attending District 135 schools?

I have to say this Cunningham, you are a grave disappointment as a public official. You need to get your act together and start focusing on the concerns of the public and stop playing politics. What's really depressing is that Cunningham tried to run for the village board. Looking back, I can only imagine the horrible policies had he succeeded.

We need more transparency in Orland Park, not less. The public has legitimate questions about the huge cache of taxpayer funds the district is accumulating. For what? What District 135 should do is return and rebate most of that savings to the taxpayers, who are in desperate need of taxpayer relief. The reason why Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman is doing so well is that she has a proven track record of fighting for the rights of taxpayers. Have you heard that too much? Well, you'll hear it more here.

The reason why the voters threw out the former OFPD Trustees Pat Maher and Salvatore Cacciato is that they were oblivious to the needs of taxpayers, spending money like wild sailors. Gorman set the bar and now governments are climbing on board.

Of course, Orland Mayor Dan McLaughlin needs to get with the program. He's hiring a "reputation manager" to help him change how the public perceives his work. Perfect timing for the $48,000 political contract since he is coming up for re-election. His missteps on the proposal to make taxpayers give the developers of a luxury condominium project at the questionable Main Street Triangle project raises real concerns. I guess you need a reputation manager when you do stupid things like that. Why should taxpayers pay for the building of luxury condominiums for the rich and wealthy? It's the dumbest idea I've heard. And the SouthtownStar agrees with that one.

I'm hoping village transparency might also help the public see who owns all of the land around that development. There are too many rumors about people with clout, and maybe some elected officials, holding shares to titles on nearby property.

Maybe the District 135 board should get its act together and get with the program. The priority is the interests and needs of the taxpayers of the district, not the political ambitions of its members.

LaMargo has a great idea and the Village of Orland Park and the Orland Fire Protection District (where I work as a media consultant -- full transparency is so refreshing) all agree.

District 135 needs to publish its full budget online, not the Budget at a Glance document which buries the most important information. The public has a right to know what is going on. Joe LaMargo is a refreshing voice on that board. He should be its president.

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Saying goodbye to Borders Book store in Orland Park

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Borders opened about 14 years ago in Orland Park, but it seems like it's been here forever. I loved going to that store and now that it's closing, it seems like the entire world is collapsing.

Borders was great, but then I have always been out-of-step with the world. Apparently, Barnes & Noble has been doing a better job although int he past 14 years that I have visited Borders in Orland 1,000 times, I may have gone to B&N 10.

It's the way the store was laid out. The great new titles were in the front. That changed about a year ago when they s tarted to use that old strategy of putting the best towards the back to make people walk through the garbage. Some business consultant who never bought a book obviously convinced someone that was a better way to do business. It's not. I'm happiest when I find a book and if I find a book very early on entering the store, I end up walking around the store and browsing longer. If it takes forever to find a book I want, I usually just leave and buy it.

Business consultants are not like political consultants. They're just dentists who couldn't be doctors.

One of my favorite pasttimes is book store terrorism. Well, not in a violent way, of course. I walk through the store and terrorize the extremists, turning their book covers inward so I won't see their names or their faces. Ann Coulter. Glenn Beck. Sarah Palin. Michelle Malkin. I love going through their books and turning them all around. You have to fight extremism with extremism, sometimes.

Although I will certainly miss my assaults on the rightwing fanatics on the book store shelves, I did get some satisfaction as I wandered through one final time as Borders began unloading its library of books at discounts between 25 and 40 percent. (25 percent off for the good books, 40 percent off for the politics, and 30 percent off for biographies. It tells you what sells, I guess.) Yes, I found satisfaction in thefact that Beck's books, Palin's books and the books of other right wing nut jobs are still on the shelves, not moving even with a close out sale. In fact, I saw all of George W. Bush's memoirs still crowded on the shelf. Not moving an inch. And, the hate books attacking poor ineffective and weak President Barak Obama are not moving either. The one that calls Obama a "gangster" is outrageous. That one I grab many copies of and then walk through the book store planting them behind other books all over the place -- cover facing the back of the shelf, of course.

We'll miss you Borders. Jeez. When Cattle Company shut down and you couldn't meet women any more and then it got replaced by Hooters where all you can do is stare at women, times really changed and I had to settle down (for the third and final time). But now, Borders?

Say it ain't so Joe?

-- Ray Hanania