Sunday, April 2, 2017

Pekau says he won't take pension benefit

Bookmark and Share

Pekau says he won't take pension benefit

The high profile battle for the office of mayor of Orland Park in southwest suburban Chicago is fueled by the board's decision to give the 23 year incumbent Mayor Dan McLaughlin a massive salary boost and huge pension after only one term in office. The salary and pension spike has outraged many voters and for the first term in many years a challenger, Keith Pekau, appears on the verge of winning

By Ray Hanania

Public anger that Orland Park's mayor  will benefit from a huge pension is fueling the anger and tensions that have turned Orland Park's Mayoral Dan McLaughlin's re-election bid into one of the most contested elections in years.

The issue hits hard because so many people in our society today are facing retirement with either little or no pension to support their retirement, an issue that is especially sensitive to senior citizens who happen to be the largest voting block not just in Illinois but in Orland Park.

McLaughlin has said he did not push for the pay hike and that making him full-time would save the village millions. But his critics including a former mayor and trustee, Ed Schussler, insist that the pay hike plan was always McLaughlin's idea and that the board, which rarely votes against the mayor, just went along.

Tragically for Mayor McLaughlin, had he not accepted the huge pension, he would have been easily re-elected as many voters say they are content with the direction of the village. But finances and taxes and spending are too critical to voters and the mayor's pension spike controversy has turned the election upside-down.

About 100 Residents of Orland Park filled the board meeting room Monday Oct. 17, 2016 to protest increasing Mayor Dan McLaughlin's salary 375 percent from $40,000 to $150,000 a year. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania.

Opponent says he will reject pension if he wins

Keith Pekau, who never ran for office before, said he was as outraged as everyone else when the Orland Park Board approved the pay hike and the pension spike which would raise McLaughlin's pension from $30,000 a year to $110,000 a year. The salary hike increases his salary fro $40,000 to $150,000 a year.


Pekau said that he got in the race not just out of anger
but with the promise that if he is elected
he will not take the pension benefits
and will do everything he can to repeal the salary hike.


But a point that angers many is that the salary and pension spike was only intended to help McLaughlin and only takes effect during the next four years of the term of the next mayor, whom the board said they expected to be McLaughlin.

But the pension spike issue has changed everything.

And Pekau said that he got in the race not just out of anger but with the promise that if he is elected, he will not take the pension benefits and will do everything he can to repeal the salary hike.

"I didn't get into the race until right after the board voted," Pekau said. "I was angry about the salary and about the huge increase the mayor would get in his pension. There are so many voters out there who don't have a pension and it just didn't seem right."

Pekau said that if he is elected on April 4, he will refuse the pension benefits and save the taxpayers millions, whether he serves one term or more than four years.

"I will not take any pension benefits. I will opt out of the pension. That's my commitment to the voters," Pekau said.

I asked Pekau about this when a follower on Facebook asked me what Pekau would do.
"Some argue that I can't opt out of the pension and that I must take it," Pekau said. "But that's not true at all. Full time employees can't opt out of the pension but elected officials can if they have never been in the pension system before."

When you look at all the issues facing both candidates there are positives and negatives, but no single issue stands out more than the issue of the pension.

Voters who support McLaughlin are criticizing the influx of outside funding from the Liberty Principles PAC, a conservative Republican PAC.

But Pekau's supporters point out that McLaughlin is a Democrat who has received similar support from the Democratic Party.

The Republican-Democratic issue is of some importance especially since Orland Park voter overwhelmingly to break from the Illinois trend in the last Presidential Election to support Republican Donald Trump. Trump received 50.4 percent of the vote while Hillary Clinton received on 44.4 percent of the vote.

Click here to read how Democrats and Republicans are battling in the McLaughlin-Pekau race.

Orland Mayoral race has state's attention

Bookmark and Share

Orland Mayoral race has state's attention

The battle between Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin and challenger Keith Pekau has the attention of the entire state apparently creating a wild election contest filled with a lot of unusual issues, supporters and claims

By Ray Hanania

The battle to lead Orland Park, one of the fastest growing suburbs in Chicagoland, has never been as heated and as close as is this contest April 4 between 23-year incumbent Dan McLaughlin and his Republican challenger Keith Pekau.

McLaughlin has had challenges in the past but never as tough and as strong as Pekau is mustering this time around.

The battle is all out war.

Pekau's candidacy is fueled by a move made by McLaughlin last year to boost his salary from $40,000 a year -- which was already high for a part-time mayor -- to more than $150,000, the largest salary increase any incumbent politician has ever given themselves.

Keith Pekau
But more significantly, it's not just about a pay hike and a monthly wage. It's also about the pension McLaughlin will receive as a result of this record pay hike. McLaughlin has no pension with the Village of Orland Park because he was always part-time, and his primary fulltime job has always been with the unions.

Under the pay hike approved last year, McLaughlin will immediately qualify for a pension of more than $100,000 a year if he is re-elected April 4 and begins taking the record $150,000 annual mayoral salary.

In the past, the battles have been about policies. This time it's personal for many voters in Orland Park who are struggling with the still slow economy and changes in healthcare and retirement concerns. The issue of pension abuse has so bruised Illinois residents because this state tops the list of the worst government pension abuses on record.

McLaughlin's pension grab has fueled Pekau's candidacy and clearly has caused McLaughlin and his allies to shudder in some fear of what might happen Tuesday April 4.

That's why so many unusual things have happened. Here is a look at the few of the unusual issues at hand.

Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin

Jim Dodge the Republican Democrat

McLaughlin is a hardcore Democrat but one of his supporters is a former Republican Committeeman and ally on the Village Board Jim Dodge. Dodge, who hasn't done much in the Republican Party in a long time sent a letter  hoping that his support will weaken the support Pekau is receiving from Republicans.

The Republican vote is important. Republican Donald Trump won Orland Park in the presidential election with over 50 percent of the vote over his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who received only 44.4 percent.

Yet in his letter, despite supporting one of the region's strongest Democratic mayors, Dodge noted how he previously ran as a Republican for Illinois State Comptroller in 2010 and served as Republican Township committeeman.

Of course, Dodge didn't mention in his letter that in his bid, he tried to torpedo one of the most respected Republican office holders in the state, Judy Baar Topinka. Many people viewed Dodge's run for Comptroller not as an effort to win as a Republican but to weaken Topinka, the only Republican to hold a statewide office. She previously served as Illinois Treasurer, ran unsuccessfully for Governor, and then ran for Comptroller in 2010.

Topinka trounced Dodge with nearly 60 percent of the vote and criticized Dodge for entering the race rather than backing a Republican Party incumbent. She believed that Dodge's candidacy was intended to weaken her in the 2010 Republican Primary to make it easier for
a Democrat to defeat her in the November 2010 General Election.

But Topinka won anyway and was re-elected in 2014. Unfortunately Topinka, one of the most beloved Republican leaders in Illinois, died a month later on Dec. 10, 2014.

Reminding Republican voters of how he tanked Topinka probably wouldn't do his support for McLaughlin a lot of good.

Senator Durbin jumps into the fray

How often does a U.S. Senator jump into a local mayoral election. But that's exactly what U.S. Senator Dick Durbin did this past week,

Durbin sent an email to voters in Orland Park that urged them to support McLaughlin, which to me only reinforced the growing perception that Mayor McLaughlin is in real serious trouble.

If you thought Pekau had no chance of beating McLaughlin, Durbin's letter puts the nail in that coffin. Unofficial polling shows Pekau and McLaughlin running neck-and-neck and that is shocking for someone who has been in office 23 years and easily defeated every past challenger.

What's the issue this time?

Well, it's the issue Durbin's letter didn't address, the issue of the $110,000 pay hike and the corresponding pension boost that the mayor will receive.

You see, Durbin is one of those Illinois politicians who could be blamed for the huge pension turmoil that Illinois is experiencing, a pension crisis that has dragged Illinois to the lowest levels of the economic scale. Illinois ranks as the worst state in the nation economically and you can't blame that on Gov. Bruce Rauner. It was that way before he even stepped in the door.

Durbin's email talked about all the good things Orland Park has achieved but avoided any mention of the salary hike and the pension boost.
Durbin wrote:

"In Illinois many municipalities are in financial crisis, and have seen their credit and bond ratings tumble."

Yea, you should know Senator!

Durbin goes on to detail McLaughlin's assets and in and of themselves, they pretty good. Orland is one of the best communities in Chicagoland. That's true. There are some economic issues but the retail base is strong.

Yet, after listing all of McLaughlin's benefits, Durbin just couldn't get himself to acknowledge that his "pal of 20 years" made a huge mistake in ratcheting up his salary from $40,000 to $150,000, and gifting himself a pension of a record $80,000 a year after only a few years of service?

No wonder this country is so screwed up in Washington D.C.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fires Damage two homes in Orland Park

Bookmark and Share

Fires Damage two homes in Orland Park

Fires hit two homes in Orland Park over the Christmas Holidays, one on Christmas Day related to a fireplace and a second one the following day linked to a Christmas tree Orland Fire Prevent District officials reported.

Here are the two reports:

Fireplace fire in Orland Park home (Christmas Night Dec. 25)

Orland firefighters were called to the 14100 block of Michael Dr. in Orland Park, Illinois on Christmas night (Dec. 25, 2016) for a problem with a fireplace. Firefighters arrived within three minutes of receiving a 9-1-1 call from the resident just after 8:30 pm 12/25/2016. 

First arriving units reported heavy smoke from the garage with a fire in the back of the garage. 

Walls, chimney, and ceiling were quickly opened to expose the hidden fire and extinguish it in about ten minutes. The fire place in the home is located in the wall between the home and the garage.

Fire damage was limited to the inside of the frame chimney and some openings adjacent to it. 

The residents were home at the time of the fire and escaped without injury. 
Home fire in Orland Park suspected cause Fire Place, 14100 block of Michael Dr. in Orland Park. Photo courtesy of the Orland Fire Protection District
Orland Fire was assisted by Palos Fire and several other neighboring departments covered the Orland stations during the home fire response.

The official cause of the fire is being investigated. 

One person injured in Orland home fire, Christmas tree suspected as cause

The Orland Fire Protection District was called to a house fire at 13827 80th Ave at 10:22 am on Monday December 26th. The first Engine on the scene observed fire from the rear of the house. 

Firefighters entered the house from the front door and encountered heavy fire during their attack. Two additional lines were pulled and used to attack the rear deck area and the garage.

The fire was under control in less than an hour but the house sustained heavy fire and smoke damage throughout.

The home owner was transported to Loyola Hospital’s burn unit suffering from injuries sustained while attempting to put out the fire.

Fire Chief Michael Schofield said that homeowners should address a fire if it is very small and they can use a fire extinguisher.

“The first thing someone should do is make sure everyone is out of the premises and accounted for, and call 9-1-1,” Schofield said. “Outside of a very small fire, don’t battle a blaze by yourself. Leave the premises and wait for firefighters to arrive.”

Schofield said the fire at the home was intense.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated but firefighters said it started in or near a live Christmas tree that was in the home.

The Red Cross is assisting the other family members with their needs.

Fire at Orland Park home in the garage , 13827 80th Ave, that started near a Christmas Tree. Photo courtesy of the Orland Fire Protection District

Monday, October 17, 2016

Orland Park approves 375% increase in mayoral salary

Bookmark and Share

Orland Park approves 375% increase in mayoral salary

Nearly 100 residents crowded the Orland Park village hall to complain that the pay hike should be presented to the voters for approval and not the board members, who voted unanimously to hike the salary following two hours of public discussion and debate.

By Ray Hanania

(NOTE: You can read my column in the Regional News and the Reporter Newspapers this week on the aspect of the issue of the 1983 Referendum creating the part time mayoral position and establishing Orland Park as a Village Managerial system.)

Over the objections of nearly 100 mostly angry residents, the Village board of Orland Park during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday October 17, 2016, approved increasing the salary of Mayor Dan McLaughlin from $40,000 a year to 375 percent of its current level, or $150,000 a year.

(NOTE: The total salary of $150,000 is 375 percent, but the actual increase of $110,000 is "only" 275 percent)

Although many residents praised the board members and the mayor, many said they were deeply disturbed that the issue was brought up so quickly and without public discussion, and that the salary change should be made by the voters.

Nearly all of the about 100 residents who packed the board room said they only learned about the details of the increase from a robocall broadcast twice during the past five days. The robocall urged residents to attend the meeting and express their opposition to the wage increase. Mayor McLaughlin and board trustees criticized the robocall saying that it was filled with falsehoods.

(The text of the robocall from my home phone answering machine is included at the end of this story.)

About 100 Residents of Orland Park filled the board meeting room Monday Oct. 17, 2016 to protest increasing Mayor Dan McLaughlin's salary 375 percent from $40,000 to $150,000

McLaughlin and the board distributed copies of the ordinance that spelled out some of the provisions of the increase for the first time to the public at the meeting which was held on Monday, October 17, 2016. But it took a lot of explaining to make the provisions clear.

"This is deplorable and inexcusable," said one speaker who explained he lost his job as a result of Obama Care, the Affordable Care Act approved by President Barack Obama.

"We are hurting. It is deplorable and inexcusable for civil servants to sit up here and think it is ok to do this. This is offensive. I just can't believe it," he said during the public comment period after the ordinance was introduced for approval.

Trustee Carole Griffin Ruzich led the defense of the pay hike, which is unprecedented in municipal history in Orland Park and in most surrounding Chicagoland suburban communities. She criticized the robocall, which was broadcast several days ago and then again on Sunday night.

Ruzich said that the board decided to do this as an alternative to hiring two more full-time employees, a move that was recommended by Matrix Consulting Group which Mayor McLaughlin described as municipal "efficiency experts."

People listen to the board meeting from the entrance way at the village hall in Orland Park

The ordinance explains that the recommendation to hire two additional administrators was the result of a professional staffing study. The consultants suggested the village hire "a second Assistant Village Manager," and an "Economic Development Coordinator."

Ruzich and Trustee James Dodge argued in response to the community protests that Mayor McLaughlin had the skill set to do the work that the two new hires would perform, and would save the village $750,000 over the course of the next four years.

The ordinance states: "in order to achieve these significant cost savings, the Village President will engage in promoting and facilitating the economic development of the Village in order to maximize the Village’s long-term employment opportunities for residents, the Village’s commercial tax base and would generally foster economic development opportunities. In addition, the Village President will undertake a proactive approach in assisting local businesses, organizations and individuals with creating and establishing economic development plans and promoting the Village to new purposeful opportunities, in addition to resolving constituent issues;"

But residents at the board meeting were skeptical, challenging the need to hire two new high priced administrators noting the village already has a full-time village manager, a position temporarily being filled by Orland Police Chief Tim McCarthy, and two assistant village managers including Joe La Margo.

About 100 Residents of Orland Park filled the board meeting room Monday Oct. 17, 2016 to protest increasing Mayor Dan McLaughlin's salary 375 percent from $40,000 to $150,000

The ordinance did not include everything, though, and many resident said they were surprised by the plan. La Margo noted that the ordinance was posted four days ago for the public to view. But when you visit the village website, at, there is no mention of the proposed pay increase on the front page of the website and visitors have to search through the online resource.

(A complete overview of the ordinance provided by the village is included at the end of this article.)

Trustee Dodge explained that the pay increase is intended for Mayor Dan McLaughlin, "because he has the skill set we need to achieve these goals." But the hike puts voters in a quandary. What if McLaughlin is not re-elected. McLaughlin said he was running for re-election but the election is in the Spring of next year. The wage hike will not take effect until the next mayor is sworn in.

The flaw in the argument is that if McLaughlin, who has the "skill set required" by the board to fill the shoes of the two salaried new hires, is not elected, the person who takes his place who lacks the experience the board said McLaughlin has to run the village, will still receive the record salary for the entire term of the four year mayoral term.

Dodge and the mayor also explained that the mayoral salary will revert back to the $40,000 level at the end of the next term and it must be revoted on again before the next election in 2021. Pay raise ordinances must be approved 180 before an election is held for the pay hike to take effect in the next election term. McLaughlin's pay hike would take place the day he is re-elected in the Spring, but not before and would continue for four years.

"Every four years, this can change," McLaughlin said.

Also not addressed is the impact of the board vote itself. Orland Park was established as a village managerial system of government in a referendum presented to voters in 1983, when McLaughlin was first elected to the board as a trustee. (He was elected mayor in 1993.)

McLaughlin said that the proposal to hike his salary has been reported on my the media in at least "seven newspaper articles." But most residents said they only saw one, published in the Chicago Tribune on October 3, the day before it was mentioned during a carefully scripted tele-conference McLaughlin and Dodge held with residents on Oct. 4. McLaughlin said more than 2,400 people listened in to the tele-conference. But having listened to that teleconference, very little was explained about the increase and the mayor indicated that its passage was not a certainty and was up to the will of the board.

(The Regional News reporter Dermot Connolly wrote an article published on Oct. 6, 2016 about the pay hike issue. Click here to read the story.)

"This isn't personal, Mayor," another speaker said. "This is, though, an end-of-career pay hike for you, just before retirement. It's a bad idea. We should see this go to a referendum where the people of Orland Park get to vote. It's double dipping."

Dodge said he is as frustrated as the residents are over increasing taxes, the poor economic condition of the state of Illinois, runaway pensions, and the tight economy, but he stood solidly by the pay hike proposal for Mayor McLaughlin.

More than 22 people spoke at the meeting saying they all loved living in Orland park, with many saying both the mayor and the board are "doing a good job." But they said "sneaking this in like this is wrong."

One speaker who identified himself as a 40 year resident of Orland Park, said, "I think this is a change in the structure of village government. and should be decided by a vote of the residents. It's something more than trivial. It should be put to the citizens. Do we really need more development in Orland Park? ... I don't want this to become Chicago. I want to keep it as Orland Park. Give us the vote, mayor, and allow us to chose our own destiny."

Another speaker said, "Thank goodness for that robocall because I woulda not have known about this at all."

McLaughlin scolded residents who said they were unaware of the proposal saying that he and the village trustees meet at board meetings. "No one shows up to our budget meetings," McLaughlin said, acknowledging that the proposal was only developed six weeks ago.

However, I wrote a column on September 30, 2015 which reported that the mayor was considering becoming a full-time mayor with a full-time salary, although at the time the mayor did not respond to questions about the rumors that were circulating among several business owners in Orland Park.

One resident who spoke said, "It is unconscionable to to take this step without taking this to the village as a whole."

McLaughlin argued that the village has maintained the tax rate at the same level for the past 5 years. He also said the increased salary will not include health benefits and he acknowledged that although his pension from the village will increase -- several residents said that instead of retiring with $30,000 a year he would retire with over $120,000 a year paid by the village -- McLaughlin said that he is not receiving a pension from the Builders Association. He explained the Builders Association paid money into a retirement fund that he maintains on his own, personally.

Village of Orland Park Ordinance and notes:

File Number: 2016-0637
Orig. Department: File Name: Finance Department Position of Village President - Ordinance

At the September 6, 2016 Finance Committee meeting, it was requested that staff provide additional information related to the compensation and benefits of the Village President. A recent study completed by an independent consultant recommended the creation of a second Assistant Village Manager position due to the extensive growth of our community and the increasing demands for Village services and amenities. The study also identified the need for a full-time Economic Development Coordinator to promote and recruit commercial enterprises in order to enhance the future of Orland Park.

As opposed to creating two new full-time positions that demand significant salaries and benefits, adjusting the compensation of the Village President would result in significant savings to the Village in the long term. The salary for an Orland Park Assistant Village Manager ranges from $116,000 - 130,000. A survey of Chicagoland municipalities found that the average salary of an Economic Development Coordinator (or like position) ranges from a low of $51,000 to a high of $100,500. The total cost for these two positions would range from $227,000 to $291,000.

The Village would also incur approximately $30,000 per position in benefits costs. This compensation change would also allow Village residents and staff to continue to benefit from the Village President’s expertise, experience, commitment, as well as his increased involvement on a day-to-day basis. The Village President would generally cover promoting and facilitating the economic development of Orland Park in order to maximize the Village’s commercial tax base and secure quality, long-term employment opportunities for residents. In addition, the Village President would foster economic development opportunities; take a proactive approach in assisting local businesses, organizations and individuals with creating and establishing economic development plans and promoting the Village to new purposeful ventures. The learning curve period required by the additional Assistant Village Manager, as well as a newly created Economic Development Coordinator position, would not exist as the current Village President is extremely familiar with the day-to-day workings of the village, its personnel, issues and concerns. The Illinois Constitution and the Illinois Municipal Code prohibit an increase or decrease in the salary/compensation of an elected officer of a unit of local government if such increase or decrease would take effect during the term for which the officer is elected. In addition, the Local Government Officer Compensation Act provides that the compensation of elected officers of a unit of local government must be fixed at least 180 days before the beginning of the term of the officer whose compensation is to be fixed. Given that compensation must be fixed during the elected officer’s term, if health insurance benefits are to be included, the recommendation of the Village Attorney is to provide the Village President with a stipend, fixed for his/her term of office, to be used to obtain private health

BACKGROUND: President with a stipend, fixed for his/her term of office, to be used to obtain private health insurance. This stipend would be in addition to the Village President's salary and must also be fixed by the Village Board at least 180 days prior to the commencement of the Village President's term of office. On October 3, 2016, this item was reviewed by the Finance Committee, recommended for approval and referred to the Village Board of Trustees for consideration. The Ordinance was amended on October 17, 2016 and is attached to this item.

BUDGET IMPACT: Funding for this position will be proposed in the FY2017 budget that will be presented to the Board for formal approval at the first Board meeting of December 2016.

WHEREAS, Section 3.1-50-10 of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/3.1-50-10) provides that the corporate authorities of a municipality may, by ordinance, fix the salaries of all municipal officers who hold elective office for a definite term, provided that said salaries may be neither increased nor diminished during the officer’s term and such salaries will be fixed at least 180 days before the beginning of the terms of the officers whose compensation is to be fixed.

WHEREAS, a professional staffing study undertaken by the Village resulted in a recommendation that there be created positions of a second Assistant Village Manager and an Economic Development Coordinator due to the extensive growth of the Village and increasing demands for Village services and amenities; and

WHEREAS, as opposed to creating these two (2) new full-time positions that would demand significant salaries and benefits, adjusting the compensation of the Village President would result in significant savings to the Village in the long term; and

WHEREAS, in order to achieve these significant cost savings, the Village President will engage in promoting and facilitating the economic development of the Village in order to maximize the Village’s long-term employment opportunities for residents, the Village’s commercial tax base and would generally foster economic development opportunities. In addition, the Village President will undertake a proactive approach in assisting local businesses, organizations and individuals with creating and establishing economic development plans and promoting the Village to new purposeful opportunities, in addition to resolving constituent issues; and

WHEREAS, to fulfill the above responsibilities, it is the expectation of the Village Board of Trustees that the Village President will devote his/her working hours annually equivalent to those of a full-time Village employee.

NOW, THEREFORE, Be It Ordained by the President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Orland Park, Cook and Will Counties, Illinois, as follows:

SECTION 1: The Village President of the Village of Orland Park elected in the year 2017 and thereafter shall receive the sum of $150,000.00 per year as compensation for service as Village President commencing in April, 2017, or thereafter, except as hereinafter provided. Except as provided in the preceding paragraph of this SECTION 1, the Village President and Board of Trustees shall, at least 180 days before the beginning of the term of office of the Village President, review and fix the compensation of the Village President. 371150_4 2 Said compensation shall be payable in bi-weekly installments.

SECTION 2: The Village President may be reimbursed for any expenses incurred by him/her in attending meetings of the Board of Trustees or in otherwise performing the duties of the office of Village President.

SECTION 3: The rate of compensation established by this Ordinance shall be effective at the time of commencement of the term of the Village President, and shall be payable commencing on the first day of the immediately succeeding month, and shall apply only to the person whose term of office commenced by virtue of his/her election or re-election after the date of adoption of this Ordinance. The rate of compensation established herein shall not apply to the Village President serving when this Ordinance is adopted unless and until such officer is re-elected after the approval of this Ordinance.

SECTION 4: All ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict with this Ordinance are hereby repealed.

SECTION 5: The Village Clerk is hereby ordered and directed to publish this Ordinance in pamphlet form, and this Ordinance shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage, approval and publication as required by law.


(Transcribed automatically by Xfinity from a phone message at my home on Sunday night around 5:41 pm):

"Orland Park residence. If you heard that Mayor Dan McLaughlin plans to hike his salary to $150,000 per year. Are you sick of politicians enriching themselves with our tax dollars? Not only will McLaughlin get a 350% raise. But that will also increase his pension to over $100,000 for life, and we will be picking up the tab whether part time or full time. No politician should be making that much money off us tax payers. Attend tomorrow's board meeting to urge the board to vote no on this pay raise boondoggle. The meeting is tomorrow October 17 starting at 7:00 PM at the Orland Park Village Center at Ravinia Avenue. Press five to opt out. Paid for by Concerned Citizens of Orland Park."

(How I did the math on the salary hike. x = (150,000/40,000) x 100)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Is McLaughlin eying fulltime job as Orland Park mayor?

Bookmark and Share

Orland Park Dan McLaughlin is considering switching from a part-time mayor to a full-time mayor to take a more hands-on control of the continued development of the village which has doubled in population during his two decades as the chief executive officer. What would that require?

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania
Ray Hanania
The decision by District 135 President Joe La Margo to resign and take a fulltime $116,000-a-year position as the assistant village manager in Orland Park is not just about the local schools.

It could be the beginning of bigger changes to strengthen and consolidate government in Orland Park.

Several sources have told me they believe Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin will move from being a part-time mayor with an outside job to a full-time mayor focused on shepherding his long-term vision for the village.

Although Mayor McLaughlin did not respond to my inquiries, several sources said McLaughlin has told them and others he plans to make the move. How soon is unknown.

“He said he wants to focus all his energies on continuing the building of Orland Park and the best way to do that would be to become the fulltime mayor,” one Orland Park businessman told me.

Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin
Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin

Another source who said the mayor has discussed the move, said it would allow the mayor to personally direct the implementation and or completion of numerous programs and ideas now being implemented or are being considered for the village for the future.

“McLaughlin was made for this job and he should just do it,” another source said.

When I get a chance to interview him, I’ll see if he wants to open up or if he has made any decisions. But in the meantime, the tealeaves seem to be pretty clear about what choices stand before him.

To become a fulltime mayor, the village will have to change its charter. It is uncertain how the move will impact his current position as the influential Executive Director of the powerful Builders Association that he has held for just over two years.

Voters approved Orland as a Village Manager (Managerial) form of government in the Nov. 8, 1983 election, the same year McLaughlin was elected to the board of trustees. He was elected mayor in 1993.

Orland Park is a Village Manager community. In other words, policies are proposed by a part-time mayor, reviewed and approved by a part-time village board, and implemented by a Village Manager and his staff, including now the deputy Village Manager.

The current village manager is Paul Grimes, who has been in his position supervising the implementation of McLaughlin’s vision for the village for the past eight years. La Margo, who previously served as the village deputy clerk, began work as the deputy village manager in July, with Grimes. The two are close and would work together well.

I covered McLaughlin’s 1983 election and recognized then that he had great vision and talent as a community leader and activist. As mayor he has implemented a wide range of successful programs that have helped make Orland Park one of the best communities in the Chicagoland suburbs.

The Orland Chamber of Commerce hosts a variety of programs. This from the recent Arts Fair
The Orland Chamber of Commerce hosts a variety of programs. This from the recent Arts Fair

It hasn’t helped that Orland Park has the worst public relations of any major suburban Chicagoland community. I say “worse” not in terms of being plagued by negative stories, but rather by the absence of effective PR. Orland Park and McLaughlin have the positive stories. They just don’t get outside of a very narrow circle.

The truth is Orland Park is far better than Naperville, but Orland Park has never managed to position itself at the same light as Naperville, which is the darling of the Chicago media because of effective and constant PR Spin.
That poor PR has held both Orland Park and McLaughlin back from higher ambitions and recognition.

Orland Park has achieved far more than Naperville and McLaughlin is as good or even better than Naperville’s beloved former chief executive, Arthur George Pradel. McLaughlin has served as mayor longer than Pradel, and yet Pradel has always received more accolades.

Band plays at the Orland Park Library, ranked one of the best libraries in the Midwest
Band plays at the Orland Park Library, ranked one of the best libraries in the Midwest

McLaughlin made his mark as a village trustee when he directed the modernization of the Orland Park Police Department. He introduced the D.A.R.E. program to the district’s schools.

But his greatest achievements have been as Orland Park’s mayor.

McLaughlin is a respected member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Southwest Conference of Mayors, Illinois Municipal League and the South Suburban Mayors and Managers. And he currently serves on the Regional Water Supply Planning Group, recently serving as Chairman of a state-wide task force studying a Uniform State Building Code.

Under McLaughlin’s administration the village of Orland Park has made considerable improvements in recreational programs and facilities and community events.

Orland Park hosts the best fireworks display each year during its annual 4th of July celebration
Orland Park hosts the best fireworks display each year during its annual 4th of July celebration

Under his leadership, the Village has implemented creative solutions to road improvements to ease traffic congestion. The village is undergoing one of the largest road improvement programs involving the widening of La Grange Road, one of the most trafficked roads of any municipality in Northern Illinois.

He hasn’t given up on the Police Department and has improved public safety with a larger Police Department, new police station and increased training and technology.

McLaughlin also has developed a unique program to protect the region’s environment, directing a nationally recognized $25 million “Open Lands Program,” as well as implementing community arts and developing the village’s Green Initiative.

Orland Park’s numerous community improvement programs have won numerous awards, resulting in being named recently as one of America’s most livable cities by Money Magazine.

Orland Park Police Department
Orland Park Police Department

The conversion from part-time to full-time mayor does not necessarily mean that the village would eliminate the position of Village Manager, but it could mean that the position would be changed to chief of staff and deputy chief of staff.

But McLaughlin has probably given up on his personal ambition to seek higher statewide office, but he has not given up on Orland Park.

You can get more information on McLaughlin from his own website at or from the village website at

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. He is a columnist with the Palos Reporter, the Regional News, Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News. Email him at

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Local residents wondering about Village Square Lake land

Bookmark and Share

One of the nice aspects of Village Square in Orland Park is the beautiful lake at Village Square Park, surrounded by Windsor Drive, Kensington Way, and Regent Drive. The lake is sizable and includes an area for flood control to the south that leads up to the children's park area, on a higher area about three feet above lake level.

For years, there were two ways to access the lake. One from the park not he south end off of Windsor Drive, (which winds east and west on the south end of the park and north and south on the east side of the park). And, through a small patch of land along Kensington Way on the north side of the lake.

This week, the homeowner (adjacent to a plot of land that many residents thought was village-owned land and a part of the public lake) installed a metal fence around that triangle of grass adjacent to their property.

Although neighbors always thought that section of the land was public property owned by the village, it turns out it is land owned by the homeowner. Up until a few weeks ago, there was a sign posted by the Village of Orland Park that reminded dog walkers to pick up their dog's waste, suggesting it was public access.

View of lake and land area to the west of the home at
Village Square Park Lake

Fishermen used to use the small access area to sit by the lakeshore and fish, while enjoying the many Canadian Geese, ducks and a few tall, white Egrets that have made the little lake their home, too.

Last year in September, the home was sold (according to And apparently someone discovered the little piece of land didn't belong to the village of Orland Park after all. It belonged to the homeowner.

This week, the homeowner installed a metal fence blocking access through their private property to the 250,000 lake from surrounding the grassy triangle area.

Fence now up around the homeowners property,
view from Kensington Way

Village officials indicated there had been a misunderstanding of the ownership of the property and they removed the Village sign.

"Clearly, the land belongs to the homeowner and over the years there was a belief that it was a public strip of land," an Orland Park Village official said Wednesday. "There is still access to this beautiful lake for the public. But the land in question definitely does belong to the homeowner."


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

No injuries at Orland Home seriously damaged by fire

Bookmark and Share

No injuries at Orland Home seriously damaged by fire

Lightning suspected, officials said. The family was on vacation

The Orland Fire Protection District responded to a fire reported in a home located on the 108th block of West Scarlet Drive in Orland Park early Wednesday morning.

The fire was reported at about 2:46 am on Wednesday July 29, 2015 and initial arriving fire companies found heavy fire had spread through the attic and roof areas of the 5,000 square foot residential home. Firefighters reported that heat radiating from the blaze was extensive.

OFPD Chief Ken Brucki said that firefighters immediately went into a defensive position to get the fire under control preventing any injuries.

“This fire had a tremendous amount of heat and it concerned us,” Brucki said. “We were concerned about structures around the property and took appropriate precautions to keep nearby properties safe.”

Brucki said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

“Crews were able to conduct a rapid primary search to confirm there were no occupants in the property at the time, and we were able to verify that the family was vacationing,” Brucki said.

The alarm was elevated to a full still to bring in additional companies.  A total of two aerial master streams and five large diameter hand-lines were required to extinguish the fire. 

The structure suffered major fire damage to the entire roof and extensive damage to the interior of the structure from fire, smoke, and water. 

It took approximately an hour to bring the fire under control. 

Brucki said one possible cause of the fire may be lightning noting “there was a tremendous amount of lightning in the area at approximately the same time of the fire.”

Brucki also said that the fire department was able to deploy a drone to assist in quickly identifying the fire location on the home.

“It was a very large home and the drone helped give us an immediate, aerial view of the property and the fire,” Brucki said.  “The aerial view assisted the Battalion Chief to direct suppression efforts to bring the fire under control.”


Drone Video Link

Drone still Pic’s Links