Monday, March 9, 2009

First mailer in Orland Park isn't from a candidate -- yet!

It’s a little surprising, but the first political mailer I have received in Orland Park this political season doesn’t come from any of the candidates, but someone who many believe has a very prosperous political career ahead of him.

I’m talking about the mailer the Orland Fire Protection District mailed this week to tell me that they are not going to take all the money in taxes they had planned to take and will in fact be taking less. It’s called a tax abatement – not a rebate. The OFPD will abate $1.3 million, which you will see on the Fall Tax Bill. And you don’t have to fill out any paperwork. The mailer, a single two-sided color card is signed by Patrick Maher, the Fire Protection District president and son of village clerk, Dave Maher.

I call it the “first political piece of the season,” but that’s if you don’t count the two other “political pieces” I’ve already received in the mail from the Village of Orland Park. Yes, they are the very expensive, slick and full color “Village of Orland Park Public,” and the “Village of Orland Park Recreation & Parks Department” magazines and they are, in part, political.

Both publications do a great job of reminding us of who are our mayor, clerk and six trustees.

By the way, you can read the two publications the way they used to read the May Day Parade in the old Soviet Union: You can tell who has the most clout based on how many times names are repeated in the publication. Mayor McLaughlin’s name is mentioned 9 times, of course, as it should be. The next closest mention is of Trustee Brad O’Halloran, six times. Brad’s considered the political heavy on the board. Then there are Maher and Trustee Kathy Fenton, with four mentions each. (I only counted two mentions for Trustee Bernie Murphy, the lowest total. He’s not running for re-election this round, and if you put it to a vote, he'd probably say "no.")

The village publications are informative detailing what programs the village has to offer. Although I wonder: would anyone in the village be upset if it came out after the April 7 election instead of before?


Back to the Orland Fire Protection District. Their piece was a bit of a surprise. Or, maybe not. Maher is not up for election, although he has ambition and the backing of many fans in the village. I met him. Very nice guy. Says he’s just into it all because he wants to bring “change.” Kind of “Obama-ish.” The meeting was arranged by former Trustee Tom Dubelbeis, who is working part-time community relations for the OPFPD and has political smarts.

There is an election for a trustee on the board. But none of the incumbents are running so the piece doesn’t promote anyone. So why the notice?

There has been so much negative press about the OFPD. Reports that they’re buying three trucks next year are not true. Although the OFPD added 10 more employee spots to the budget, they are not hiring.

Maher insists the hires will only happen if there is an emergency, a retirement or disability. “I’m comfortable at the manpower level we are at now, unless there is a need and I don’t see it yet,” he said. “We have it in the budget in case we need it.”

Maher also said rebating taxes has always been his goal. “My goal has always been to rebate taxes and I think we have tried to cut back,” he said. “We had six open public meetings on the budget last year and six public meetings the year before. I want the public to know what we are doing. We want to do it again next year too.”

Although Maher says he doesn’t have any plans yet to announce for any public office, the word on the street is he may run for the Cook County Board seat in this, 17th District. And that would put him head-to-head with the incumbent, Republican Committeeman Elizabeth Doody Gorman who has the seat now but is rumored to be ready to step aside for let Paul Vallas, the former Chicago CEO. Vallas wants to against beleaguered and controversy-plagued Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and being on the board gives him a stronger platform to take Stroger on.

If Vallas does replace Gorman, that would be good news in and of itself. But, it might make it a tougher race for Maher. Maher will be a shoe-in to beat Gorman if she is still holding the seat when the time comes to file at the end of this year.

Here is what the Orland Fire Protection District says about the Tax Abatement from their web site:

Did the Board of Trustees approve a property tax abatement?
Yes, the Board of Trustees approved abating $1.3 million from the district’s property tax levy. The abatement means that for the year 2009, you will pay less for the OFPD portion of the tax bill than what was projected in our taxing ordinance. This is not a recurring abatement and is only applicable to the 2009 tax year at this time.

Based on our calculations and projections, the District’s portion of your property tax bill will decrease from last year.


And I’ve come to reconsider the whole issue of the ambulance service after Maher insisted that not one resident will have to pay for ambulance service out of their pocket. The whole idea was to get residents who need ambulance service to fill out the paperwork so the OFPD can seek reimbursement for the service from the Insurance Companies.

If there is one thing I hate more, it’s the robber baron low-lifes who run the health insurance industry. So, yes, make them pay for the service. We need to put them out of business anyway with universal health care.

Oh, and if you are an Orland Park resident and you don’t have health insurance, don’t worry. You don’t have to pay the OFPD anything.

-- Ray Hanania

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