Monday, April 15, 2013

Looking back at last week's election

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Looking back at last week's election

For the first time in a long time, Orland Park seemed to have one political spirit. It seemed like everyone had come together for the betterment of Orland Park.

I moved to Orland Park back in 1985 and it was still filled with prairies and vacant lots that soon after were filled with new homes. I knew the elected officials back then, Mayor Fred Owens and then trustee Dan McLaughlin and Tom Charnagorsky were great friends. Tinley Park, where I lived before moving to Orland Park, was the big political pond back then where another great leader, Ed Zabrocki was building his base.

It all made for great columns at the Daily Southtown, when that was a great community newspaper, and then the Chicago Sun-Times, another newspaper that has since fallen on hard ethical, skilled and financial times.

This last election, for some reason, reminded me of the good old days of Southwest Suburban politics where everyone had the same goal, to build this area up and make it better.

For the most part, the election went smoothly. John Fotopoulos, who has run unsuccessfully for office several times before, fell short. It seemed like he was a guaranteed winner. I told him that before the election. He was first on the ballot. He was also the only independent to file, which was important because the last time he ran, he took votes away from the slate of challengers trying to unseat controversial Village Trustee Pat Gira.

This time, though, Fotopoulos had no impact on the election.

Fotopoulos told Orland Patch editor Ben Feldheim, a good young reporter, that the low turnout caused his loss. He then took a shot at Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman who is also the Republican Committeeman arguing that Liz failed to slate someone against McLaughlin.

That was kind of a dumb comment. Sometimes, it's better to acknowledge that you lost because you failed to get your message out. And what was Fotopoulos' message? I don't know. He says he didn't have the money to reach voters, but he is an attorney and I drive by his name in big letters on his law firm every morning when I head out to work. Was it the money, or the lack of a message?

Bashing Gorman is certainly a big mistake. Liz Gorman has done so much for taxpayers. Remember, I used to be one of her critics, a long time ago. It was all politics then. But since then, Gorman proved she is a courageous and creative leader. She was fearless, too. I remember when she attended the Taxpayer Protest meeting I organized many years ago, while I was criticizing her politics, and that impressed me. I thought wow, you can hit her but she won't back down?

And then she led the fight against rising taxes, which was the very purpose of the meeting I organized. More than 100 people attended at the time. Gorman was responsible for a lot of great changes, including forcing the Cook County Board to repeal the excessive sales tax hike imposed by former Cook County Board Chairman Todd Stroger. She didn't have to do that. But she did.

She defended her seat against a formidable challenge from the 19th Ward and their candidate Pat Maher, the son of the former Village Clerk, and she has probably done more to make voting count in Orland Township and the suburbs, too, for that matter.

Bashing Gorman was a mistake by Fotopoulos. Unjustified. And maybe a major part of the reason why he lost and did so badly this time is his failure to work with Gorman and other leaders in the region.

It didn't help that someone sent out a very ugly attack against Brad O'Halloran, another elected official I respect a lot. The robo-call was vicious and offensive. Fotopoulos was blamed by his political foes in a mailer and I think everyone believed he was behind it. That robo-call may have cost him the election.

The robo-caller voice was that of a woman, with a fake name, and ended saying "This call is paid for by ..." and then it just ended.

Ironically, O'Halloran was the only elected official to join Gorman in challenging the financing of the Ninety 7 Fifty development near 143rd and LaGrange Road. O'Halloran came under vicious attack from Gira, who has been a big disappointment.

Rather than attack others, elected officials and candidates for elective office should instead spend their time telling people why they should be elected and detail their creative ideas to make this a better community. Voters tend to respond more to a clearly defined vision than to balls-out mudslinging.

Criticism is ok, but what we have seen in the past hasn't been criticism. It's been vicious and way beyond the line of doing any good. Voters are smart. They can see that.

The voter turnout was low, only 5,629 people voted. But the vote was decisive. It wasn't even close. 

I believe that contrary to popular belief, people who don't won't are not protesting "bad government leadership," but rather many are satisfied with the way government is working. They are happy with what government does and they recognize that taxes do increase and must. Who else is going to pay to upgrade our roads and provide services?

Remember, they implemented early voting to help bring out more voters, but the reality is that all that happened was that people who always vote ended up voting early and people who never vote but can, didn't. Nothing will make those people vote, it seems.

Outside of the Fotopoulos debacle and the ugly robo-call, the election went pretty smoothly and it suggests maybe a new era of our leaders working together for the betterment of the community. Gorman and McLaughlin are both strong leaders. They can do a lot more together than they can apart.

-- Ray Hanania

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