Monday, April 30, 2012

Chicago Tribune pulls the plug on local journalism

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The Chicago Tribune pulled the plug on the Trib Local, one of the more reliable major news resources. Most if not all of the reporters for the Trib Local will be "let go." It's going to be outsourced to a "content provided" called Journatic LLC. (Read story.) Journatic pays its writers about $12 an hour. But they offered reporters $50 if they heard that reporters were asking about the gutting of the TribLocal and told the company. Reporters were banned from talking about the transformation from journalism to content management. (Read story from Michael Miner in the Chicago Reader.)

The TribLocal was a balance to the news offered by major newspapers. The Chicago Sun-Times gobbled up and gutted the once impressive Daily Southtown, fired most of the Southtown's Employees, merged it with another victim of its community newspaper absorption policies and merged it with the fading Star Newspapers. Most of the writing is done by a handful of reporters from what used to be an impressive lineup of journalists.

22nd Century Media, which publishes the informative The Orland Prairie, is one of the only remaining independent community news organizations left in our region, published by 22nd Century Media. (Click to read a profile on 22nd Century Media Group.)

What does the TribLocal's demise mean for the region?

Well, Orland Park is a good example. The MainStreet Development has been a white elephant and burden on the taxpayers of Orland Park. But this week, the Village of Orland Park announced that it was giving management of the project to HSA Commercial Real Estate, which did a phenomenal job of reviving the old Orland Park Place. Orland Park Place is now a beehive of activity.

But a taste of what you can expect from the TribLocal comes int he form of news regarding The MainStreet Triangle project, which has many remaining unanswered questions and a very uncertain future -- let alone the political hay that will be made about it during the upcoming battle for Orland Park Mayor, assuming Mayor Dan McLaughlin decides to seek re-election.

Here is the story published on the TribLocal's Page under "From the Community," which will be growing since it won't be able to boost "From Our Award Winning Reporters."

Click here to read it.

The story has a by-line from "By Taylor Johnson." Sounds like a writer. But Taylor Johnson is a PR Company that apparently works for HSA.

Click here to view Taylor Johnson's information.

That's the future folks. No one to ask questions (whether we like them or agree with them or not). No one to point out political ties, question the TIF or the growing burden on the property taxpayers for projects like this.

Orland Park is an important community and there is a lot of room for good newspapers. 22nd Century Media does a phenomenal job. But there is room for another weekly community newspaper here. Despite the sluggish economy and the many vacant commercial properties that sometimes make Orland Park corners look like slums, Orland Park has one of the largest retail bases in the Southwest Suburbs. It's a strong community and it has a vibrant politics, one worth covering -- good, bad or ugly.

Journatic LLC would make a great resource for any newspaper. But as a primary news source?

-- Ray Hanania

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Slander continues at the "Orland Park Patch"

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The Orland Park Patch was supposed to be part of national network of local news pages, now owned by AOL. But it has turned into a killing ground for the truth. The Patch allows people to make outrageous, slanderous claims and doesn't do anything to limit the debate. Anyone can post on it. And anyone can post anonymously which means there is no accountability.

For the most part, the majority of Orland Park residents don't read the vicious attacks that the Orland Park Patch allows to be published on its pages. They voted resoundingly last year to change the Orland Fire Protection District Board because the former board leadership was spending their tax dollars at an alarming rate.

The OFPD Tax Rate is the third highest in Orland Park next only to the high school and the elementary school districts. Nearly 80 to 85 percent of the budget goes to pay salaries of firefighters and employees. The salaries are covered by the overly-generous pay hikes authorized by the former board leadership led by the disgraced former Orland Fire Protection District Board Chairman Pat Maher.

Maher and his allies on the board gave these outrageous, high salary pay hikes because they wanted to backing of the fire unions for their election ambitions. As everyone knows, Maher ran for the Cook County Board and got slam-dunked by the brilliant public servant and tax hike fighter Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman. Because Gorman backs the new new board, Maher's rogue pack of slanderers have been busy writing nonsense and lies on the Orland Park Patch.

One lie that the Path continues to allow to be published is this one. That I was hired and that I replaced three employees who did the communications work.

That's not true. In fact, the truth is simple but the Patch will not correct it because it doesn't play into the hands of the people who anonymously slander others on their web site. (I won't post comments anymore in response to the lies because all it does on the patch is encourage more slander and defamation, despite the tireless, well-intentioned efforts by Ben Feldheim to keep the debate within courteous guidelines.)

I was hired to replace Bill Figel the professional media consultant who was paid $4,000 a month. I took the SAME JOB for $3,000 a month. There is one more media consultant who does broadcast media who was hired by the prior administration who is continuing to work there and she does a good job designing the PSAs that broadcast at the Orland Theater, among others.

That's what's called a SAVINGS to most taxpayers. And saving money for taxpayers has been OFPD President Jim Hickey's primary agenda. Since last year, OFPD President Hickey has saved the taxpayers more than $1 million and prevented the budget from being increased another $1 million.

The past administration increased the OFPD budget by more than $10 million over the decade before Hickey and the new board leadership took over.

The majority of the taxpayers in Orland Park want the fire board to stop spending money like a drunken sailor, or a politically motivated machine the way it was run under Maher, the son of the Orland Park Village Clerk Dave Maher who is a political ally of Trustee Pat Gira who has been making politically motivated attacks against the current fire board leadership (but was so conspicuously silent about the actions of the firmer board she backed.)

Ms. Gira came to the board the last two meetings to comment and made outrageous and false claims against the current Orland Fire Protection District Board leadership because she was the running mate with Pat Maher! Gira's attack against the current board is selfishly motivated and you know it is selfishly motivated because when the board was spending money like crazy in the past, she never spoke up once!

Because the abuses were by her running mate, Pat Maher. But since Maher's political future has been derailed -- be his own stupidity (trying to hide a past violent criminal conviction) -- Trustee Pat Gira is now screaming all over the place because she wants to run a new slate in the next election.

John Fotopolous is also screaming about change but it was John Fotopolous' candidacy in the Orland Park village races that prevented change. Out of selfishness, Fotopolous stayed in the race and allowed Gira to win re-election by LESS THAN A 50 PERCENT MAJORITY of the vote. In otherwords, the majority of the voters in Orland Park didn't vote for Pat Gira.

But that majority of the voters of Orland Park did this:

1 - They Voted for the current OFPD board leadership
2 - They Voted to support a reduction in spending at the OFPD
3 - They Voted in support of Liz Gorman's fight against excessive sales taxes in Cook County

And that means I can say with a clear conscience that I am on the right side of this ugly slander campaign being waged on the web site of the Orland Park Patch.  (By the way, the Village of Orland Park promised to rebate every penny of property taxes to homeowners in exchange for increasing the sales tax in Orland Park. 

Under Trustee Pat Gira, the village eliminated the sales tax rebate to homeowners and they continue to collect the sales tax hike.

Those are the real issues that homeowners need to focus on, the politicians who distort issues to cover up their poor tax hike policies (Maher, Gira and the slanderers who post on the Orland Park Patch) who are lying about the current OFPD policies today and slandering Hickey and Gorman and the OFPD Board leadership.

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Now these are REAL Flowers

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Lots of response to the blog post opinion I wrote about my horrible experience with the Sass & Class flower shop on LaGrange Road. I won't go back there again. I ordered something from them online and the flowers I got didn;t even look the same. It was a horrible thing. Click here to read that column.

Yesterday, I got REAL flowers from a friend for my birthday. I have to find out where they were purchased because this floral arrangement was phenomenal and they deserve a lot of credit.

Here's the photo:

The real flowers I received for my birthday
Compare these to the terrible flowers I purchased from
Sass & Class in Orland Park for Valentines' Day. I'll never make
that mistake again. But I will find out where these flowers came from and
I will be happy to share that store's name.

-- Ray Hanania

Village of Orland Park's Transparency that doesn't work

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When Orland Fire Protection District President Jim Hickey announced last year his plan to put all of the district's documents online, including contracts, to achieve transparency for the residents, the Village of Orland Park must have gotten its' underwear in a bunch. They immediately launched their own "transparency" web site.

He immediately placed the 2010 wage and benefit listing. It showed who worked at the Fire Department and how much they earned in wages and in benefits. It was unprecedented. Unheard of in Orland Park where government secrets are buried way below the surface.

The OFPD web site is still in its development, mainly because so many of the documents held by the past administration that was booted out in the April 2011 elections, were so difficult to manage. Everything at the OFPD had to be started from scratch, and with minimal employee support. So the web site now has a great start. All of the 2011 and 2012 documents are online and the staff is working diligently to convert older documents so they can be searched online by citizens.

The Village of Orland Park, however, which has had years to address transparency, apparently seemed miffed that the new Fire District -- which was no longer under their political control -- had taken the first steps towards transparency. The village has a team of technicians and IT specialists. They immediately designed their transparency page and launched it.

So I figured, why not go try it out.

Well, this week I needed to find something on the Village Web Site. I wanted to get someone to haul away some bulk trash. A large swing set that I bought for my son eight years ago and now wanted to remove.

Last year, I bought him one of those Wooden Forts or Club Houses. But I left the old metal swing set up because I figured it would be a challenge to tear apart. Finally last week, I spent a few hours taking it down, leg by leg, swing by swing, bolt and screw by bolt and screw.

Once it was dismantled, I neatly piled the metal pieces on the side of the house. We then called the village to arrange for a Bulk Pickup. Turns out they contract out the service, though they collect our tax money to pay for it. 

I went online to see what needed to be done, but there was no answer there. Transparency can be so confusing, apparently. 

We called Waste Management to have them come and get the junk. That was a humongous waste of time.

For the past week, we tried repeatedly to get someone to pickup the bulk items. But the people at Waste Management were much like the village. No commitment. No answers. They kept huffing and puffing about how it was a hassle. (A hassle? To do what you're paid to do?) They didn't know if they could get it because the swing parts might be too large, they said. Isn't that what "bulk" means? Bulk pickup means picking up items that can't fit in a garbage can? Bulk means big. Otherwise, if it were small, I'd cram it into the garbage can.

I went online again to search for an answer. There was nothing online to help you understand how to get your bulk picked up. Have a garbage problem, call Waste Management, someone at the village advised?


There is no doubt that Waste Management lives up to its name. It is management that is wasted. Very wasted. We couldn't get anything from them. We wasted a lot of time on the village web site and talking to Waste Management.

So we carried all the pieces from the side of the house and put them out in front of the house. We called again. This time, after the third call, someone at Waste Management said they'd come by to see how big the items were and then decide what to do.

They were not that big. Well, at least they weren't as big as the hassle that it took to get an answer from Waste Management, or the village.

Sure enough, while all this was going on -- the back and forth, the lack of answers -- one of those independent garbage haulers came by. They must have smelled the sweet aroma of junk metal and re-sale items. The swing set was in pretty good shape, although in pieces. In one quick swoop, the itinerant garbage truck driver stopped in front of the house, loaded up his truck without one whimper or complaint, and put all the pieces that were sitting on the grass near the curb on the back of his truck.

It took minutes.

Isn't that the problem with the Village. We pay all kinds of taxes to get services but when it comes to getting something done, some unpaid private junk hauler swings buy and grabs the old swing set. Not one complaint from the guy either. He didn't whine about it being too big. He didn't whine about having to have it all arranged or wrapped or piled a certain way. He just came and got it.

Imagine if government could only work that way. Efficient. Fast. And without additional cost or whining.

So much for transparency at the Village of Orland Park. Or services, for that matter!

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gorman: Awareness needed to address rising heroin use in Cook County suburbs

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Orland Park, April 16, 2012
Gorman: Awareness needed to address rising heroin use cited in Cook County suburbs

At the Cook County Board meeting On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman will be sponsoring a Resolution to bring awareness to the growing problem of heroin use in our communities.

“I think it is an important issue to bring to the forefront given its rise in use in the Chicago Metropolitan Area” Gorman said. “Heroin use amongst our high school and junior high school students has been on the rise in recent years and shows no signs of stopping. The stakes have never been so high or the need for action more urgent.  This issue has become a major epidemic and needs to be dealt with now.”

The resolution calls on all local governments, from school districts and library districts to Village Boards and City Councils to pass the resolution to bring the problem to light. “The first step in working toward a sensible, workable solution is to bring awareness of the problem to the forefront” Gorman added. “It is my hope that the resolution will make every citizen aware of the problem.”

Last month, Commissioner Gorman held a community summit meeting at which over 60 people attended including Police Chiefs, school officials, village officials and interested citizens. The purpose of the summit meeting was to bring the community together to brainstorm realistic strategies that can help parents and their children prevent further tragedy.

Commissioner Gorman said “our only hope in saving our young people from the devastation caused by this horrific heroin epidemic is to come together as a community and find solutions to this problem now.”

 Commissioner Liz Gorman