I have to say when I first met Patrick Maher, the president of the Orland Fire Protection District, I thought he was a pretty decent and honest person. Of course back then, the meeting I had with him was to simply put to rest many of the issues that plague the Orland Fire Protection District that he heads.
Since then, Maher only answered one issue, arguing that he's not going to make senior citizens pay for ambulance service by the OFPD. He just wanted the seniors who have insurance to submit the ambulance service costs to their insurance companies to see if the OFPD could recover money.
I wasn't sure why any Fire Protection District would have to worry about money but over the past year, I have seen why. Maher's OFPD spends like there is no tomorrow. And he has not been accountable on the major issues I have asked him about.
I am not sure why. He seemed like a good guy. A father with kids who takes them to sports games the way I take my son to participate in sports leagues too. But I do think it has a lot to do with the people he has chosen to associate himself with. Of course, for some, there was no choice.
But first, let's talk about the issues I have concerns with that Maher just can't seem to answer no matter how many times I ask him. Which makes me believe there are no real answers.
First, Maher has a battalion chief whose big-assed SUV is seen all over the place by a lot of people outside of the Orland Fire Protection District. This battalion chief drives his gas-guzzler everywhere like its his personal limousine doing personal things like taking his kids to sports activities outside of the district in places like Lemont.
Maher promised to look in to it, but apparently he doesn't want to do anything about it. The only vague response I got was that somehow Lemont and Orland have some kind of deal. I think it has to do with the fact that Maher's brother, David B. Maher, ran and lost in a bid to become a trustee out in Lemont this past April.
Maher did absolutely nothing about it.
Next, Maher decided to run against Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman for the office of Cook County Commissioner from the 17th District. Originally, I wasn't a big fan of Gorman's and my criticism has been published -- mostly dealing with minor political issues. But since then, Gorman, on her own, has done some amazing things fighting for the rights of taxpayers not just in the 17th District but in the entire Cook County. I have gotten to know her and recognize that she has the chutzpah to take on Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's government-as-usual, tax-hike driven antics.
If it wasn't for Gorman, the fight to repeal Stroger's 1 percent sales tax would have been forgotten long ago. The board would have made one effort and then turned their backs on the issue. But Gorman wouldn't let them do that. She persisted. Gorman made the fight against Stroger's Sales Tax a key focus of the county and she was the spirit behind the repeated efforts to repeal the tax. She just wouldn't give up. That fight helped give taxpayers hope that the repressive 1 percent sales tax will be repealed.
And, if it wasn't for Gorman making this tax fight the high profile battle that she did, the Illinois legislature would never have taken notice and finally, after many attempts, decided to roll back the number of votes it takes on the Cook County board to override a veto by the board president. It was 14 votes before and thanks to the legislature, and Gorman, it is only 11 (of 17 commissioner) today. That means that the county board commissioners -- who had 14 votes to repeal the Stroger tax, (betrayed only by the shameful conduct of Deborah "Do Nothing" Simms who voted for the repeal and then flip-flopped to support Stroger's veto) -- can override Stroger's veto and put him in his place until he is replaced in office next year.
Liz Gorman's name is synonymous with the fight against rising taxes. And she has promised to try AGAIN to repeal and rollback the sales tax.
Yet this is what Maher wrote on his slick web site about the whole issue:
Patrick Maher supports legislation proposed by Illinois Sen. Dan Kotowski to lower the threshold for overriding a veto by the Cook County Board President. On two recent occasions, Todd Stroger used his veto to block the will of the voters to rollback his wildly unpopular tax increase. The proposed legislation would allow a 3/5th majority, rather than a 4/5ths majority, to override a veto. Currently 14 of the 17 members must agree for an override to pass.
Patrick Maher has reached out to local legislators to encourage them to support the measure. The incumbent Cook County Board Member from the 17th District has turned a blind eye to this important issue.
Gorman has "turned a blind eye to this important issue?" What planet are you on Maher? Why would you say something so stupid on your web site?
But I don't think Maher is really running the show. When I first met Maher, the political enabler for the meeting was Tom Dubelbeis, the former Orland Park trustee whom I never had any real contacts with. He told Maher he could arrange the meeting. Turns out Dubelbeis not only is helping to run Maher's campaign, he is on the Orland Fire Protection District payroll.
Maher has to make it through the Democratic primary February 2 where he faces a tough challenges from independent Democrat Dr. Victor Forys. Forys has gotten all the big Democratic endorsements and most Democrats view the Maher race as a case of clout: a father (Orland Park Village Clerk and Cook County government patronage employee David Maher) using his clout to help his son get on a better more lucrative public payroll.
BUT TAXES IS THE ISSUE THAT CONCERNS ME MOST
I'm most concerned about taxes. Maher says he is going to fight taxes and he cites the great job he has been doing heading the Orland Fire Protection District.
Yikes! Maher's Orland Fire Protection District spends more money than most other Fire Protection Districts, it seems.
And when it comes to fighting taxes? Well, like all of you, I got my tax bill this weekend and I am pissed off!
Outside of the taxes for schools, which ALWAYS go up, Patrick Maher's Orland Fire Protection District had the highest tax increase in the county for Orland Park. The taxes for Maher's Orland Fire Protection District claimed 12.51 percent of the pot, which drove up taxes as much as 30 percent in some cases.
The Orland Fire Protection District is taking more money from your taxes than any other government agency on the list, with the exception of the school districts. The village is taking 7.4 percent. The Library is taking 3.01 percent. The OFPD District is taking twice as much as the county, which is taking only 6.86 percent for all county agencies.
What the hell are you spending all this money on Mr. Maher?
For the life of me I don't understand why a major city like Orland Park doesn't just have it's own Fire Department. Why do we have this overlapping tax-spending government called the Orland Fire Protection District taking more money out of our pockets?
Under Maher, the costs of politically connected attorneys hired by the district have skyrocketed. Some insist that the spending is politically motivated and that the legal work should be done in-house. And there is a big messy lawsuit out there, too.
But 12.51 percent? That is absolutely outrageous.
And yet, this is what Patrick Maher has to say about taxation and his promise to protect the interests of the taxpayers:
As President of the Orland Fire Protection District, taxpayers in Orland Township have seen the reforms initiated by Patrick Maher.
Patrick Maher and the fire protection board inherited a multi-million dollar deficit and, with a responsible spending, the district eliminated its deficit, balanced the budget, improved fire and emergency services AND saved taxpayers over $1.3 million.Was that before or after you hammered the taxpayers with an increase this past year (12.51 percent of the county's total tax bill) in new taxes Mr. Maher?
Pat Maher was first elected to the Orland Fire Protection District in 2003. He was then fast-tracked as OFPD President in 2006 after being anointed with his father's clout.
So, Maher above says he "inherited" a multi-million deficit. Who did he "inherit" the deficit from? Himself? He was on the board for three years before becoming el Presidente!
And, if he turned the table on the so-called "deficit" -- every politically connected child put in office by their father always insists they had a "deficit" that they "inherited" -- but never from their parent, of course -- when and how did that table turn?
Did it turn in 2006 when he "inherited" the deficit from himself on the board? Or, is he using this windfall tax increase to cover the excessive spending in the OFPD?
Patrick Maher is a huge disappointment for me personally. I really liked him. I just don't like the bull-s--- that seems to be written all over his phony PR claims and campaign boasts and I am cautious about some of the political people he has chosen to surround himself with.
I am not convinced that Maher's Orland Fire Protection District's really cares about the taxpayers at all. I have a nagging suspicion that his administration is all about the same old political patronage and insider clout that plagues the very Cook County Board he's trying to get elected to; a county board where Maher's 19th Ward relatives have had a longstanding and cozy political relationship with the Stroger's.
-- Ray Hanania