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

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