Friday, April 3, 2009

Rounding the corner to the election on Tuesday

Gerald Maher, the mayoral candidate for the Concerned Citizens of Orland Park, hasn't had a wealthy campaign, so he hasn't been able to buy the full color, glossy mailers that the incumbents, the Orland Park First Party led by Mayor Dan McLaughlin, have been able to produce.

Most of the literature has focused on the issues. And if there has been any "mud" thrown around, it's been by people unfortunately associated with Mayor McLaughlin. I don't blame Mayor McLaughlin. He is a part of a tenuous team. I definitely like the mayor and trustee Brad O'Halloran. I haven't heard a thing from Trustee Kathy Fenton and I am always suspicious of the politics and policies of Trustee Jim Dodge.

The letter published in the Orland Prairie last week attacking Gerald Maher and his brother, Robert Maher, the Orland Township Supervisor, which endorsed Paul O'Grady (the candidate for supervisor challenging Robert Maher) and Mayor McLaughlin, was about as dirty a letter as I have ever seen.

I don't think McLaughlin had anything to do with that.

But I do think that the incumbent village officials have a responsibility to 1) accept criticism and not brush it off as "mud" just because it challenges public policy and 2) they should focus on positive achievements instead of trying to pretend that Gerald Maher has been throwing mud. He hasn't.

Mayor McLaughlin is right about one issue that I even challenged him on. The Property Tax rebate was 80 percent of my property tax collections. I had calculated the property tax rebate on the entire property tax levied by the village, not just the portion levied on homeowners. I don't think it is accurate to say you rebated the property tax when you only rebated a portion of the property tax. But, McLaughlin was right, technically, and I was wrong. Homeowners who submitted their forms did get 80 percent of their property tax rebated.

But I think it is legitimate for Gerald Maher to campaign using his last name, even if the Village Clerk, David Maher, and his son Patrick Maher the President of the Orland Fire Protection District, all share the same last name. That issues is just ridiculous, but I blame that on the Paul O'Grady campaign.

Paul O'Grady is a decent person but his campaign has been all about mud, slamming Robert Maher very hard. I do think Robert Maher has to do a better job of communicating with the residents of the Township, but I think his original claim that O'Grady may be a front for the 19th Ward politicians resonated when O'Grady got 19th Ward bigshot County Sheriff Tom Dart to pose for a campaign brochure picture and make those annoying telephone calls to my home phone.

Mayor McLaughlin, for the most part, has done a good job with Orland Park. This is a great community. But, it is an even GREATER community when citizens of Orland Park become involved in local elections and challenge the incumbents. McLaughlin shouldn't be so bitter about being challenged by Maher -- although I suspect it's not McLaughlin really running his odd-couple slate that he has. It's the consultants. And putting out a las minute mailer accusing your challenger of throwing mud is "an old political trick" of the common kind.

Given how much has been spent, and how little local residents vote in local elections, I am going to predict that McLaughlin will win his 5th term. He's been a good mayor for 16 years and was a great trustee for 8 years before. In fact, I remember when he first ran for trustee and got involved in the Orland Township Democratic Organization, once headed by an old school politician, Tom Charnagorsky.

Mayor. You're going to win Tuesday. Be magnanimous and let the lesser of the candidates in your coalition who are vulnerable deal with the bitterness and animosity. You don't need to stoop that low and don't allow the others to drag you down to that level. Keep the rest of the campaign positive.

If Gerald Maher is bringing up issues of increases in property taxes and village debt -- which you contest -- he is doing it because like you, he cares about Orland Park. Saying that you raised fees (the fees on the water bill have increased in almost every area including actual water rate which you don't really control.)

I also know you agree that village board meetings should be broadcast on Cable TV and I hope in this next term, you will make it happen. Find new people to run the cable camera, though, mayor. Someone with some creative talent. Not every resident of Orland Park has the time to attend the meetings -- village officials attend because they are paid to attend and they run for office and that is a requirement. But tell some of your running mates that taxpayers who can't find the time to attend the village board meetings are not apathetic. They are just busy working hard. Make the village board meetings more accessible and make village government completely transparent. In today's day-and-age, every public document and record should be made available on the village's very well-done web site. It just needs more public records. Put the village board meetings on the Internet too. (You can do that for free with a fast Internet connection, computer and a good camera.)

You are better than the other candidates on your slate. Stay that way. Criticism is a part of being in office. Learn to take it, accept it and turn it into something positive.

By the way, did we really need another issue of the "Orland Park Public" village magazine? That's a waste of money.

-- Ray Hanania

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