Saturday, January 31, 2009

Names drive many races in Orland Park and Township

Names mean a lot. It's a fact that if you have an Irish name, for example, you have a better chance of winning a spot as a judge, if you are not already appointed to one by the Chicago Democratic machine.

If you have an Arab name, chances are even before Sept. 11, 2001 in Orland Park, you couldn’t get elected to any office, not even to a racist school district board.

But the ethnicity of names is one factor in elections. The similarity of names is another.

For example, there are four people named "Maher" either in office or seeking office in Orland Park.

There is Robert Maher, the highly praised incumbent Supervisor of Orland Township. Robert Maher blew the doors off of Thomas Mahoney and ousted him from the supervisor's office in 2005. Mahoney barely beat his own predecessor Michael Brennan in 2001 – winning by only 207 votes out of more than 13,000 township votes cast. Mahoney was plagued by criticism of his performance, and is engaged in a lengthy lawsuit against Maher that I think is purely political.

Robert Maher’s brother, Gerald Maher, is running a second time against the unaccountable Village of Orland Park President (Mayor) Dan McLaughlin. Gerald Maher ran against McLaughlin in April 2001, and nearly took 30 percent of the vote at a time when McLaughlin was riding high on a great economy and high public hopes for the village.

This time things will be different for McLaughlin. The economy tanked and the Mayor has been forced to break all of his promises. But instead of standing up and forthrightly explaining his new property tax increases, fee increases, new fees for formerly free programs, the trimming of programs and his failure to better protect the village from the economic fallout of a crash in the retail market, he prefers to run government by “Happy Talk” press releases which ignore all he problems and paint a fairy tale image of the village.

Wasted money at the Bermuda Triangle development near 143rd Street and LaGrange Road, the gutting of the property tax rebate plan he implemented and promised would off-set the burden of his .75 percent sales take hike in the village make him the perfect target for ouster.

Then there is McLaughlin’s running mate. I’m not talking about the unaccountable trustees who share in McLaughlin’s arrogance. I’m talking about David Maher, the village clerk. Although David Maher and I had a brief dispute over the issue of the Open Meetings Act – which I believe he violated, but is slowly correcting without admitting a mistake – David Maher has done a good job.

His one duty is to make the village’s public records public and he hasn’t hesitated to do that. And that makes David Maher accountable, which is the only thing the public can demand from their elected officials besides honesty and doing the best job they can.

McLaughlin and his Chicago Machine cohorts from the Chicago 19th Ward – who over the years have transformed Orland Park into a satellite Chicago ward (we don’t even get garbage can lids here like they do in Chicago in exchange for votes!) – could learn from David Maher’s record.

But then, it’s not always like father and like son. David Maher’s son is Patrick Maher, the controversial and politically driven head of the Orland Park Fire Protection District, who recently decided to force senior citizens to pay when the Orland Fire Department ambulance comes to pick them up in emergencies. And he has been involved in some controversial law suits that have entangled the Village.

Who is paying for the 8 or more attorneys representing all of the defendants in the Orland Fire Protection District law suit? You should see the list of the lawyers squeezing money out of that one!

The Maher name is not unfamiliar to village residents who have lived here for a while. There was William F Mahar – slightly different spelling, the former Illinois State Senator and his father who served before him. (I should note that Bill’s brother, Tom, was my fraternity brother at Northern Illinois University and we were best friends, although we lost contact during the political years after.)

Then there are the "trickster" names that play on popular names to draw away votes.

For example, in the Orland Township elections, Donald Yunker, who I have criticized in the past but have come to like after more carefully examining his record and talking to constituents, is being challenged by “Brian Younker,” a colleague of the Orland Hills police attorney Paul O’Grady who is challenging Robert Maher for Township supervisor.

Paul O’Grady is an interesting chap, although I always look at anything carefully when dealing with controversy plague Orland Hills.

The word on the "street" is that O’Grady was picked to succeed Mayor McLaughlin, who everyone expected would retire this year. I’ve emailed O’Grady (there’s a familiar name in politics) to get his response to the widely held rumors that he was to be Orland Park’s new mayor and his response to some who believe he is too closely tied to 19th Ward politicians like the Sheehans, Joyces, and Hynes.

Regardless, this election in April is going to be a hopper.

The voter turnout in the village of Orland Park has been around 9,000 or so. And in the township, the numbers will be about 13,000. Those are the numbers to watch. We’ll help keep tabs on the campaign financing and where the money is coming from and being spent by the candidates.

And we’ll be talking about the Orland races on upcoming segments of my morning radio show on WJJG 1530 AM Radio (Monday – Friday, 8-9:30 am.) It’s broadcast live on radio and simulcast on the Internet, too, at

(Check out this Southtown/Star story for a good rundown of the Orland area contests.)

-- Ray Hanania

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