Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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

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