Monday, December 21, 2009
Opinion Columnist Ray Hanania explains why he opposes the U.S. Census. He wants the word "ARAB" added to the form. There are now 28 ethnic and racial groups listed on the form, but no Arabs. Arabs and the Middle East are the most important issue facing this country and Americans should know more about us, but they don't. We are ignored when it counts and counted only when it is harassment and negative (like at airports).
American Arabs get nothing from the U.S. Census so the U.S. Census should get nothing from Americans Arabs. And, the U.S. Census does a TERRIBLE job of outreach to the American Arab ethnic media, and yet they spend a fortune doing exactly that -- nothing!
Save us from government bureaucracy.
Here's Ray's YouTube video on the issue (2.8 minutes)
-- Ray Hanania
On Halloween in 2008, several boys decided it would be fun to egg someone's home. In the process, one of the homeowners decided he wasn't going to let the vandals -- that's what someone is when they damage property -- get away. So he chased them and caught one boy, Robert Eischen, 15, a juvenile and a student at Sandburg High school.
The two homeowners are Jan Dziadek, 47, and Mitchel Gorecki, 45.
The boy's mother claims that the two men hit her son, and they filed a police report accusing them of battery. Imagine that. Some punk eggs someone's home and the homeowners get charged. Fortunately, the judge in the case threw the charges out claiming he did not believe the boy's alleged story. (Read one story?)
But the boy has found a lawyer and she is now suing the two men in a civil court for, yes, $100,000.
I wish I could catch the culprits responsible for damaging my mail box. It's just a prank, right. And maybe the kid who broke my window once. Or maybe the kid or kids who egged my home, or who wrote those nasty things after Sept. 11 about "Arabs are terrorists" and we should "Go back to your country."
There's no justice for homeowners because some kids are out there damaging property and threatening homeowners and their parents don't care, or more likely, don't even know.
Now, this kid's mom knows and her big challenge more than a year later is to file a lawsuit.
How about this. You publicly apologize for your son's actions. And then take him someplace where he can learn the meaning of right and wrong. Because filing a lawsuit against the two homeowners for being angry that your son egged their home, is the wrong lesson. It teaches him that if you do wrong, it's okay as long as you get a good lawyer.
In most cases,t he kids never get caught. So when they caught this kid, everyone could relate because we have all been victims. So he got roughed up a bit, even though the judge says it didn't happen. But who cares about truth any more when it is all about the money?
If the case goes to court, and if the boy loses again, the boy's parents should be forced to pay the two real victims here, Jan Dziadek and Mitchel Gorecki court costs and punitive damages for making them have to suffer publicly.
But I am cheering for the homeowners. It's about time someone stood up and sent a strong message to teenage vandals. Enough is enough!
-- Ray Hanania
The CENSUS: A satirical approach
Have you all filled out your census form yet?
I’m not filling it out. No. I won’t fill out the Census form because I want our name ARAB spelled out in black ink on the Census form … with all the other names … I pay my taxes … I am NOT writing the word ARAB on the form … the US Government should write it on the form for me …
They do that for everyone else.
The Census form has a long list of “recognized” ethnic and racial groups:
They list Hispanics five different ways on the Census form:
HISPANIC, LATINO OR SPANISH ORIGIN … Mexican American … Chicano … What country does Chicano come from?
They list Black people three times on the Census form :
BLACK … AFRICAN AMERICAN … NEGRO
American Indian or Alaskan Native … they even give you a space to write in your “TRIBE”
There are all kinds of ASIANS …
Asian Indian … Japanese … Native Hawaiian … Chinese … Korean … Guamanian or Chamorro … Filipino … Vietnamese … Samoan
OR … “Other Asian” such as Laotian … Thai … Pakistani … and Cambodian.
And they even have
Pacific Islander … Fijian … Tongan.
I know why they don’t have ARAB written on the Census form … They have already printed 28 other ethnic and racial groups … and THERE’S NO MORE ROOM for us anywhere on the form …
-- Ray Hanania
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Dr. Victor Forys, the Democratic candidate for the 17th District seat on the Cook County Board, received the endorsement today of the IVI-IPO, a powerful Democratic organization that backs independent and progressive candidates in Illinois.
The organization's endorsement gives Forys a major boost in his candidacy against Patrick Maher, the president of the Orland Fire Protection District, which has been criticized for its bloated tax budget. Maher has received the endorsement of some regional Democratic leaders, including Orland Township Committeeman and Orland Mayor Dan McLaughlin, who this week also sent out a fundraiser letter seeking support for Maher's candidacy.
But Maher came under criticism recently when he claimed the endorsement of the "Village Board of Trustees -- Tinley Park." (Read column?)
A Forys spokesman, Rick Bohn, said, "a formal release will be out later today. Citizens for Forys doesn't need to make up fake endorsements because we get them the old fashion way, we earn them."
Maher has also received the endorsement of several unions, while Forys has received the endorsement of most of the district's Democratic heavy-hitters. he also has received the endorsement of Gov. Pat Quinn.
The winner of the February 2, 2010 Democratic primary will face a grueling battle against popular incumbent Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman, who championed the fight against Board President Todd Stroger's sales tax hike.
Click HERE to read the IVI-IPO endorsement release.
-- Ray Hanania
Monday, December 14, 2009
My column this week in the Southwest News-Herald addresses the troubling pattern that has replaced honorable politics in Oak Lawn and the role of Oak Lawn Trustee Tom Phelan in trying to undermine Mayor Dave Heilmann. This is Phelan's side of the story, that he wrote and distributed Monday in response to a story that ran Sunday in the Southtown/Star newspapers. (Click Here to read the Southtown Story).
-- Ray Hanania
NOTE: If you are not an
Oak Lawn resident you might want to skip to the next item.
I have heard from a few people over the last couple of months who have asked “what is going on with the Village?” Most of the questions pertain to happenings at our Village Board meetings, which are televised. Other times, like today, people contact me about things they’ve read in the newspaper. As an elected official in the Village (Trustee in the 6th District) I generally reply to each request with a detailed explanation. But given the especially malicious story that appeared in the local paper yesterday, I wanted to take a moment to address the “global” question of “What’s going on” before addressing the allegations in the newspaper story itself.
Like every other government body in
, our Village has fallen on difficult economic times. Our sales and income tax revenues are off by several million dollars, due in large part to our heavy reliance upon car dealerships for our retail tax dollars. On top of that, our operating expenses continue to rise every year, mostly due to employment agreements and contracts that pay our employees excellent salaries and provide outstanding health and retirement (pension) benefits. America
Despite this, our Village Board has not raised taxes for the last 4 budget years in a row (2006-2009). We were able to do this through a disciplined focus on eliminating waste and unnecessary spending wherever we could. Just last June, or mid-year 2009, we were looking at a projected budget shortfall of almost $3 million for the full-year 2009. Some people on our board and staff thought we should just raise taxes. Others - like me - believed we could find other ways, like cost-cutting, employee concessions, debt refinancing, and other moves. I am proud to say that those who favored cost-cutting won out, and as a result we did not raise taxes to close that $3 million gap for 2009.
And just a few short months later, in October, we were told that we were again looking at a big budget deficit for 2010, in this case almost $2 million. And again, some people on our board and staff thought we should just raise taxes. Others - like me - believed we could again find other ways, just as we did over the summer. I am again proud to report that those of us who favored not raising taxes for 2010 will likely prevail.
If you add that up, that was a potential $5 million in NEW taxes for the people of
Oak Lawn, just in the last 6 months. That’s what some board members felt was the proper course of action. After all, some rationalized, every one else is raising taxes, so no one could really complain if we “were forced” to do so, too. The problem with this logic is that I am not just a Trustee, but also a taxpayer in Oak Lawn. So while it may be easier or politically more expedient to just raise taxes, like you, I don’t want to pay one more dollar in taxes than I have to. And I don’t want my friends, extended family, neighbors, or in fact anyone in Oak Lawn to pay them either.
Because of this, and because elected officials can have different opinions about these types of matters, differences and divisions frequently occur between board members. The hope is always that these differences and divisions get left at the board table after votes are cast. Unfortunately in the case of
Oak Lawn, that hasn’t been the case lately. Last July our board decided to change lawyers, and this caused a fracture among board members that, putting it mildly, is difficult to comprehend.
Those of us who supported the change did so because legal fees and massive amounts of litigation were crippling our village, both financially and in terms of employee relations. For example, in 2005 we paid about $500,000 in legal fees. We changed to new attorneys in late 2005, and between 2006 and 2008 we paid close to $4 million in legal fees. In 2008 alone we paid about $1.6 million. And these are just the fees paid to lawyers – we probably paid another $1.5 million in judgments for suits that these lawyers lost.
Because of this, our board has voted to pursue legal action against our previous attorneys on several fronts, including improper billing, legal malpractice, and other legal remedies. Since that decision the “fracture” on our board intensified, likely due to the close personal relationship that our Mayor has with these attorneys. And since that time there has been a constant stream of allegations, mostly made via calls to newspapers, that “politics” were behind nearly every decision that board members made, regardless of how silly or mundane. Schedule meetings on dates that aren’t convenient for someone? It must be political! Suggest that we cut costs in departments that are clearly overstaffed or inefficient? It must be political!
Over the weekend a local paper ran a story alleging “politics” was behind the suggestion – the mere suggestion - that our Village look at changing the Mayor’s secretary from a full-time position to a part-time position. What the story didn’t talk about – despite my telling the reporter who called and emailed me for comment – was the dozen or so other suggestions on staffing that I and several other board members made during our budget process. These suggestions ran the gamut from job elimination, outsourcing, changing jobs from FT to PT, but also included new hires, promotions, and even some raises. And that's because these board members are making suggestions that focus on the management of our Village’s operations, not on individual people, personalities, or politics.
On the specific issue in the story, the possibility that the mayor’s secretary be made a part-time position, here are some of the points that were made in support of that idea:
1. The mayor’s position is part-time, yet he has a full-time secretary.
2. Our Village Manager and Clerk are full-time, but they have to share a secretary
3. Our 6 Trustees are generally served by the Manager’s/Clerk’s secretary.
4. So we have one part-time elected official served by his own full-time secretary, but two full-time employees and 6 Trustees served by one full-time secretary.
And in an effort to keep the budget from being increased, the idea was to hire another part-time secretary, and make the Mayor’s secretary part-time. So instead of 2 full-time secretaries, there would be one full-time and 2 part-time secretaries. This would allow for better scheduling and coverage, several of us believed, and not result in a drop-off in support to the Mayor. In fact, we researched several communities that have
Oak Lawn’s form of government (Strong Manager) and no one has the kind of set-up that we currently have. And somehow that’s “political”.
There was also an allegation in the news story that “Tom Phelan was leading the charge” to make the mayor’s secretary part-time. This statement is blatantly false. As Finance Director I compiled a list of questions, suggestions, and issues that several board members had about the budget and provided it to the Village Manager to review and provide feedback. Obviously that document was meant for internal review and analysis, but someone decided to give it to a newspaper reporter. And that reporter focused on one line-item out of almost 60 suggestions and questions. And that one suggestion pertained to changing one job from full-time to part-time, which again, somehow was “political.” The truth is, the people making this issue “political” are the ones alleging that it’s political.
Also in the story, Village Manager Larry Deetjen was quoted as saying “I didn’t ask for extra help”.
A person understandably asked why board members were suggesting that the mayor’s secretary position be changed to part-time if the Manager wasn’t asking for “extra” help. The truth is none of the board members who made suggestions were suggesting “extra” help. The suggestion was to change the current structure to make it more workable.
In a letter sent to the Mayor and entire board - before the newspaper story this weekend - Village Manager Larry Deetjen stated “the structure of the workplace staffing in the Mayor, Manager and Clerk’s office is problematic.” He also stated that “changes could be made to improve our service delivery.” Several board members responded to this by suggesting that 2 full-time secretaries get converted to 1 full-time and 2 part-time secretaries. This isn’t “extra” help; it’s the same amount of help, but at about a $20,000 savings because the part-time positions don’t include benefits. And somehow that’s “political”.
The fact that a newspaper would devote an entire story to the possibility of one staff person going from full-time to part-time is an insult to all the other Oak Lawn employees whose jobs will be affected, including those whose jobs will be eliminated or outsourced. It’s also an insult to the millions of people who are unemployed in this country, the millions every day who are fearful of losing their jobs, the countless people losing their homes, and all the people who are struggling to simply hang on and scrape by.
I wish I had a magic wand that could make $5 million in potential tax increases disappear without negatively affecting even one person. I also wish that everyone in this world who wanted to work could get a job, and that their job paid them more than enough to live comfortably and provide for their families. Unfortunately, I have to deal with real-world events and issues, as do all of you.
My approach to these real-world problems is to constantly look at ways to be more efficient.
Thankfully a majority of
Oak Lawn board members share my view; otherwise we’d be at least $5 million poorer as taxpayers in the last 6 months alone. This in addition to the fact that in 2005 Oak Lawn had 50 more employees than we have now. Many of them retired, some were offered incentives to leave, and still other positions were eliminated. That’s 50 fewer people that you and I - as taxpayers – have to pay the salaries, benefits and pension obligations for, which account for 75% of our operating budget.
In the end, I understand and actually share the frustration that many
Oak Lawn residents probably have as far as what’s been happening on our Village Board. Whatever problems or “politics” that exist between board members, I believe that these should never stand in the way of making the right decisions for the taxpayers. Unless, of course, board members purposely inject politics into the mix, which has been happening frequently lately, including in the newspaper story yesterday.
I also believe we are at a critical point in our country as far as government spending, waste and bureaucracy goes. And if more people don’t stand up and do something about it – and do it quickly – the consequences for many people will be very grim. That responsibility has never been more important than it is now, with the economy struggling and people scrambling to stay afloat.
Thank you for taking the time to read this information, which I’m hoping provides some counter-weight to what often times become “whisper campaigns” of slander and negativity. It’s difficult enough to make judgments and decisions on matters like these without baseless allegations that it’s being done for political reasons. Finding $5 million in savings and cost reductions certainly wasn’t the easy thing to do, and it certainly wasn’t political - it was just simply the right thing to do.
(Published in his community email newsletter Monday Dec. 14, 2009)
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I was pleasantly surprised to read your column and see that at least one correspondent in the Chicago area remembers how Bobbie Steele maneuvered herself (in my opinion) to steal a much larger pension from the citizens of Cook County. I wish you had taken a moment to reach the larger audience and remind everyone how she ran for and won re-election to her county position and subsequently gave it to her son.
I don't even see how it's legal for these 'elected' positions to be handed to family members. Of course she only did what she saw Stroger do. If he indeed did appoint his son to his county board Presidential seat. I, for one, believe he was far too ill to make such a decision and his associates and Todd Stroger's handlers made that decision for an incapacitated Board President. I personally do not think the current Cook County Board President is legally seated, and never has been.
The only disappointment I read in your article was your frequent reference to race. It's a shame when we must calibrate our polls and voting practices to assure a certain race wins a position. How is a 4th, 5th, or 6th generation of American, a "mutt", to ever win elected office if the media focuses only on Whites or African Americans or Latinos?
It is time for all this question of race to be put behind us and the election of truly competent budgeters and leaders to be the focus of our elections. The Citizens of Cook County can no longer afford to allow officials to run for, and win, election based solely upon which voting demographic they are going to squander the most of our Taxpayer dollars on.
Thank you for your reporting,
RAY HANANIA REPLIES
Thanks Jim for the comments. I appreciate them and also your feelings about the issue of race … I was hoping to make the point that stronger says race is an issue but the poll shows that race is in fact not an issue with voters at all and that he isn’t trailing a White candidate but rather two Black candidates undermining his contention that he is the victim of racism. I don’t dislike Stroger because of race. I dislike him because he is a lousy government leader. And as lousy government leaders go, he is among the worst.
Dear Mr. Hanania
I look forward to your column every week. You are the brightest most knowledgeable person in the news industry. Thanks for telling it how it is and writing so people understand what is transpiring. Your ideas on a Regional Hospital are outstanding! The world needs more people like you that step up to the podium and "DO THE RIGHT THING". You are an inspiration!
Dear Ray Hanania
You are an absolute blind clueless uninformed moron who worships a cardboard cutout of Blago and any other person with a D by their name every time you get up in the morning. Please quit apologizing for crooks.
Mad Conservative Crime Fighter
Nice article in the paper today. Don't forget Cheney got 4 or 5 deferments from the Vietnam War because he was afraid to serve his country but he is sure quick to pull the trigger when it comes to sending someone else into war.
Ray, I listen every morning and I respect your honesty. However, your show has become a total arab-american travesty. enough with the arab american crap every day. You are capable of doing a wide variety of topics. The arabs bring most of the problems on themselves. Wherever there are arab muslims in the world thete is terror and devastaion. Any people that murder in the name od alah or God are sick people. Please cut back a little on the arab crap. I know I can listen out if I don't like it but I am afan of yours and WJJG .
Just a quick note to thank you very much for coming to speak to our group "Behind the Headlines" at St. Xavier University. Your comments were both entertaining as well as insightful and informative. It is quite a feat when you can keep the attention of a group of senior citizens for an entire hour. I think you succeeded in this with no question. Our group come from varied backgrounds...... teachers, principals, business people, trades people, law enforcement (me), etc.......One thing we all have in common is to have people come in from all different backgrounds and share their ideas and opinions with us....This, in turn, gives us material to have some very vocal arguments the next time we meet.
Again, thanks very much for coming to visit us. I'm sure Tom has already expresses that you can come back and visit us anytime. We'd be glad to have you!
"Ray Hanania, spokesman for the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in the Military, told a Chicago radio show the incident would exacerbate existing prejudice. "It's going to get worse. They are going to go after us," he said."
Well you bastards bring it on yourselves with this type of shit. Do us all a favor, pack up, and take your raghead asses back to the fucking desert where you belong. Americans HATE you, and with good reason
Friday, December 11, 2009
It tells you something about Cook County Board President Todd Stroger when his best defense on why he should be re-elected (if you consider his last minute swipe into office an "election") isn't that he's a great administrator or cares for the taxpayers, but instead is that it will result in the election of a "White Man."
Race always comes in for failed officials like Stroger when they can't seem to explain away their failed leadership. The fact is that Stroger isn't the best African American candidate in the race for the Cook County Board, but you wouldn't know that from listening to his tightly controlled public appearances. Stroger only goes where he has a friendly audience and doesn't have the courage to go anywhere where his failed policies will be challenged or where he has to defend them.
That is all reinforced by the release this week of a public opinion poll of voters that shows that the leading candidates to replace Stroger are NOT "White" as his allies are trying to assert but are in fact African American. Imagine that. The candidate likely to replace Stroger, the failure, is an African American, according to the survey. (Click HERE to read the Chicago tribune poll.)
The poll shows Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown, who is African American although you wouldn't know it from the way Stroger's people are screaming, is leading the pack of five major candidates with 29 percent, followed closely by Ald. Toni Preckwinkle with 24 percent, who is also African American. Stroger, the "incumbent" is in third place with an astonishing 14 percent, followed by Water Reclamation District President Terrence O'Brien with 11 percent.
The Tribune poll was co-sponsored by WGN TV, the Tribune owned broadcasting media.
Stroger's problem is that he doesn't know how to lead. Instead of raising sales taxes as a quick answer to the blaoted and wasteful spending of the Cook County government, he should come up with good creative solutions to the county;s troubles. t's that reason, not that he is Black, that makes it imperative that he be removed and retired from office.
Don't feel so bad for Stroger. he'll probably get a legislative pension and a county pension based on his astronomical salary ... remember what commissioner Bobbie Steele got when she served as interim president for a few short weeks so her pension would be based not on her county salary but on the artificial county board president salary.
Tragic. Fortunately many members of the Cook County Board are working hard to expose his failings and fix the county, including Elizabeth Liz Doody Gorman (17th District) who has helped put the spotlight on the unfairness of the Stroger Sales tax and led the fight -- YES LED THE FIGHT -- to repeal or rollback the sales tax which has been undermining small businesses in Cook County.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Last march, Nick Valadez launched a group called "Fix Cook County." His web site is www.FixCookCounty.com and the group sought to encourage candidates to step up to the plate and run for public office.
Recently, another group has surfaced called "Change Cook County." But in the end, the two groups might cause Cook County to remain the same. Their web site is www.ChangeCookCounty.com.
Amazingly, Change is similar to Fix in wording especially on the issues of transparency, the accountability and sound financial management.
Valadez is challenging Cook County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy in the 6th District. Murphy not only supported Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's repressive 1 percent sales tax, she wanted to go further and impose a sales tax increase of 2 percent.
Of the five commissioners who backed Stroger in the last vote to rollback the sales tax 5 percent, Murphy was one of its chief sponsors. She was matched only in audacity on the board by County Commissioner Deborah Sims in the 5th District -- Sims was the commissioner who flipped flop and couldn't make up her mind. Should she screw the taxpayers of Cook County by increasing the sales or should she stand by the people. Sims, like Murphy, chose to stand by Stroger and the taxpayers be damned!
Challenging Sims is Matteson Trustee Sheila Chalmers-Currin. Chalmers-Currin has a strong chance of unseating Sims, who is best known for the FOX News expose which showed her being driven around in an expensive Cadillac by her chief of staff, who is paid by the taxpayers, too.
But also on the Change Cook County unofficial slate is John Fairman, a Justice trustee. Now, Fairman seems to be a decent person. I don't know much about him because he has only lived in Illinois since 2003. But more surprisingly, Fairman just won a seat on the Village of Justice board as a trustee this past April.
For a guy who no one really knows, his ambitions are getting a head of themselves. Wouldn't you think you would spend time working for the people of Justice first as the newly elected trustee before throwing your hat in for a powerhouse job like Cook County Commissioner?
The candidate I think can beat Murphy is Valadez. And just because a bunch of candidates come together on a web site doesn't mean much. Valadez has sent out two direct mail pieces that I have seen and is planning much more. I haven't see anything from Fairman in the 6th District except for a sign on an office in Homewood that I drive past often when I take my son to Hebrew School.
The Change Cook County slate has some strong candidates among its ranks, though, including Dr. Victor Forys who many believe is the lead candidate in the Democratic Primary battle in the 17th Cook County District. Forys is facing-off with Patrick Maher, the president of the Orland Fire Protection District and son of a longtime Village Clerk, David Maher. Patrick is a decent person pushed, I think, by a 19th Ward family that insists that every son become a Chicago mayor -- none have by the way. but that kind of pressure takes the nicest people and throws them into losing causes all the time.
The winner of the Democratic primary will then find themselves on the butcher's block facing off against Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman who is an anti-sales tax powerhouse. Gorman, working with a handful of county commissioner, literally shoved the sales tax fight into Stroger's lap refusing to allow him to brush it away. Gorman kept bringing the sales tax fight back every time Stroger so arrogantly slapped it down until last month when the county board voted to roll back the sales tax by half of one percent.
Gorman is a certainty to win re-election despite some strong issues being raised by Forys. Maher can take this experience back to the Orland Fire Protection District where a good leader would trim the fat and bring the district to par with other Fire Protection Districts, or maybe even embrace my idea to do away with the fire protection district as a separate taxing body (one of the highest taxed in Orland Township) and merge it in with the village, cutting at least $15 million in costs and saving the taxpayers a bundle.
Of course, politicians don't listen to the public until it's too late.
-- Ray Hanania
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
One year after Blagojevich arrest, nothing has changed except the oppression of the taxpayers continues
Many people believed that US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald would be replaced in Chicago by the newly elected president Barack Obama because of Fiztgerald's continued harassment of the Daley Administration's seemingly endless corruption.
But Fitzgerald is no dummy and he trumped everyone when he announced that he was going to charge Gov. Rod Blagojevich with corruption on the unproven assertion that the governor was trying to "sell" the U.S. Senate seat that Obama vacated when he was elected president.
Wow. He not only went after Blagojevich, satisfying the growing political Machine in Illinois that wanted him to leave, but also check-mated Obama. How could Obama replace Fitzgerald in the wake of his taking action against Blagojevich over Obama's old senate seat without looking like he was protecting "corruption" in Illinois?
Never mind that what Fitzgerald did was wrong. People are innocent until proven guilty in America, but not in Fitzgerald's eyes. And, there is a process of prosecution that Fitzgerald side-stepped and avoided in going after Blagojevich to protect his own political career in Illinois. Instead of filing charges, Fitzgerald used the Chicago FBI to arrest Blagojevich one year ago at his home not on charges but on trumped up claims thatw ere not backed by evidence at all.
Imagine if the US Attorney can do that anytime he doesn't like someone? Accuse them of a crime, disgrace them publicly? Say things to disparage someone you don't like and set up a political movement to have him removed from office and never, ever have to provide one real bit of fair evidence in a court room where the target, Blagojevich, can defend himself?
It's a sad day. And worse, the tragedy is that nothing -- absolutely nothing in Illinois politics has changed.
-- Ray Hanania
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Peg Walsh: 773-704-4655
Commissioner Gorman and County Board Override Stroger’s Veto of Sales Tax Repeal
December 1, 2009 – Today marked a major victory for Cook County taxpayers and businesses as Commissioner Liz Gorman joined with eleven other county board members in voting (12 to 5) to override President Todd Stroger’s veto of the 0.5% Sales Tax Repeal. The 0.5% Sales Tax Repeal was passed by the county board by a 12 to 5 margin on November 17, 2009 after two previous repeal votes were vetoed by Stroger. Within days of this most recent Sales Tax Repeal vote the board president, for a third time, vetoed this tax-cutting measure.
During today’s debate from the floor of the county board, Commissioner Gorman, in her remarks stated, “A new chapter in Cook County Government is being written today! What governmental bodies are you aware of that have successfully repealed a tax? In this economy, governments are making hard cuts and looking to increase tax and fee revenues wherever possible.
With this repeal, we are being proactive by leveling the playing field for our businesses so that they can grow, compete and create jobs. This sales tax repeal will return consumer confidence back in Cook County. In turn, this will provide opportunity for municipalities to increase their local tax receipts by rolling back a portion now.
This vote should be used as a litmus test for voters to hold elected officials accountable. Not only does this repeal represent a sales tax cut, but it makes a bold statement -- that this body recognizes that taxpayers are not satisfied with the tax and spend policies that have dominated county government for decades and that this county board is serious about fiscal responsibility. I hope this is the first step in many that will lead to more constructive reform initiatives and tax policies for county government.”
Today’s successful override vote was made possible by new legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor (October 2009) that reduced the veto override threshold from 4/5 to 3/5. Commissioner Gorman sponsored the county board resolution that urged the state legislature and governor to pass and sign this legislation.
The 0.5% Sales Tax Repeal will reduce the Cook County Sales Tax from 1.75% down to 1.25%. The Sales Tax Repeal will be effective on July 1, 2010.
The Cook County Board has voted to override President Todd Stroger's veto of the motion introduced last week by Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman and an array of progressive commissioners to roll back the 1 percent sales tax by half.
It's a huge victory for the taxpayers and the beginning of the end for Stroger who has turned Cook County into a personal patronage haven for his cronies. Instead of leading by example, Stroger chose to lead by shortcuts, addressing budget shortfalls not with cutbacks in his administration or forcing the county's eight executive office holders to cut back their budgets, but rather by placing the burden of his failed leadership on the backs of the taxpayers of Cook County.
Several commissioners deserve recognition for standing up to the Stroger tax tyranny including Gorman, John Daley, Peter Sylvestri, Gregg Goslin and Timothy Schneider. All of the 12 commissioners who voted to override Stroger's veto of the half percent sales tax rollback deserve praise and they are listed below.
Among those who must be remembered at election time, though, include Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy, a friend of Stroger's legal eagle Burton S. Odelson, and Commissioner Deborah "Flip Flop" Simms. Murphy is being challenged by Nick Valadez who has vowed to represent the best interests of the taxpayers while Simms is being challenged by Sheila Chalmer Currin. (Click here to listen to the podcast of Valadez and Currin discussing their candidacies.)
VOTE TO CUT SALES TAX:
Elizabeth Gorman, R-Orland Park
Peter Silvestri, R-Elmwood Park
Gregg Goslin, R-GlenviewJohn Daley, D-Chicago
Timothy Schneider, R-Streamwood
Earlean Collins, D-ChicagoForrest Claypool, D-Chicago
Bridget Gainer, D-Chicago
Tony Peraica, R-Riverside
Edwin Reyes, D-Chicago
Robert Steele, D-Chicago
Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston
VOTE TO PRESERVE SALES TAX:
Joan Murphy, D-CrestwoodDeborah Sims, D-Chicago
William Beavers, D-Chicago
Jerry Butler, D-Chicago
Joseph Mario Moreno, D-Chicago
I figured I'd get ahead of the curve and order something I needed before Cyber Monday. That's the Monday after Thanksgiving. Credit Card companies and banks, who control Americans in conjunction with the rejection letters on "pre-existing conditions" by health insurance companies like Humana, are all about them making money, and profit, not about consumer care or servicing the public. So they decided if the retail stores can have a day to promote and drive mindless consumers in America to spend their loot on one day After Thanksgiving -- Black Friday -- then why shouldn't the online industry be able to join int he spoils with their own day, Monday after Thanksgiving. "Cyber Monday."
It's kind of like the Somali pirates getting together and agreeing that one day is for raping and pillaging American ships and another day is set aside for raping and pillaging non-American ships, which are easier targets, of course, but bring in less money.
So I went online to order two Belkin Powerlibe AV boxes. These are the Internet facilitators that you can plug in to any electrical outlet and then plug in to your Internet box to spread the Internet throughout the house without using the unreliable Wi-Fi that comes with Comcast and other providers who brag about all the things they can do, but never deliver. I think that's the Sprint Cell Phone company motto, by the way. Their Palm Pre Cell Phone sucks when it comes to do anything of significance, although they let you pay them for a lot of worthless "games" and a limited assortment of "apps." Tragic company, actually.
The company I chose was Dell Computers. Not because I wanted to. Dell makes cheap and very unreliable computers that don't last more than a year. Keep that in mind if you purchase one. And that policy of they'll fix it for you. They figure most Americans can't afford basic healthcare -- thanks to the robber barrons at Humana Health Care and Human One who are helping to insure that most Americans can't afford basic coverage so they put off exams until it is too late. So they know you won't remember their empty promises, which are offered only to sell something, not to remember once you have made the purchase.
But, the other re-sellers, according to Belkin, a foreign-owned company that knows about as much as I know about the internet, looked kind of cheesy. Hey, I don't want to get ripped off by someone I don't know, right?
Better to be ripped off by someone you do know. And that has a consistent track record of ripping you off. So I ordered the Dell system, two boxes including one with three ports so more than one laptop can connect -- if I can get the Dell Laptops to work properly, which they don't always do.
They promised to deliver in 3 to 5 days. That was before Cyber Monday. Now, they sent me an email saying that I might not get it for another 10 days, on Dec. 9. Nice. But they got their money. Upfront. As they always do. I didn't promise to pay them and then say, oh, by the way, I can't pay for 10 days. I paid them hard cash upfront as they required. Now that they have my money, I and all consumers are at their mercy. And they could care less about quality so why should they care about service?
The last Dell Computer I got came from a client to manage their online work. I told them tow atch out for Dell, but they said, don't worry, Dell has a reputation. What kind of reputation is what I am asking. The day the laptop came, the screen crashed and the monitor lost its light. Oh the computer is running but you just can't see it running on the screen. Nice, I figured. It has a "warranty.' Which means five weeks of service after we ship it at our shipping cost back to Dell and then wait.
So they can say, we'll have it back to you in five weeks. Only to come back and say, we need more time. Meanwhile, we gave them our money upfront, of course.
This tragedy is an American tragedy. A common tragedy. The public gets ripped off all the time and if there is no political benefit for anyone, people like Lisa Madigan, the Illinois Attorney General will not do anything to help the public. She only gets involved if she is guaranteed a headline in a local newspaper. And not just any newspaper. She doesn't care about the community news media. She only cares about the big newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Why waste your taxpayer funded work time on community media read by the community. Those Sun-Times and Tribune headlines make great campaign brochures when the time comes for them to run for higher office, like Governor. Or Senator, Or who knows, maybe even president.
Because the public has memory lapse issues, thanks to Humana which dumps customers from their coverage all the time because of so-called "pre-existing conditions.' Well, Politicians have pre-existing conditions like criminal behavior and me-first attitudes and no one dumps them from the taxpayer paid payrolls.
SoI guess I have to wait for the extra Belkin Boxes -- I'd buy another brand but that is another issue with the technology manufacturers. None of them want their equipment to work with any other system, so they make them unique so you have to buy their crap instead of some other company's crap when you want to expand your system. nd you complain and they shrug their shoulders, count your money and say, "Whatever."
An American Tragedy. "It's a Whatever-ful Life."
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Democrat Victor Forys’ Campaign Calls on Opponent to Refund Taxpayers for Cost of Publicly Funded Campaign Propaganda
Forys calls on Patrick Maher to refund taxpayers for cost of printing and mailing campaign propaganda on Orland Park Fire District newsletter.
Chicago, November 27, 2009— Dr. Victor Forys’ campaign is calling on their opponent to refund tax dollars used to print and mail the Orland Park Fire District newsletter to promote his campaign.
“With the election less than 70 days away, it is absolutely unacceptable and potentially illegal for Patrick Maher to use taxpayer dollars to promote his campaign,” said campaign spokesman Rick Bohn. “In a time when people are struggling to make ends meet and pay their bills, he’s using their hard-earned tax dollars to defend his campaign positions. People are tired of being used by corrupt politicians and they deserve better. I call on Patrick Maher to use his campaign funds to reimburse the cost of printing and mailing the newsletter, and I’d ask that he use better judgment in the future. ”
Republican incumbent, Liz Gorman, issued a press release claiming Maher’s views on property taxes were incorrect and not representing the truth. Patrick Maher then issued a front page response on the Eagle, the Orland Park Fire District newsletter, refuting those claims.
“I think it sets the wrong precedent for how he’d use the taxpayers’ money,” Bohn said. “Mr. Maher obviously doesn’t believe there is a clear line drawn when it comes to using public funds for political purposes. I think this is indicative of the corrupt culture of Cook County Board politics and I think that’s wrong. He should apologize to the community for such an improper use of tax dollars.”
The Orland Park Fire District is funded through tax dollars paid by residents of Orland Park.
Victor Forys has pledged to run an ethical campaign free of patronage and pay-to-play corruption. Forys will use his seat to increase transparency on the Board and find ways to save taxpayer dollars.
The Chicago News Bench took my writings out of context and used them to attack a public official, instead of dealing with the facts. The fact is that no where did I attack Jim Dodge (or any of the candidates for Illinois Comptroller, by the way). And when I pointed it out, and then decided the web site isn't worth writing about, the writer, Tom Mannis went berserk with wild accusations and mud slinging and name-calling.
Real professional, Tom. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. : )
Tom could be a professional writer, one day, when he gets past the childish behavior.
-- Ray Hanania
Thursday, November 26, 2009
There is something wonderful about Thanksgiving. The aroma of the food in the morning.
I got up early and prepared the turkey and will, later, stuff grape leaves and make the tabouleh salad. But the aroma in the house is so wonderful. Food has a power to bring a sense of serenity to the world. I wish everyone could experience that in this world.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, one of the best, that brings out the best in human beings. We need to care for those with less fortune and reach out to those in need. We have to help each other and not make this about getting up early on Friday Morning (Black Friday) and simply running to spend money for bargains.
It would be so great if all those people who can run to spend can also find time to help the needy in some way. Not everyone has to work at a soup kitchen, or deliver groceries to the needy. There are other ways and many things that can be done and I hope everyone engages in doing that.
Help people in need. Or, if you have someone in your family who is in need, give to them and help them. Not everyone has the tragedy of someone in a family that is in need and those that do oftentimes focus their resources -- their extra resources -- on helping those other family members who are need.
But if you are fortunate to be in a family that does not have a challenged individual or relatives who are in serious need, then take the time to find someone in need and help them.
Thanksgiving is all about giving and creating a better world. Say something good today. Say something nice. Try to do something good today so that that goodness can spread around and help others.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I don’t think I ever would have thought about the Orland Fire Protection District (OFPD) had it not been for the email I received from former Orland Park trustee Tom Dubelbeis. Dubelbeis, as I later learned, is an unofficial campaign adviser to Pat Maher, the son of the Orland Park Village Clerk David Maher whose royalty in politics traces back to the privileged 19th Ward Democratic Organization.
Dubelbeis was the “enabler” who “introduced me” to Pat Maher, in much the same way that a royal announcer introduces the Queen of England when she enters a room. In this case, Maher was entering serious politics beyond his role as President of the Orland Fire Protection District which I had assumed was just like any other fire department.
It’s not. In fact, it is one of the most expensive fire protection districts in the state with a budget of about $26 million a year. It takes 12.51 percent of your property taxes, the largest chunk of any government agency not including the school districts.
I guess that’s the definition of royalty. But in reality, it’s the taxpayers who getting the royal screws.
A TYPICAL SATURDAY, SHOCKED BY WASTEFUL SPENDING
Every Saturday, I like to work on my lawn, read a book and find those old black and white movies from the 50s on the TCM Channel. It’s the one time where I actually get to greet the mailman, too, and collect the mail personally.
You can imagine how shocked I was when I opened my mail and found a full color eight page brochure from the Orland Fire Protection District. It was addressed to “RESIDENT” so I assume everyone in the Orland Fire Protection Distirct, almost exclusively residents of Orland Park and unincorporated Orland Township, received one.
Most government brochures are informative. This one was all about politics, promoting the fact that Pat Maher is a candidate not for re-election but for a bigger job, one suitable for a person of his 19th Ward pedigree, the commissioner of the Cook County Board from the 17th District which encompasses Orland Township and the OFPD, and communities all the way north to Wheeling.
Right on the front page was the debate that Maher is engaging in as the foundation of his election campaign. Maher insists -- despite the facts – that the Orland Fire Protection District is a benefit to taxpayers. The front page article paralleled the arguments he made recently in a press release about how he has “reduced” taxes. The rest of the information was useless timber, including “Tips” on how to shovel snow, and “Tips” for Thanksgiving. Hey, it reminded us days before Thanksgiving, “The Holidays are around the corner.”
Like I needed the Orland Fire Protection District to tell me in an expensive mailer that I would estimate probably costs over $20,000 to produce a mail, maybe more.
Is that a way to save taxes, Mr. President, your Excellency, your 19th Ward Prince?
I don’t think so. The whole purpose clearly is so that Maher can respond to charges that the Orland Fire Protection District is a costly waste of money to taxpayers. That’s not a good platform to run on, so candidates who manage bloated government agencies always tell you about how much they have cut back taxes, reduced spending, rebated money and protected your interests as a taxpayer.
OFPD IS ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE IN STATE
Fire Protection Districts were an ingenious idea when the suburbs were prairies and communities were miles apart and they couldn’t afford huge municipal budgets to pay for a fulltime fire department. A Fire Protection District was a great way to have each community share in the cost and save the tax payers money. The alternative is to have a volunteer fire department, as many communities big and small still do.
The Lemont Fire Protection District, for example, covers an area of approximately 40 square miles and serves the Village of Lemont, portions of Woodridge, Darien, Bolingbrook, and Homer Glen. It collected about $12.2 million in revenues including $7.5 million from property taxes and they spent about $10.7 million in overall expenses.
I know that because the Lemont Fire Department puts their budget on their web site, obviously because they are very proud of what they do. Click here for the link.
The typical fire department costs about $8 million to manage
The Orland Fire Protection District budget is $25.6 million and covers only 33 square miles. It has 157 employees (or 81 percent of the entire budget), expanded this year with several new hires and positions from last years. Click here for the link.
That’s three times the average cost of a Fire Department?
Of course, when you see how they spend money, and understand that the Prince of the Orland Fire Protection District is planning to break into politics in a big way next year, you can then understand why they don’t care about spending $20,000 to publish a newsletter with a lot of worthless drivel.
$20,000, by my estimate, so that on Page 1 with his picture, Prince Maher can tell the taxpayers that he “abated” $1.3 million.
Of course he can abate $1.3 million. He’s collecting $25.6 million far more than any other fire department in the region (outside of Chicago).
When you look at the budget, it’s a shell game. He’s not cutting back taxes, he has a bloated budget that has so much excess funds including rolled-over bond issues that if retired would save tax payers millions but have been recommitted to a new training center.
Believe me when I tell you this is all about politics. When a politician tells you they are cutting your taxes, figure that your taxes will go up a fortune.
In fact, over the past eight years, my taxes paid to the Orland Fire Protection District have continued to skyrocket.
Do we get accountability? No. We get rhetoric and statistical shell games. When I pointed out one of the OFPD Battalion Chiefs was using his gas-guzzling Fire District-owned SUV for personal reasons outside of the district, they shrugged and said they’d look in to it.
It still goes on.
DISBAND OFPD & MERGE IT AS THE ORLAND PARK FIRE DEPT
The bottom line is this. We don’t need an Orland Fire Protection District. It’s a patronage haven. It responded to 8,300 calls last year. That’s $3,132 for every call, double what it costs other communities.
Orland Park should absorb the Orland Fire Protection District into a Fire Department, cut the budget, trim the staff and really save the taxpayers a lot of wasted money.
But that would be the responsible thing to do.
And when it comes to responsibility for the interests of taxpayers, we don’t seem to get much of it in the Orland Fire Protection District.
-- Ray Hanania