Thursday, March 15, 2012

Several big races with no one to care: Patlak vs Morrison, and the useless Water Reclamation District

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They are already predicting the lowest turnout during Tuesday's primary elections March 20.

There are 1,394,453 total registered voters in suburban Cook County. Probably, about 280,000 will actually vote (about 20 percent).

Early voting ends today (Thursday) and so far Orland Park voters are leading the pack in terms of voting early. The Tribune Local gives a report on early voting:
From Feb. 27 through Monday, 1,671 voters had turned out to Orland Park’s Village Hall to vote in the March 20 primary, according to the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
Northbrook was second with 1,306, Matteson was third with 1,238, the Faith Family Future Center in South Holland was fourth with 1,144 and Arlington Heights was fifth with 1,097. There are 44 early voting sites in Cook County. (Click to read story)
That may sound good, but the truth is early voting is an indicator of how many people will, or won't, vote. Early voting this year is low throughout Cook County.

Yet there are several races worth watching, and a few referenda on the ballot of note. The one that is on most suburban ballots is the Electricity Opt Out referendum. Basically, you are being asked if you will give your local suburban municipality the right to decide to switch you to an alternative source of electricity that is cheaper as opposed to continuing with Commonwealth Edison, the bloated and poorly run electrical company that is owned by the wealthy Exelon. (Exelon plays this shell game in which it bleeds ComEd dry and then forces ComEd to seek public tax funding and rate increases, while directing all major profits to Exelon. It's a shell game.)

The referendum is also misleading. I mean, do you really trust your local government to do what's in your best interests? Not everyone does. The referendum is practically on every suburban municipal ballot (regardless of which party you vote in).

Chicago has it's contests for Committeeman this election cycle. The suburbs are in two years. For the most part, most incumbent Democratic Committeemen are unchallenged.

Here are two important races, the battle for the Board of Review in the Republican Primary, and below that the battle for the Water Reclamation District on the Democratic ballot.


The biggest race in suburban Cook County is the battle between Sean Morrison and Dan Patlak in the Republican Primary (remember, you have declare yourself and vote in either the Democratic or the Republican Primary, another reason why so many people stay home and don't vote in primaries.)

Patlak is the only Republican on the three-member Board of Review which previously was called the Board of Tax Appeals. It manages the assessment on your property and also accepts appeals to reduce your assessment and thus your property taxes, but that usually fail.

Because this is one of the few Republican-held Cook County offices, the Republicans have been engaged in a vicious fight. Patlak has some incumbent support but has been dragged down by the fanatics in the Tea Party who are pushing his candidacy. The Tea Party, which began as a people's movement, was taken over by extremist conservatives who are irrational in their hatred of everyone and often engage in racism.

Why Patlak would want to be associated with them, and the likes of the mouthpiece of the Tea Party nutjobs, the Illinois Review, is a mystery to me. He seems like a nice guy. But, he is their puppet in this battle.

Morrison is being backed by Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman who n the past few years has established herself as the only Republican champion of taxpayers. Gorman single-handedly defeated the sales tax increase that was imposed on Cook County Taxpayers by former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. Stroger raised the sales tax to record heights, adding one more penny to the oppressive sales tax we already pay in the suburban communities. But Gorman opposed it and although it was passed, despite her objectives, you refused to give up until eventually the tax was repealed.

That's the kind of leadership you don't see in government.

Gorman also beat back challenges from the Chicago Democratic Machine. She defeated a Republican challenger who tried to unseat her, and then defeated the Democrat, Pat Maher, the cousin of the powerful family of Dan Hynes, who also lost the battle for Illinois Comptroller.

The fact that Gorman is backing Morrison gives him the edge in this low-voter turnout contest. And that's why Patlak is so desperate.


The mission of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago is to manage rain water run-off. It does a very poor job of doing that, as most homeowners know.

Flooding from heavy rains twice devastated the western suburbs during the last two years with the region declared a disaster area in the summer of 2010. Why? Because the Water Reclamation District doesn't manage rain water run-off very well. But, it does control where those flood waters will go.

The Water Reclamation District has locks and controls to block water run-off. Now, you don't need to be a physicist to understand the principle of water, Water spreads itself out evenly, unless there is an obstruction. So, when one suburban community floods, the communities around it flood. The water drains into the sewers and unground pipes and goes to creeks and eventually to the billion dollar Deep Tunnel. But the problem is, the Deep Tunnel isn't deep enough or big enough to hold all the flood waters. In fact, it frequently fills up to capacity quickly and early.

That's when the problems start.

With no place to go, the water fills up suburban sewer and water drainage systems. It fills up retention ponds and the Canals that connect to Lake Michigan.

And therein lies the problem my friends. Chicago.

You see, the Water Reclamation District can determine if a community floods and the homeowners loose everything they own to the devastation of a flood, or if they should open the locks and allow the water to flood the canal and then flood the sewage onto the beachfronts in Chicago's wealthy lakefront beaches and properties.

You know, rich people don't actually swim in Lake Michigan. They live next to the Lake in their multi-million dollar condominiums and apartments and they love to look at the lake and sail their boats. But they won't swim in that filthy water (that Chicago then turns around and resells at a huge mark-up to the suckers in the suburbs).

But, what they don't like is when the lakefront waters get polluted and start to stink to high heaven, high enough to waft high enough to reach those expensive noses through there high-rise open windows where they peer down on the poor peons, pedestrians and serfs -- the poor schmucks like you and me.

So they poor millions into the campaigns of people who they pick to control this imbalance in public caring, to guarantee that when the time comes, that shit-water won't spill into the lake and ease the flooding burdens on suburban homeowners, but will instead stay in the suburbs long enough to destroy lives and homes, and eventually -- maybe after two or three days -- drain away along with the hopes and dreams of the victims.

On March 20, the Chicago powers-that-be are pushing Patrick Daley Thompson, a cousin of the scion of the Chicago Machine, Richard M. Daley. Thompson wants to become the president of the Water Reclamation District Board, which lives a luxurious life in their downtown Chicago offices. They each hundred dollar lunches at the best downtown restaurants, all at the taxpayer expense, of course. They spend millions on their own luxuries like buying big screen TVs for their bosses. Got to keep those people happy, especially if you expect them to order those locks closed to flood the suburbs and save the City of Chicago!

A campaign mailer just arrived in everyone's mail boxes this week, everyone who is a Democrat -- the Republicans have no chance of winning a seat there unless the Democrats approve it.

The mailer was to promote Thompson with a lot of soft and fuzzy wording about protecting the environment, restoring wetlands, improving waste treatment and "saving taxpayer dollars."

But the biggest picture on it wasn't of Thompson, who no one knows at all and has no experience running a multi-billion corporation. The biggest picture is of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Because the message isn't about electing Thompson, but assuring the wealthy lakefront homeowners and contributors that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has your back, your wallet and his finger on the button to shutter those water canal locks to keep the flood waters from draining out of suburban basements and homes into the skanky beaches where no one really swims -- except the stinky alewives, of course.

Thompson is running with two other candidates, but the powers that be don't really care about the other two candidates.

There are actually six candidates running but you only pick three. They are listed on the ballot as:

Candidate NamePartyBallot #
Stella B. BlackDemocratic71
Debra ShoreDemocratic72
Kari K. SteeleDemocratic73
Patrick Daley ThompsonDemocratic74
Patricia YoungDemocratic75
Patricia HortonDemocratic77

Personally, I only know Patricia Young. She's a good person and worked for the Water Reclamation District doing public affairs work. (I actually helped her launch her first campaign in the early 1990s). She previously served on the Water Reclamation District Board from 1992 until 2009.

The problem is that no one cares about flooding. No one addresses flooding. And Thompson doesn't care.

And the truth is, that when the rain falls this summer, it doesn't matter if the office is held by a Daley or a nobody. The fact is the Water Reclamation District needs to be reformed and until we push for reform, your taxes will go down the drain faster than the rainwater. And your homes will continue to flood and destroy your precious belongings that Mayor Emanuel doesn't care about.

Until you care, no one else will.

Thompson's running mates are Keri Steele and Debra Shore. You haven't heard anything from them. I mean, no one who expects to hold that office spends their own money running or campaigning. It's all down by the power brokers who are backing them. Patricia Horton and Shore are the incumbents, but the Democrats have dumped Horton.

If you really want to send a signal that you are not happy, you can vote for Patricia Young, and Stella Black. This is the one race that really has meaning in your lives and impacts your homes and properties.  Horton has been dumped and is on her own.

A tough choice for voters: I would give Young a shot at doing what she should have done in the past, fighting harder to expose the real problems at the Water Reclamation District. Should Horton return? I don't think so. Thompson, because he is a Daley, will be the highest vote-getter.

What we really need is a referendum to eliminate the Water Reclamation District or make them accountable for the flooding problems. When your home floods, homeowners should be allowed to file lawsuits against the District.

-- Ray Hanania

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