Sunday, July 31, 2011
We decided to try the new restaurant, It's Greek to Me at 131st and LaGrange Road. Of course, it is a hassle to get in to the strep mall that is part of the home development there. I figured, it's not convenient but we can give it a try.
The prices were high but not too high. The food was good. I ordered lamb shank. It was kind of skimpy and tough. My wife had the Greek salad. I wondered why we would go to It's Greek to Me to enjoy a salad when it is so much easier -- and cheaper -- to enjoy a soup and salad at Olive Garden?
It was a clean place, but it didn't seem too crowded for lunch Friday. I think it's a great place for the people who live in the old golf course. But it needs better access so I don't have to twist and turn to get there off LaGrange.
It was nice. Not that notable. A little pricey, but decent. Is that a good enough reason to eat someplace? I don't know.
-- Ray Hanania
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
For the fourth time this week, Orland Park neighborhoods were hit with ComEd brown outs. What are they doing? No one knows. They just shut down the electricity for up to two hours. Take it or leave it.
What is ComEd doing? Did we have a power outage or is ComEd managing electrical service to spread it around to compensate for their poor service? ComEd is owned by Exelon. Exelon makes huge profits and its CEO is paid millions in wages. ComEd is losing money and begs for state subsidies and rate hikes. It's a shell game.
Much of their problem has to do with their failure to communicate well. They don't do a good job of informing the public. Their PR stinks and their explanations of their phony relationship with Exelon leave the public suspicious about rate hike needs.
But the worst part is they just do whatever they want and they don't care. They tell you they care, but their actions of uncaring speak louder than their empty words.
-- Ray Hanania
Gorman urges legislature to mandate posting of complete public employee wage listings
Commissioner Gorman to introduce resolution asking the General Assembly to require all public employee salaries and benefits to posted online
For Immediate Release July 20, 2011
For More Information Contact:
Orland Park -- Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman Wednesday joined in calling for the Illinois Legislature to require all taxing bodies to publicly post detailed wages and benefits received by public employees.
The proposal was made this week by Orland Fire Protection District board President Jim Hickey who released a comprehensive list of all wages and benefits earned by the district's 112 public employees.
The disclosure, which was withheld by the unions and the former OFPD board, shows Orland firefighters are among the highest paid in the country with the average salary at more than $100,000 and more than $200,000 with salary and benefits.
"This is what we have been fighting for, to release basic information so that the public has an accurate understanding of how their tax dollars are spent by their local governments," Gorman said.
Gorman in fact was challenged by the former president of the OFPD Patrick Maher, who is related to the powerful Chicago 19th Ward union family of Tom Hynes.
"Now we know why they targeted me. The release of the data by the Orland Fire Protection District shows that Pat Maher failed in his duties to fight for the best interests of the taxpayers of the district, while Mayor Dan McLaughlin condoned this behavior." Gorman said, noting that past efforts to get the data released were blocked by Maher and his allies on the Fire Protection District.
"People are shocked by the wages that the data shows. It's not about whether or not we support firefighters. Of course we support firefighters. But their wages should be dictated by the needs of the community and the ability of the taxpayers to fund those services, not by a clout-heavy union that was used as an election army by their political sponsors."
Gorman noted that Maher received both political and financial backing from the fire union in his unsuccessful bid to unseat her from the County Board in 2010 and again in his failed bid to win re-election to the Orland Fire Protection District.
"I applaud the Orland Fire Protection District trustees for standing up for the interests of the taxpayers. Their new policies to create total transparency may have upset the powers that be, but they are helping to give the taxpayers the complete facts so they know how their money is being spent," Gorman said.
Gorman praised the Fire Districts new board majority, Hickey and newly elected trustees Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy, for standing up to "those who want to dumb down the system, keep the taxpayers in the dark and maintain the status quo in Orland Park."
"Let's be clear. I am not against the unions. I am against those unions that form unholy alliances with government officials to manipulate and undermine the taxpayer's interests. And clearly in Orland Fire Protection District, as we have just seen, the interests of the taxpayers were subjugated to the needs of politics," Gorman said.
Gorman said she will introduce a resolution to the Cook County Board to push local governments to follow suit and make all their records public, and to use that to urge the Illinois General Assembly to do the same.
"The taxpayers in Illinois and Cook County need this legislation. Someone needs to stand up and defend their best interests when it comes to the spending of their hard-earned dollars," Gorman said.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I don't know. Sometimes I wonder about government. Borders is closing and that is a major setback for consumers. It's a great store. And while we can't blame Orland Park for the closing of the Orland Borders -- Borders is a far better store than Barnes & Noble -- the closing will impact our community which has been hit hard by retail slumbers.
On top of that, the village pushed ahead with its plans to create some kind of downtown section at 143rd and LaGrange Road, the so-called Main Street Triangle plan. I never liked the plan, really. I liked the stores that were in the mall there. The Cafe was wonderful for it's breakfast steak skillet. I liked Randy's Market. And who can get rid of any of the rumors and suspicions that a lot of already influential people invested in the land around the Triangle area and the push is to help them more than the people of Orland Park?
Do we really need another mall? Do we really need more retail space when so much remains empty? Again, I'm not blaming Orland Park for the store closings. But seriously, hasn't anyone noticed all the stores closing? And among the ones that haven't closed, many are having serious financial troubles.
Now, the village is going to give Terry's Lincoln auto dealership a sales tax give-back of up to $100,000 a year for 10 years. Will the village live up to their promise? That's not an easy one to answer considering they reneged on the promise to taxpayers to rebate our sale tax portion. Remember those sales tax rebate checks we were promised. That just disappeared. Can't afford them. But we can afford this? No way. Those rebate checks symbolized the village's concern for the residents. Now, where is their concern? Those checks used to come to taxpayers and homeowners in the Spring. No more, folks. Because the village can't afford it. But the village CAN afford giving a rich car dealership a $100,000 sales tax rebate? Why?
In contrast, the Village is fighting a tax rebate for the Orland Park Mall. They don't want to give any money back to the owners of the fast decaying Orland Mall run by Simon Properties. The place is a dump. How about helping them with substantive improvements before the place turns in to a teenage skateboard hangout? I hate to go there and that's a tragedy because there was a time when I loved going to the mall. But the mall doesn't cater to the area residents any more. It's more for people from outside of the community who come here to buy the cheap junk that's being sold.
A bad economy does that to society. it pushes people to buy cheap junk. And that's what's at the mall these days. Junk.
We need quality stores. Not more cheap retail outlets.
And should we be giving sales tax rebate incentive to a car dealership? Why? Politics? Well, Terry's did put that favorable Ad in the newspaper before the election praising the incumbent office holders. Some of them deserve praise, like Trustee Brad O'Halloran. But is it payback? It sure looks that way.
Click here to remember what Terry's did for the incumbents just before the last election this past April.
I say invest the money in fixing up the village. I like where the village has been going. But I don't like a few of their recent decisions. Terry's is not what we should be doing with our tax dollars. What breaks have they given the taxpayers in Orland Park -- Oh, I did lease a car from them once. I wanted to buy it from them but their terms stunk.
Put the Triangle plan on hold. Stop the giveaway to Terry's, and how about coming up with a strategy to strengthen the commercial retail businesses we have, not dilute them?
Apparently, we homeowners are not really that important.
By the way, what does $100,000 in sales taxes actually represent? Well, if that's 10 percent of sales, that means $1 million in sales each year. (Anyone see the sticker prices of cars lately. You think gas prices have gone up!)
How about take the $100,000 and give it to someone to keep Borders open in Orland Park. Losing that store -- again not because it is the fault of the village -- is a major blow to the village. Next thing you know, we'll have some flea markets popping up. I don't want that.
Of course, I do like the decision by the village to publish all of its wage and contract records online. That's a great idea. (Sounds familiar.) But at least we know that we do have some very bright people working for the Village of Orland Park. Somehow, I don't think a lot of these decisions, though, are about economic sense as much as they are about politics and pals.
-- Ray Hanania
Saturday, July 9, 2011
The Orland Fire Protection District election in April was a cry from taxpayers that they were tired of the excessive spending by the fire district.
It was marked not only by the election of two newcomers, regular Orland Park residents and taxpayers who had no name recognition but who were concerned about the inability to get facts and data from the old Pat Maher/Salvatore Cacciato run board. Voters threw the incumbents out of office and they did it in a voter landslide that had a HIGHER VOTER TURNOUT than the same election four years earlier.
Since the election sweep, bigots and haters who have been writing on the Orland Park Patch (a web site I like, by the way) have libeled and defamed all of the people like myself who supported that change on the Orland Fire Protection District. Their lies have run the gamut and have been posted by anonymous people who refuse to post using their real names because their information is so exaggerated, inaccurate and wrong, it is pathetic.
Here are a couple of examples:
THE OPEN MEETINGS VIOLATION LIES
For example, a guy named "Spike" -- who clearly is hiding is relationship to the OFPD -- claimed that the new board members, Blair Rhode and Chris Evoy, were violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act by meeting with each other.
The law says that no number of an elected board that equals a "majority of a quorum" can meet together. For a board of 10, 5 is a quorum and 4 would be a majority of a quorum which means 4 people could not meet. Without doing research "Spike" and his minions on the Patch then claimed that since the OFPD board is 5 members and a quorum is 3, then a majority of a quorum is 2 and therefore -- according to these geniuses -- two board members could never meet to discuss issues.
But, the fact is the state has a special provision that is right in plain site that excludes 5 member boards from this rule and that says that the majority of a quorum rule does not apply. Instead, a quorum of a 5 member board cannot meet. That means 3 can't meet, but 2 can.
THE RACISM ATTACKS
Spike has peppered the Patch with references to my heritage which I am proud to claim is Palestinian Arab. (My mother is from Bethlehem and her church was the Church of the Nativity, where my cousin is now the Pastor.) Being a Christian Arab is important to me. But it provoked hate from Spiek and his minions who referenced numerous links to my Arab heritage and posted it on the Patch ridiculing me and my race.
THE ELECTION TURNOUT LIES
The most recent lies from Spike and his minions is that the April 2011 election was the worst turnout of any past election.
Again, they are lying. They are basing it on the FACT that the voter turnout in Cook County was the lowest ever. But NOT in Orland Park or the Orland Fire Protection District.
In fact, the newly elected board members, Blair Rhode and Chris Evoy got more votes than not only the two board members they defeated (Maher and Cacciato) but also more votes than were cast (in 2007) for two of the three incumbent board members, Glenn Mihalek and Marty McGill. The ONLY person who ever got a significant number of votes above all was Jim Hickey in the 2009 election
Here are the FACTS:
In the April 2007 election Blair Rhode received 3,347 votes and Chris Evoy received 3,483 votes. Cacciato received 2,350 votes. More than 6,200 votes were cast for five candidates. In the Village trustee race (non-mayoral race) that same election, Ed Schussler got the highest vote with 2,616 votes cast in a field of 9 candidates and about 6,000 votes cast.
NOW, compare that to four years earlier (the off-year equivalent election), in the OFPD District the winning candidates Marty McGill got 2,603 votes and Glenn Mihalek got 2,695 votes, which were almost 1,000 votes less than Rhode and Evoy got. About 4,700 votes were cast in that election. In the village election (again, non-mayoral race) Bernie Murphy got 3,492 votes of a total of 4,120 votes cast.
The new board coalition, led by Hickey, Rhode and Evoy, are determined to implemented the mandate demanded by the taxpayers to cut costs. In the first 60 days, the new board cut nearly $500,000 from the budget.
FULL TRANSPARENCY DEMANDED
The new board hired me to help them get the word out on their efforts, and we immediately implemented a FULL TRANSPARENCY policy to place ALL public records on the Orland Fire Protection District web site.
We did that. It's called Dollars & Sense. There, all the questions that the old board REFUSED to answer are now available for the public to see for themselves. Instead of relying on the lies and exaggerations of people like "Spike" the public can get the facts firsthand and make judgments themselves.
Leading the way are Jim Hickey, Blair Rhode and Chris Evoy. They are determined to get the facts and truth out to the taxpayers.
The documents BEGAN not with exposing past spending but by detailing the spending of the current board. All of the new contracts are posted on the web site. And then, the new board began posting documents looking backwards including, for the first time, a full line-item budget of the Orland Fire Protection District and the salaries of every employee. The fact that many employees are making over $100,000 a year is of concern and interest to the taxpayers and the new board is determined to make sure the truth and the facts are released.
Obviously, based on their campaign of hatred, racism and name-calling, Spike and his (or her) minions are not happy that people know what they have been doing for the past 12 years behind the curtain of secrecy.
Visit www.OrlandFire.org to view the documents. And when you visit the OrlandPark.Patch.com web site, enjoy the great writing of Ben Feldheim and the reporters there, but be cautious and wary of the lies from anonymous posters like Spike and his minions.
-- Ray Hanania
(PS ... my contract is $36,000 a year compared to the $48,000 contract that Spike's pals were paying the previous media person and I have done more in the past two months to get public records out than was done before.)
Monday, July 4, 2011
It was another spectacular fireworks display for the 4th of July in Orland Park. A salute to Mayor Dan McLaughlin and to Village Manager Paul Grimes for putting together a great event. The band was phenomenal -- the Beach Band (or something like that -- sorry dudes -- great music though). The crowds were pleasant. And I always love to be able to stand up when Mayor McLaughlin asks our veterans to stand to give them a salute. Lots of people came up and said thanks -- (I served during the Vietnam War and was fortunate, I guess, to hot have been sent overseas, although our F-111 Air Force Base unit was readied to go).
I used to go to the fireworks display in Tinley Park which is also a spectacular event, even while living in Orland Park, but shifted to Orland Park's fireworks about 15 years aog. And they have never let us down.
-- Ray Hanania
Sunday, July 3, 2011
When it all started with Mayor Mike Bilandic in 1978, the idea of a downtown festival was unique and badly needed. The purpose was to bring everyone together and try to restore the Loop as a family fun attraction. So Bilandic launched ChicagoFest. It lasted two weeks and it featured some of the great entertainers like Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, the Doobie Brothers and Carole King just to name a few of the hundreds. There were some 600 performances each year.
The big benefactors at that time were the beer companies that sponsored the stages. They are the ones that made fortunes and they donated to the politicians. Isn't it always about the campaign contribution?
Image by jericho1ne via FlickrWhen Jane Byrnebecame mayor, she vowed to dump ChicagoFest and then changed her mind and turned it in to a world class event of music, food and entertainment. Of course, several of her closest aides ended up getting the food concession franchise that sat right at the front entrance where she held her opening day press conference.
Byrne politicized the festival during her four years in office, giving reporters she liked books of free tickets for food and the event and they ones she despised -- like me -- had to go on my own dime. It was cheap back then.
When Harold Washington came to office, he ended up cancelling ChicagoFest. There was too much criticism that the festival was intended for White residents of Chicago who packed the entertainment, even though there were lots of African American entertainers and the Blues.
Then, ChicagoFest morphed into Taste of Chicago and something changed with it. The focus, which was supposed to be on family, suddenly shifted to the big shot restaurants and food companies. Taste of Chicago became a promotion not for families and the city but for the restaurants that had deep campaign roots with the office of the Mayor. The costs started to rise.
It was a simple transition. Taste began while Byrne was mayor, intended to be the alternative to ChicagoFest. CHicagoFest was the baby of the Chicago Tribune, which was one of the big sponsors and they campaigned against Byrne to prevent her from cancelling it. But Byrne had her restaurant pal Arnie Morton come up with the idea to do a Taste of Chicago in 1980. The political transition started from that.
It all became about the money and making the restaurant owners happy, because some of those restaurants had real clout. And the news media started to fall in line, turning their backs on exposes about clout and politics at the Taste each year because their advertising revenues were dropping and they couldn't afford to criticize the restaurants, who were their biggest advertisers.
And then crime started to happen at Taste. And that grew too.
The only thing that didn't grow was the food. The portions got smaller and smaller as the restaurants got greedy. Prices kept jumping. And the quality of the food started to fall too. Honestly, the whole reason to attend Taste of Chicago was to see what it was like to be a sardine without any aluminum walls. No can. Just space packed with people. It became a game. Could you walk through Taste of Chicago without having your pocket picked by a pick pocket?
And the biggest game of all, how much money would you have to lay out by the end of the Taste of Chicago tiring trip. Walking back and forth and all you really got for your time was the opportunity to spend a lot of money -- as much as $200 for two adults and one child -- to sample the sometimes lousy food samples.
The way money went through the Taste of Chicago experience was similar to the way money flows out of your hands in to the casino slot machines, with very little to show for it but body odor and sweat. Well, at Taste of Chicago, over the 4th of July weekend, it was caused by the hot summer. At the casinos, the B.O. is from the level of patrons who have begun dominating the gaming experience. The poor need the money so bad they are willing to risk what little they have on gambling, not spending it on food and other things they really need because it isn't enough anyway.
This is the second year we didn't go to Taste of Chicago and frankly I don't feel like I missed anything. There is nothing to see. I don't need to lay out hundreds of dollars just to be able to sample a measly portion of crappy food.
This year's tickets sold for 12 for $8, up from last year. Each strip of tickets basically pays for one dish of food. So, to stop at four of the 59 restaurants, you would probably need 12 strips or about $96 just for the samples. And that is NOT much food at all, believe me. They did come up with some called "Samples where you pay the equivalent of $2 to get a tiny "sample" of food. But when you are done "sampling" 10 different places, you will have spent $20 -- supposedly because it is all based on tickets and each ticket is about 67 cents per ticket. So a $2 group of tickets would be three or four tickets, or really $1.97 for three tickets or $2.64 for four tickets. Believe me, it is all a scam to get your money.
Image via WikipediaHey, at least this year the ban against having an American Arab vendor was lifted and alHambra Palace was allowed to participate. Oh yes. Arab vendors have been banned by the city by practice not by stated policy. What looked like Arab vendors in the past were not really Arab at all. And that is kind of ironic considering that under the new administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose father was a member of the terrorist organization the Irgun during the 1940s Arab-Israeli wars before the creation of Israel in 1948, all things Arab have begun disappearing (the annual Arabesque Festival ended this year; no major Arab appointments to the city administration; and the targeting of Arab owned small grocery stores in the inner city, among the many anti-Arab policies of the Emanuel Administration. Read about it all.)
Well, no one really cares much about the Arabs, including many of the Arabs who are happy to get whatever crumbs they can from the Mayor's Office under Daley and even less from Emanuel. Chicago supposedly is the role model of diversity and cultural richness but some how the Arabs get stiffed every year when it comes to grants, cultural programs (the city considers "Israeli" events to be "Arab" when you FOIA the paltry list of funded real Arab events). In truth although Emanuel's administration by design or by accident is anti-Arab, Mayor Daley did his best to only give us as little as was needed to keep the Arabs of Chicago happy. (I wrote the book on Arabs of Chicagoland, so I know.)
But I digress, of course, because when you are American Arab, digressing is about the only way you can get someone to consider your challenges.
The bottom line is this. Taste of Chicago sucks. It is too expensive, it is not family-friendly. The entertainment is not the priority and the campaign contributions to the politicians are all that really matter. And even though Mayor Emanuel has beefed up the police presence at the festival, crime is always a major issue -- crime that often gets under reported by the media which are partners in the festival to make money, too.
Save your $200. You are better off using it to by fresh food and the barbecue it at your home, somethign you could do five times on t hat budget as a much more family-focused alternative.
(But I do think that you will have more fun out in the suburbs like at Naperville's RibFest and Orland's Taste of Orland.)
-- Ray Hanania
Saturday, July 2, 2011
I don't gamble much which made the idea of going to a casino that much more exciting. I hadn't been to a casino in at least three years or more. So I figured, why not take the little woman and go and throw away a little money just for the heck of it? I mean, money doesn't have much value these days with the prices skyrocketing through the roof for gasoline, food, vacations and clothing. When you pay almost $10 for a "value meal" at McDonalds or at Burger King, it's time to rethink the whole value of money. And what better place to do that than at a casino where your money basically has no value whatsoever.
We decided on Jack Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Hammond Indiana. We'd been there before and I prefer it over the Empress, which is not very impressive, and the Grand Victoria, which is really too far away to drive. It was a Saturday night but I was surprised how crowded the place was. It was jam-packed. Full. Shoulder to shoulder. Every one of my favorite slot machines, the Wheel of Fortune, was taken (I think they have 14 of them in an island). So I walked around a bit and I was shocked at how things changed.
First of all, I had a hard time finding the $1 slot machines. They've been replaced. Years ago, you would see some Dime Machines and a couple of nickle machines. But this place was filled with Penny Machines. Yes, One Cent machines and there were lines waiting for seats. There were Two Center machines, too, and also Nickle Machines. I'm thinking, who walks around with a pocket full of pennies. But, that's the other thing that has changed -- no pun intended. The casino doesn't use "change" any more. You don't use coins. You put money in and you get worthless pieces of paper that you have to "cash in" at little Casino ATMs.
What a hassle. I liked it when I could walk out of a place with $400 in Silver Dollars. Well, we don't have many Silver Dollars any more. We have those gold colored dollars which are the size of half dollars.
The place was really disappointing. I finally got one of the Wheel of Fortune Machines and it turned out to be a good one .. I love getting the Wheel of Fortune and then spinning the wheel. It's rigged, though. The machine on; lands on 25 and 50. And once-in-a-while, a 75. That is not much when you can only pay for quarters. Yes. Crap. No, not dice. Crap. They didn't have a $1 Wheel of Fortune Machine. When I finally did land a 750, that was only $200 in quarters. What a waste of time.
I think the casinos make more money from the poor slobs who play pennies, nickles and dimes because it's so easy to lose change than it is to loose a dollar or more on each spin. And a lot of the people were slobs. I guess no one considers going to a casino a classy place. We were dressed up but I felt like I was walking down Skid Row or something. The place was skanky.
Ihad to try a Penny Slot. I figured $20 would be like playing a million dollars.But, I quickly discovered how misleading they are. You can bet the maximum and it's really $2 I thought the maximum bet of 20 meant pennies.
I don't mean to be mean to Horseshoe. The place has a great reputation. But gee wiz. Gte rid of those penny slots if you want people to come and drop some real cash. I left after donating $200, with more than $500 in my pocket that I had planned to play but just didn't think sitting there dropping quarters and nickles all night was worth the time or the effort. I mean, the Progressives -- the slot machines that are rigged to really rip you off -- offered astronomical winning pots of ... $125. Wow.
I had to wait in a long line of people who needed a bath badly until I could put my slips of paper into the machine only to find out that it was jammed and I had to go to another one. And then when it did pay out, it gave me $400 in crinkled fives and singles. And the dollars had B.O., too.
Okay. I don't care if you think I am being insensitive. There were people there that needed a bath, damn it! And if they don't care smelling like slobs, then I don't care about writing about them.
All in all it wasn't a fun time. The machines were broke too. I got one of the Club Cards but every time I put it in a machine, it wouldn't register at all. And after a while of trying to get it to work, you end up playing the machine anyway with no real credits to your name. But then, I figured if the place is filled with Penny Slots, I wonder what kind of food they offer at the buffet, which in the past was my favorite place to go? McDonalds? Burger King? Value meals?
So much for the gaming industry. And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks bringing a casino to Chicago is going to generate revenue? No. It will just create a hangout for the "out crowd."
Put some people at the door Jack and keep some of the riff-raff out. Get rid of some of the Penny Slots and bring back more $1 slots and put some $5 and $10 slots back in the gaming room.
-- Ray Hanania