Saturday, May 26, 2012

Outdoor cafes and restaurants in Orland Park

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Outdoor cafes and restaurants in Orland Park

I love Memorial Day Weekend for a lot of reasons including I get to relax and really enjoy the community. in Orland Park. And one of the real beauties of Orland Park in the summer are the many outdoor patios that several restaurants and cafes have here.

So I stopped by Shami Restaurant in the old Borders Book Store Plaza -- I miss Borders -- and sat out on the patio to enjoy some good Middle Eastern food, the great weather and the people who were buzzing about doing their shopping or just driving through.

Shami is one of the few Middle Eastern restaurants in the area, even though there are a lot of Arab Americans living here. Orland has the beautiful Mosque, and although the majority of Arabs here are Christian there is no Arab Church in Orland Park. That's too bad. Maybe it's because they can go to any church and worship whereas Muslims don't really have that many choices.

So Shami and a few other Arab bakeries including my favorite, Laila's Grape Vine on John Humprhey Drive in the Horton Plaza, really add some spice to the food options among the many great restaurant choices that are out here.

I ordered a small hummus plate, Jerusalem salad (diced tomatoes, cucumbers with tahini -- sesame seed -- dressing), a small hummus (crushed garbanzo beans with Tahini) and the Royal Plate which seemed to be a large plate of mixed chicken, lamb, ground beef with parsely (kifta kabob) and basmati (Persian) rice. And several cans of Diet Coke and enough bread to eat the hummus and feed some of the Sparrows brave enough to come near the tables and stare.

A lot of American soldiers returning from service in the Middle East have become patrons of these Arab restaurants. They went to Iraq to fight and came back loving the hummus, falafel, tahini, salads, kibbis and kabobs. Even the ones who went to Afghanistan, which isn't Arab or Middle Eastern, of course, but does share some of the same cultural foods.

The food was great but the weather was even better. And it was enjoyable, eating the hummus with cuts from the Syrian Pita Bread. One thing you learn when you serve in Iraq or visit a Middle Eastern country is that you can put the tahini-based salads on the rice to make it taste even better. That Tahini is great. (If you like Middle Eastern foods, go to my facebook page and check out one of the groups I belong to called Mediterranean Foods. You'll meet a lot more people who share their food recipes or experiences in Middle Eastern foods.)


Jerusalem, Tahini Salad

Royal Plate Chicken kabob, lamb kabob and kifta kabob

Shami is one of several restaurants in Orland Park worth checking out. And sitting out on the patio to enjoy the food makes the whole experience in Orland Park even more enjoyable.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Can racists seek hate crimes charges against attackers

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Police in Tinley Park and the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force continue to investigate the violent brawl that took place Saturday afternoon at the Ashford House Restaurant, an Irish diner at 7990 W. 159th Street in Tinley Park on the border with Orland Park.

Mayor Ed Zabrocki, in an interview with Radio Chicagoland, said that police are still investigating but believe that some of the victims were members of a White Supremicists group. They were having a lunch meeting at the restaurant when a group of 15 to 18 anti-White supremicist individuals, youth wearing hoods and carrying bats and hammers, converged on the restaurant meeting and attacked the other activists.

Zabrocki said that five people were in custody when their car was spotted by an alert female member of the Tinley park Police Department. The other suspects involved in the attack fled but police believe the arrested suspects could lead to identifying the entire group.

Zabrocki said that police believe the group that attacked the alleged supremicists were members of the Anti-Racist Action group. Facebook shows a listing for more than a dozen such groups named Anti-Racist Action in the United States. The group, if it is the one involved, describes itself as:

The Anti-Racist Action Network (ARA) is a decentralized network of anti-fascist and anti-racists in North America. ARA activists organize actions to disrupt neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, and help organize activities against fascist and racist ideologies. ARA groups also oppose sexism,homophobia, heterosexism, anti-Semitism, and the pro-life movement. ARA originated from the skinhead and punk subcultures.HistoryAnti-Racist Action was founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the late 1980s by members of the anti-fascist skinhead group Minneapolis Baldies and other activists. ARA then expanded to several communities in the United States and Canada. Members of Love and Rage, a revolutionary anarchist organization, played a major role in building ARA groups and the ARA Network in the 1990s, and the group's structure was formalized in 1994 at the first Midwest Anti-Fascist Network conference, in Columbus, Ohio.

"About 15 to 1 yesterday, there was a group of 10 to 12 people eating int he restaurant. Most were men maybe one or two men. Someone made a reservation for them and they were going to have a meeting," Zabrocki said.

"About 15 individuals came in with masks on hoods, black hoods if I recall, and they proceeded to beat up the 10 or 12 people who were meeting there. There was some confusion because there was a bridal shower going on in an adjacent room but it had nothing to do with this It was not gang related."

Zabrocki said the information was "kind of speculative" at this point.

"A lot of those folks from looking at their addresses were not even from Illinois," Zabrocki said.

"The group that came into it, I'm not sure because there were a number of names kicked around. It was an anti-racist group, anti-Homophobic group. The first group had a web site and the other group infiltrated it. It was not racial in the usual sense. No Middle Eastern connection," Zabrocki said during the radio show.

Zabrocki called it an isolated incident.

"A very sharp female sergeant got a call that they were looking for a particular car and she was very observant and she spotted the car at 159th and Harlem," he said. "She pulled the car over and got five of them. This could lead to the rest of them. They are in our lock-up and I am not sure of their status at this point."

Zabrocki said the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force came out in force, in part because they were on the ready because of the NATO protests.

"I believe there were nine people hurt, six refused treatment and three were treated<' Zabrocki said.

Click here to listen to the radio interview (about 25 minutes into the Radio Podcast.)

The irony here is that the victims, who reportedly are involved in White Supremicy issues, could file racism charges against the alleged attackers who were allegedly reported to be members of an anti-racist group.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Village of Orland Park Board Chooses Illinois Based Electrical Aggregation Company

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Village of Orland Park Board Chooses Illinois Based Electrical Aggregation Company
Village Residents Could See More Than 40% Savings by Summer’s End

ORLAND PARK, IL – At its May 7th meeting, the Village of Orland Park Board of Trustees directed village staff and legal counsel to finalize a contract with Nordic Energy Services of Oakbrook Terrace as the community’s electricity supplier.

During the Tuesday, March 20th Presidential Primary Election, Village of Orland Park voters approved the electrical aggregation referendum by more than 65%, giving the village permission to seek lower electricity supply rates for its residents and small businesses through an opt-out electricity aggregation program.

Orland Park continues to play a leadership role in helping its residents and businesses conserve energy and save money,” said Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin. “We took the savings message to the public and our residents resoundingly approved electrical aggregation for the village,” the mayor added.

The village’s electrical aggregation consultant, David Hoover, founder and executive director of the Northern Illinois Municipal Electrical Collaborative (NIMEC), addressed the board on May 7th, explaining what each of the six bidders had offered for Orland Park.

“Just this afternoon, we learned the new ComEd rate will increase as of June 1 from 7.73 to 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour,” Hoover said. The new rates will result in a savings of 43% on the supply portion of the bill,” Hoover noted.

Addressing McLaughlin and the village trustees, Hoover said, “This makes your decision to start this process six months ago even more advantageous for the community.”

Six companies submitted bids for the Village of Orland Park’s electrical service with three being designated finalists, Direct Energy, FirstEnergy and Nordic Energy Services.

FirstEnergy’s rate was 4.79 cents per kilowatt hour versus Nordic Energy’s being 4.82 cents per kilowatt hour. A majority of the Village Board voted that the advantage of using an Illinois-based company offset the three-hundredths of a cent per kwh difference, or about $5.00 per year per household.  The typical household savings will be over $300 per year.

“I’m happy that we’ll be partnering with an Illinois based company,” McLaughlin said. “We’re going to be able to save village residents more than 40% on the energy portion of their electric bills. The $300 per year will be put to good use by our residents,” the mayor said.

“Village residents, as a whole, should save about $9 million dollars through this program. That’s money that will remain in Orland Park,” Hoover noted.

Nordic’s two-year contract rate is 4.82 cents per kilowatt hour. The cost to procure 25% of the energy from renewable sources is nominal, adding 0.03 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of energy.

A January 1, 2010 state law allowed municipalities to aggregate and transfer their residents’ and small commercial retail customers’ electric accounts to alternative electric suppliers. Electrical power would be produced by a company other than ComEd with ComEd continuing to supply electricity to residents over ComEd’s electricity grid. ComEd customers who are part of the group purchasing will continue to be billed by ComEd and will continue to contact ComEd with service needs.

Village residents will receive a letter from the village in late May that will include information about the village’s chosen supplier. Details on how to opt out of the program will also be included for those who choose not to participate. Residents will have two opportunities to opt out of the money saving program. And, those who have already signed on with other electric service companies will be able to opt into the village’s program with Nordic.

“We’re looking forward to residents starting to see the savings on the supply portion of their electric bills later this summer,” McLaughlin said. “Their bills will continue to come from ComEd and Nordic Energy Services will be listed as the supplier on the bill,” he said.

Nordic Energy Services, LLC is an independently owned, Oakbrook Terrace-based, Alternative Retail Electric Supplier (ARES) and Alternative Gas Supplier (AGS) licensed by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and is also licensed in Indiana as an AGS. In addition to supplying energy and providing related services to commercial and residential customers behind six utilities in Illinois and Indiana, Nordic has also developed and is producing oil and natural gas reserves.

Communications Manager
Village of Orland Park

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sales tax rebate fiasco raises re-election fears at the village

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Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin this week said what some of the village officials have been privately saying for the past few months, that the village may restore the Sales Tax rebate that was suspended in 2009. Trustee Brad O'Halloran has been vocal about urging that the sales tax rebate be reinstated. It was promised! You don't break promises on taxes to taxpayers.

McLaughlin has done a good job as mayor and the project at 143rd Street - with the exception of the luxury town homes and the huge investment of taxes from taxpayers -- is coming along.

But that's not enough for the village officials who are seeking re-election in the Spring of 2013. They just witnessed two trustees, Pat Gira and Ed Schussler barely return to office. The two trustees couldn't even get a majority of the vote cast, and nearly 60 percent of the voters rejected their re-elections. The only reason they won was that there was a third slate of independents who in the April 2011 election, giving voters three choices rather than two for each trustee seat. The "independents" actually were responsible for saving Gira and Schussler. (See the chart at the bottom of this column.)

One of the reasons why Gira and Schussler did so bad (and it was BAD) was that they backed the past repeal of the sales tax rebate which was promised to Orland Park residents by Mayor McLaughlin when the board moved to increase the sales tax, and didn't support calls to have it re-instated.

In October 2008, the village proposed reducing the sales tax rebate by half, to test the waters of public reaction and to not torpedo their re-election chances. The economy wasn't as bad for many in Orland Park at that time, as some suggest, but it was headed for deep recession. McLaughlin and his slate were re-elected the following year. And as I predicted in the Orland Parker that they would do, after that election the village board eliminated the remainder of the sales tax rebate.

Gira and Schussler were the first to face the full wrath of the voters; had it not been for the  independent slate, they and their new running mate Carole Ruzich would have soundly lost the election.

Now, going into the Spring elections, McLaughlin's running mates are scared. With the sales tax rebate still a sore issue with voters (including with this column), they can't take the chance. So, they will reverse it hoping that restoring half of the sales tax rebate might be enough. They'll do some polling to make sure but if it doesn't then they will restore the entire sales tax rebate.

Of course, the "spoilers" could come back and help the incumbents get re-elected. But in a one-on-one face-off, the incumbents will lose.

That is due in part to the meteoric rise of Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman who while the village of Orland Park was busy jacking up property taxes and eliminating the sales tax rebate for taxpayers, Gorman was busy defending the taxpayers. She led the fight to repeal the Todd Stroger Sales Tax. The first two efforts fell short but she persisted and it was repealed with partisan support on the third try.

That's the kind of honest leadership voters want. They don't want wishy-washy elected officials-for-life who do nothing but talk about tax relief. They want real tax relief leadership. That distinction helped Gorman trounce Pat Maher, the scandal-plagued former president of the Orland Fire Protection District, they guy that left the district in a spending mess. He's the son of Village Trustee Dave Maher, who is most likely planning to run for re-election with McLaughlin and the other trustees in the spring.

She then backed two new candidates for the Orland Fire Protection District (where I now work as the communications consultant for $12,000 a year LESS than the consultant who Maher retained) and they won big time. Maher was backed by the "power" of the village but clearly, the sales tax rebate fiasco hurt the village badly. That's why Gira came to an Orland Fire Protection District board meeting to unfairly criticize the board with wild and unsubstantiated assertions.

(Gira complained that she emailed the OFPD board through their web site and no one responded to her email. OFPD President Jim Hickey immediately responded when the issue was raised. However, That SAME DAY, I went on the Village web site and emailed Gira and till this day I never got a response!)

In the past year since his election as OFPD President, Hickey and the board members have CUT spending at the Fire District significantly. That's a first and the taxpayers see it. That did two things.

First, the new board prevented the budget from going up as it has continuously over the year. Had they not acted, the old OFPD board would have increased spending and taxes by $1 million. 

Second, the new board cut back nearly $1 million in spending to reduce the budget to UNDER $30 million for the first time in five years!

When Hickey noted that the budget was under $30 million for the FIRST TIME in FIVE YEARS, former Trustee Salvatore Cacciato, who deserves credit for continuing his interest in the fire district by attending OFPD board meetings, WRONGLY accused Hickey of exaggerating, claiming the budget was only above $30 million for the last two years. But that's not true, The budget has been above $30 million for the past five years, and error Cacciato should have known before making the criticism.

Gira didn't come to thank the board for putting the taxpayers first, of course, Why should she? She hasn't done that at the village. She came there to make it clear she and the village board are against Gorman and her allies who are putting the taxpayers first!

McLaughlin can't win re-election with all the dead weight around him and the village board's poor record on tax increases.

The first thing he should do is immediately restore the entire sales tax rebate. That's what the board promised in exchange for increasing the village sales tax which would have collected new revenues from sales to the many consumers who come into Orland Park and are not residents or Orland Park taxpayers.

Second, find some quality running mates. Brad O'Halloran has consistently been on the right side of the issues in the past few years. Keep him and do your best to ask Gira to do everyone a favor and step down ... and encourage a few of her colleagues to do the same.

They screwed up by backing Pat Maher and all of his scandals that plagued the old OFPD, and they screwed up by turning their backs in the past on taxpayers.

Do the right thing mayor, fully restore the sales tax rebate and work with O'Halloran to find a better slate of candidates for next year's election. Take a leaf from the phenomenal job at the Orland Township by Supervisor Paul O'Grady.

# # #

CANDIDATE/PARTY     ......................................................% .....................Votes

Edward G. Schussler (Orland Park United)          14.25                        2,616
Patricia A. Gira (Orland Park United)                      13.65                       2,504
Carole Griffin Ruzich (Orland Park United)            12.05                        2,211

Molly McAvoy Flynn (Fiscal Voices for Orland)         11.18                        2,052
John M. Brudnak (Fiscal Voices for Orland)             11.01                       2,021

John S. Fotopoulos (Independent)                            10.41                       1,910
Tom Cunningham (Independent)                              10.16                       1,864

Steven Williams (Fiscal Voices for Orland)               9.53                         1,748
Rich Kelly (Independent)                                               7.76                         1,424

(Maybe the Fiscal Voices challengers should consider putting John Fotopoulos on their slate along with O'Halloran.)

More resources: Orland Sales Tax Rebate dead

-- Ray Hanania