Friday, February 27, 2009

Hard to feel sorry for complainers in the mainstream media

There is no question that the mainstream news media -- print newspapers, mainly -- is falling on hard times. Recently, the Rocky Mountain News Newspaper closed its doors writing its own front page obituary. A few weeks back, the broadsheet Chicago Tribune that once looked down its long elitist nose at the tabloid Chicago Sun-Times, converted its street sale papers to a -- gasp! -- tabloid that looks exactly like the Chicago Sun-Times.

And last week, mostly mainstream traditional journalists from the print and some broadcast media, plus a handful of online bloggers and members of the growing "New Media," gathered at a conference to discuss the future of journalism. Some reported the meeting turned into a brow-beating session where ivory tower mainstream media tried to lengthen the nose they used to look down upon the "New Media."Of course, the problems of the mainstream media are of their own making. One cause focused on at the journalism conference is the assertion that the New Media is canibalizing from the mainstream media -- stealing content.

Wow. I remember years ago when the mainstream media consisted of two classes, the big city dailies and the smaller community press. The bigshot newspapers used to brag that they owned the media and they frequently stole news fromt he smaller community newspapers. One Tribune reporter told me in the early 1980s that "The news isn't reported unless it is reported in the Chicago Tribune," explaining how he explained the theft of a scoop from the Daily Southtown where I was working.

That was before, of course, the big newspapers gobbled up all the small community newspapers, gutted them, and stole their content and advertising revenues.Now, the New Media is stealing from the mainstream media? The truth is the New Media is helping to keep the media alive.Many of the New Media are in fact former members of the mainstream media, print, radio and TV who blog. Steve Rhodes and I discussed all this during my non-mainstream radio show this morning's radio show.

ANOTHER FACTOR ignored at the conference is the FACT that the mainstream news or traditional news media has defined "diversity" in its narrowest form, focusing only on the traditional minorities (Blacks, Hispanics and Asians) while excluding most other minorities and ethnic groups, including and especially American Arabs who are a growing population in many markets.

In fact, my morning radio show, "Radio Chicagoland" (, shows that there is support from the excluded minority communities like the American Arab community. Most of my ads come from businesses shunned by the mainstream news media. Had the mainstream news media embraced rather than exclude non-traditional minority groups like American Arabs, they might be able to tap that advertising revenue pool. Instead, many non-traditional minority groups boycott the Sun-Times and the Tribune because of the exclusion.

There is also a growing army of two kinds of "New Media," those who are former mainstream journalists (like myself and Steve Rhodes) and those who are "Citizen Journalists" who don't have the professional journalism training but oftentimes have a better determination to get the truth and to fill in the gaps left empty by politics and bias in the mainstream news media.

The New Media is filling the gap in the one area where the gap has always been large, in suburban community news coverage. A group of New Media consisting of Citizen Journalists and former mainstream journalists are working to launch the "Chicagoland News Network" at Watch for its launch.

Things are changing, but not fast enough. It's too bad, especially for the slowly vanishing mainstream daily newspaper. The ink-based print papers are being replaced by pixelized computer screens.

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Palatine Mayor coming to Orland to talk about fighting rising county property taxes

Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins, who has been leading a high profile campaign to fight the repressive taxes by Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, including discussions on possibly seceding from the county into neighboring counties, will be a guest speaker at a forum to be hosted soon in Orland Park by Radio Chicagoland (

I just have to find a location to host the event, and will not only invite the public but also all of the candidates running for local office to stop in, say a few words, etc. I am hoping to find a location BEFORE the April 7 election.

Seceding from the county is a viable strategy to pressure Stroger and the worthless Cook County Board, to do something. Although it is tough to secede, the discussion alone has been picking up steam throughout the townships bordering Will and DuPage County.

Taxes in Cook County are oppressive, from Palatine through Orland Park and beyond. No community is exempt from the taxationw ithout representation.

We'll even invite County Board Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman, the controversy-plagued Republican county board member to speak, if she dares. She hasn't been very representative of the district and we hope she steps up to the plate.

If you have suggestions on a location for the Radio Chicagoland forum, please email me at

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Inspiring speech from President Obama, with some interesting moments

The differences between President Barack Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush are startling. Although Obama's speech Tuesday night seemed more about inspiration than actual substance, I listened with a growing confidence that maybe this country can get things done.

Some reaction:

The Republican members of Congress who along with Bush helped dig this country into an economic grave, sat on their hands far too much as Obama fought to inspire this country to greater achievement and to overcome our hardships.

I couldn't help but remember that today's economic troubles stem from Bush's failures as a leader, the manumental mistake of invading Iraq and the endless costs associated with fighting that worthless war. So many Americans have doed there it is tragic, only to have turned that country into a training ground for al-Qaeda, which was never there before we arrived with our invading forces on in March 2003.

I smiled and nodded when Obama hammered the robber barrons of the banking industry and Wall Street, the economic mobsters who are bleeding this country to its death. And did a virtual fist-bumped with the president as be vowed to crack down on their excesses. Let's hope he can follow through.

I was annoyed though to watch as members of congress crowded around Obama to get his autographs on their invitations. It seemed so cheesy considering that their privilege protects them from the pain of the down spiralling economy.

I laughed when NBC anchor Brian Williams stumbled through the beginning of his interview with former Congressman Rahm Emanuel who is now Obama's chief of staff. Emanuel served as a "volunteer" in the Israeli army for three works working at an Israeli military base. Emanuel has refused to answer questions about whether he did or did not wear an Israeli military uniform. Not wearing one on the base would have been unusual, but embarassing today especially since becoming a congressman and later Obama's chief of staff. The issue of loyalty is important in this country.

But Emanuel's influence was clear in Obama's speech when he failed to mention the Palestinians or Palestine in his reference to bringing peace and security to Israel and better relations with "her neighbors." Subtle but significant shift in American foreign policy tenor.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bolingbrook epitomizes suburban election failures

Last week, Bonnie Kurowski-Alicea, a mild mannered college professor housewife with two children and a consulting business, was thrown off the April 7 Bolingbrook mayoral election ballot.

The decision was made by a Bolingbrook election board which adheres to a rotten and unfair suburban Illinois election process, a process which is among the most ethically challenged in the nation. It is the most abused in the six-county suburban Chicago region The election body ruled that Bonnie Kurowski-Alicea ( could not run for office because:

1 -- The Bolingbrook election review board questioned why signatures on her petitions were not written in Cursive
2 -- Some of the petition signatures looked "sloppy"
3 -- Her own signature was challenged as a fraud because, according to the Bolingbrook election review judges, they didn't look the same and therefore she did not sign the petitions herself
4 -- the forms that the Bolingbrook election board gave her to fill out and submit to the village were inaccurate and wrong
5 -- 40 of the people who signed her ballot allegedly were not registered voters

But I suspect the real reason why Mrs. Alecia was kicked off the ballot is political. She was running against Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar who is never short of controversies and runs Bolingbrook like a Chicago Machine Ward organization.

The judges on the election review board included: Carol Penning, Sandra Swinkunas and Leroy Brown, all elected officials in the village and all political cronies of Mayor Claar. (Penning is the village clerk and Brown and Swinkunas are trustees.)

The big-shot attorney representing the challengers was quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times asserting incredulously, "Because Bonnie signed her own petition two different ways. . . . How do I know that the Bonnie Alicea on the bottom is the same Bonnie Alicea on line 14?"

Are you kidding me? I sign my signature so many different ways it's pathetic. The law doesn't say that Mrs. Alecia has to sign her petitions with a signature that is identical. It says she has to sign the stupid petitions herself. She says she does. The election board said she didn't, in questioning her signatures. But it is Mrs. Alecia who has the burden of proof, not her accusers. She appeared at the hearing and told the board the signatures were hers.

There's more. The partisan election review board sent her a package of material two days before the hearings started showing Mrs. Alecia the signatures that were being challenged. So, she spent time diligently getting the voters to confirm they signed the petitions. It turns out the names supplied to her were not the names challenged at the board hearing at all.

Suprise, surprise!

When she went to the hearing, they apparently saw she had confirmed the signatures and suddenly claimed other signatures were being challenged that were invalid.

The election hearing, which according to Mrs. Alecia was dragged out over days, ended with a closed door meeting in which the election judges, Mrs. Alecia said, were told how to rule on the challenge against Alecia.

This is one of the most outrageous, most egregiously pathetic examples of why our suburban elections are so unfair and unjust.

I emailed Mayor Claar the following letter. Hopefully he will reply (and I will publish it when he does):

Hi Mayor Claar:

I’m doing stories on Bonnie Alecia being thrown off the ballot by the
Bolingbrook election board and wondered if I could get a response from you
…. Also, I’d love to have you come on my morning radio show to defend the
decision …

People in Bolingbrook are speculating that you think you would lose a one-on-one election with a mild-mannered school teacher, mother with two children and would like to know if you want to respond to those feelings, too

Thanks so much and best regards

You can go to my RadioChicagoland web site and listen to the podcast radio interview with Bonnie Kurowski-Alecia on the village election board's ridiculous ruling.

-- Ray Hanania

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins pushes secession from Cook County

While other politicians are wallowing in the muddy wake of the felonious former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his tainted U.S. Senate appointee Roland Burris (the voiceless voice for the voiceless who refuses to answer questions), Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins is focusing on the needs of her constituents.

Last week on Radio Chicagoland (WJJG 1530 AM,, Mullins said she is working with other local township officials on the borders of Cook County's over-taxed residents to explore options including secession.

Most people can't spell the word, let alone understand the complexity of the challenge she faces. Mullins acknowledges that seceding from Cook County to merge with a neighboring DuPage County would require not only a 50 percent plus 1 vote of the voters in Palatine Township, but also a 50 percent plus 1 vote of the voters in Cook County. It's the second hurdle that depicts the imprisonment of the people of the Cook County suburbs.

Chicago is the 3 million pound gorilla and controls the county. Chicago is the governing body in Cook County. The mayor's brother, John Daley, controls the financial spigots. Mayor Daley, who rarely visits the suburbs and spends most of his vacation time in foreign countries these days or at his posh Lake Michigan home just over the Michigan-Indiana border, basically dictates to the rest of the county what the voiceless taxpayers must pay. And most of the time, what they pay doesn't go for suburban needs but rather for Chicago's bottomless pit of incompetent and corrupt bureacracies like the inefficient and dangerous CTA.

Mullins is in her 5th term and is running for re-election. She has three challengers, including Warren Kostka, a former member of the Palatine Village Council; Vito Manola, who lost a close race to Mullins in 2005 and runs a bagel and bread shop; and former Chicago Bears linebacker and part-time broadcaster Jim Schwantz.

Mullins will be coming out to Orland Park to help activists there consider a broader campaign to secede from Cook County and merge into neighboring counties.

Click here to listen to her interview on Radio Chicagoland.

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, February 19, 2009

TV ads in 5th District so far are not as bad as one might think

Not throwing mud is so unusual in Illinois election camapigns. With or without Rod Blagojevich, Illinois is still wrapped in the "culture of corruption" which includes below-the-belt slams.

So it was refreshing and funny to see the light jabbing in the campaign commercial tonight from State Rep. John Fritchey, and the self-focused ad by rival Sara Feigenholtz. Fritchey and Feigenholtz are two of the 12 Democrats seeking to win the party nomination March 3 to fill the vacant 5th District Congressional formerly held by Rahm Emanuel, who is now Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama and an elusive unanswered question int he Blagojevich pay-to-play scandal.

The Tribune's blog described Fritchey's ad, which portrays Feigenholtz and media favorite Mike Quigley as bickering children, calling it an "attack ad." But in Chicago politics, the ad is far from a bad hit. In fact, it made its point in a humorous way without being mean.

Feigenholtz focuses on her immigrant mother fromE astern Europe who put herself through school and her focus on healthcare and experience in the legislature. Nice. Clean. And a solid message. Both Fritchey and Feigenholtz are respected legislators. Quigley is a strong independent voice in the pathetic Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Not everyone has the $100,000 needed to air an effective array of campaign commercials. And despite some great candidates in the Republican field and the Independent filed (five members of the aggressive Green party), the money is on whomever wins the Democratic Party.

Now, there's still time to see some good old Chicago Machine mud come flying, and that would be tragic.

I've had the opportunity to interview several of the candidates on my morning radio show. Fritchey was very open. Feigenholtz seemed a bit reserved. i'm not sure why but maybe it was the cloud of the Arab Israeli conflict that separates our people 9,000 miles away in the Middle East. After all, Emanuel ran the 5th District like an Israeli voter precinct, an issue that has come up in some of the campaign debate banter.

Yet, too bad the Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East can't both set aside their violent ways and take a leaf from this election. Good issues. Good campaign ads. Not a lot of namecalling -- criticism is required to explain why you are better than someone else, but keeping that criticism above the belt is a sign of political maturity and responsibility.

I think Fritchey and Feigenholtz have both been responsible so far.

-- Ray Hanania

Just when I thought ...

Just when I thought the Republican Party in Orland Township was getting their act together and showing leadership, I see that it is asking not telling its members who to vote for.

That may sound good, but the choice isn't between two Republicans for office. It is between Republicans and Democrats, all running on the non-partisan April 7 election ballot in Orland Township.

It's significant because so far the race has not seen much real activity. No mailers inundating our mail boxes. Some fluff pieces with no real substance in the local newspapers, but nothing that even suggests there is an impending election.

Instead of endorsing the Republicans who are running in the Township races, Orland Township Committeeman Elizabeth Doody Gorman is asking her precinct captains and paid GOP members (all of them) if they want to support Democrats who are running, not just Republicans. Ooops!

If you are a Republican, that has to be disappointing. It's another example of Gorman's failed Republican leadership. She did a poor job as county chairman, and has been replaced by the very active and energetic Lee Roupas. And now she is not doing a very good job as Orland Township Republican Committeeman, either. She launches a great web site that touts all of the Republican party achievements, that far outshines the non-existent web site of the Orland Park Township Democratic Organization, headed by Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin.

And then she goes and does this.

The Democrats have to be happy, though.

A GOP precinct captain recently wrote that the GOP and Democratic Party are prohibited by law from slating candidates in the local elections. That's not true, but maybe that's the pitch being made to explain the GOP's double-edged non-action. The GOP could have slated Republicans in the election primary Feb. 24. Running as "Republicans." That's the election for "established" parties. Instead, the Democrats and Republicans are running on "independent" and "new party" slates. But anyone can see who they are and what their party affiliations are.

On the Township Level, that's Township Supervisor and incumbent Robert Maher, who is a Republican. He's done a great job although he is getting challenged by Paul O'Grady, who is a Democrat and is NOT tied in anyway to the 19th Ward Republican commissars insinuating their way into local politics.

Who is the GOP backing? Gorman has a habit of supporting herself over other Republicans. The rumors are strong that she may step down from her county board seat and give it to Paul Vallas, the former Chicago schools CEO who is running against Mr. Taxman Todd Stroger for president of the county board. Having a seat on the board would give Vallas a forum to challenge Stroger and do what many on the county board are failing to do, fight Stroger's tax Tsunami.

That might be the best thing Gorman can do for the Republican Party.


In the village, incumbent Mayor Dan McLaughlin is a Democrat for sure. He's the Orland Township Democratic Committeeman. Under his watch, Orland Park has grown tremendously and has much to showcase, although I do have some issues with property taxes, the tax rebate and a few other issues like some of the people around him. He's the favored to win with a long record of wins. He's being challenged by Gerald Maher, who ran against him once before and lost, but that loss was before many of today's taxation and economic issues were around. It is a new ballgame. Gerald Maher happens to be Robert Maher's brother, although they are not working together.

And of course, neither Robert nor Gerald Maher are related to David Maher, the incumbent candidate for clerk who is running for re-election, too, and who is the father of Patrick Maher, the head of the Orland Park Fire District, which faces many confused issues that need to be better sorted out like the change in ambulance service.

Turns out what Patrick Maher is trying to do is NOT sock residents with an ambulance charge, but is trying to get the help of residents who have insurance to make the insurance companies reimburse the district for ambulance service. It's all confusing, but the bottom line is if you don't have insurance, no one is going to make you pay for an ambulance. If you do have insurance, make those insurance company robber barrons pay. The district needs you to give the insurance forms to the insurance companies so the district can get paid. The district lost as much as $1.3 million a year from not getting reimbursed.

Patrick Maher, who is not running for re-election, is working for some of the candidates, too. And maybe it's in the bi-partisan spirit we're talking about here. He is supporting O'Grady in the Township race, but backing Patricia Thompson and Marty McGuire, incumbents on the re-election slate of Robert Maher. He insists it is not for political reasons, but because they asked him and I believe him.

In elections, there is one important rule about voters and support. If you don't ask, you don't get. I remember the stories of elected officials who told me they met voters and shook their hands and the voters said they loved them. But when it came time to vote, the voters voted for the opponents. When the candidate asked the voter why, the voter said, "You never asked me for my vote."

And even though you didn't ask for my opinion -- or maybe you did by visiting this blog in record numbers -- I'll give it to you. Robert Maher is a solid candidate with a good track record. Paul O'Grady is not a front for the 19th Ward, though, and is NOT related to any of the famous O'Grady's. Gerald Maher is an important independent voice in the village and deserves credit for challenging the incumbent. And Mayor McLaughlin, who I have chided in the past for his poor choice of associations, is re-examining those ties and still has the edge.

Of course, the election is about six weeks away. Sounds confusing.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monster Truck Jam at AllState Arena brings Monster of a bill

Monster Truck Jam a Monster of a hit to the wallet
By Ray Hanania

I love taking my young son to Monster Truck Jam every year. And, I enjoy the show. I’ve written about it a lot. So this isn’t so much a slam against Monster Truck Jam at all, but rather the venue and the exorbitant costs.

Let’s start with the tickets that were supposed to only cost $40, $30 for me and $10 for my son. The actual price I paid was $58, including County Board President Todd Stroger’s taxes, and something that they call a “convenience” fee that cost me an additional $11.

It wasn’t convenient at all.

Even less convenient was the parking at the AllState Arena. When we drove up, we whipped out the card and of course, she smiled and politely said, “Cash only.”

Okay. Thankfully dad is always concerned about not being late for anything, including the Monster Truck Jam Pit Party to get the autographs (that is open to anyone in the public, by the way, with passes from a local auto parts store.)

So we turned around, inconveniently, and drove through the nearby mall where we found a bank called “Fifth 3rd Bank.” Put aside the concern I have when I go to a bank that can’t seem to get the numbers right.

You’re the Fifth 3rd Bank, and you have hundreds of them across the country. I won’t get into your bank loan policies after the Feds bailed you out and you slammed the door on the face of consumers, for now. That’s coming, though. No. For now, I’ll just moan about the $3 fee I had to pay when I used the bank’s ATM.

That was neither convenient, nor fun. And it only evoked the anger inside me about how the banks and businesses took our tax money and used it to give themselves million dollar bonuses.

Back to the AllState Arena Gate where I paid the $20 to park.

Then, we decided to get some food and that was even less convenient. More than $25 for one hotdog, one polish sausage, one small bag of popcorn, on medium fountain drink and one bottle pop.

I’m still sick from the food and it is the next morning.

I will say the Monster Truck Jam show was fun. The Pit Party was about two hours of walking around and checking out each of the trucks. And, we got all the autographs from the drivers.

That was worth it.

Then there was the show. It started at 2 and ended at 4. I would call the Monster Truck Jam “minutes of fun.”

Years ago, my son and I were looking at buying a small motorised boat. And I remember reading the box which explained that you had to charge up the engine batteries for 10 hours, in order to get 5 minutes of motor time.

That didn’t seem worth the money. But then, I wasn’t really a big fan of Chinese made motorized boats, so we didn’t buy it.

We had the same mixed feelings about Monster Truck Jam. And my son even said it as we were leaving. “Dad. This was supposed to be Monster Truck Jam. But the whole show was a lot of talking, the ATVs and the motorcycles jumping. They didn’t have a lot of time for the Monster Trucks.”

Maybe that’s why I spent the $75 when we were leaving to buy him the miniaturized Monster Truck (that was way overpriced) and the five DVD set of old Monster Truck Jam shows dating back to 2000.

I felt guilty.

As we were driving home, it then occurred to me that it probably isn't such a good idea in today's economy for big companies to lend their name to stadiums and arenas where people are leaving with such bad suburban entertainment experiences.

No wonder I don't insure with AllState. They still around?

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, February 13, 2009

Local leaders cotninue criticism of President Obama's stimulus plan

Former Congressman Bill Lipinski, a long time "Reagan Democrat," says that the stimulus package unveiled by President Barack Obama falls far short of what is needed. Lipinski says he was "disappointed" by the failure to offer more bailout support to homeowners, taxpayers and local businesses, but says it is "better than nothing."

Lipinski discussed the President's plan, which was approved by the US House this week, on Mornings with Ray Hanania on WJJG 1530 AM. The podcast is available on iTunes for download to iPods or by visiting

Also, on the show, Hollywood producer and filmmaker Malek Akkad discusses his upcoming film "Halloween 2" (H2), a remake of the original Halloween film made by his father Moustapha Akkad in 1978. Moustapha Akkad was killed along with Malek's sister during a terrorist attack by al-Qaeda in Nov. 2005 in Amman, Jordan.

The podcast of the Akkad interview is also available on the Radio Chicagoland web site.

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I used to worry about my front lawn, now it's Facebook

I used to fret at night on weekends worried that my neighbor would violate the one thing a true homeowner covets: his lawn. In the masculine. Because at the heart of every man's world, is the well manicured lawn.

Lawns have distinct borders, even if you can't always see them. But they are there. And I was consumed with the fear that my neighbor's lawn mower would cross over onto my space on my lawn. Shovel or snowplow my driveway and sidwalk fine, but don't mow my lawn.

I had nightmares about it. These days, the only "my space" I worry about is my faceBook Account.

Yesterday, I had 1097 "friends." Today, I have 1096.

Do you think I am thinking about the 1097 people who love me? No. I'm a man. We don't take directions from our wives on how to drive. We don't let our neighbors run their lawnmowers on our lawns without a written authorization. And we don't think about friends.

We wonder, who did I lose? Who was that person that "dropped" me like a bad penny? Who was it that was so offended by me they couldn't be my "friend" any more on Facebook?

Now, Facebook calls all these strangers who come knocking on my Cyber door and ask to be let in "friends." But most are not friends at all. Many love to read my columns. Others are FBI agents who discovered its easier to track me (an Arab American in the post Sept. 11th World) far easier than through airports. And some are colleagues in journalism, who, like me, use Facebook not to meet naked women, but to instead self-promote our columns, scoops, exclusives and headlines.

Was "Friend 1097" an employee of the IRS? Could "Friend 1097" be someone who didn't like my writing? Was "Friend 1097" an English teacher who has had it with my sloppy grammar?

Fretting over "Friend 1097" doesn't just happen on the summer weekends when lawns were normally mowed. It's constant. Never ending. I'm a journalist. I don't like to "not know." Especially when it is about me. It's okay to "not know" when it is about someone else, like Gov. Rod Blagojevich or talk show screamer Sean Hannity. "Knowing" in journalism terms is the center of the ink well. But "knowing" on Facebook is the abyss itself.

My editor told me once writing a column might win some awards (and has), but it won't win me many friends. If I wanted friends, go get a dog. I did get a dog. And every time I open the front door, the dog tries to run away. That's friendship? And the Maltese doesn't even have an email account. How are we going to communicate? I don't know.

So this is to "Friend 1097."

You left me. Like a "Dear John" in freshman year. Not a word. Not a warning. Not a care.

Oops. Oh my gosh. I now have 1098 friends. Up two. Yeah baby. I'm rocking.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Former 13th Ward candidate Art Mrumlinski dies

Arthur J. Mrumlinski, probably one of the nicest people to ever run for public office, certainly in a Chicago aldermanic ward race, died Monday night surrounded by his wife, children and family at his Oak Lawn home. He was 65 years old.

Mrumlinski's name may not ring a bell immediately, although he has one of those names like "Hanania" that leaves a few extra letters hanging on your lips after pronouncing it, a joke he and I always used to share over the years.

He succumbed to cancer but only after fighting it for many years. That's not surprising because Arthur J. Mrumlinski was a fighter who didn’t give up easy. And it's that fighter that I remember so clearly from my early days as a Chicago reporter, as if it were just yesterday.

Mrumlinski was a towering figure.

It was about 28 years ago that I first met Mrumlinski. I remember writing about Mrumlinski’s exploits fighting for the underdog, and standing up on behalf of the abandoned residents of the southwest side of Chicago who were abandoned by then Mayor Jane M. Byrne and abandoned by her chief ally at the time, House Minority Leader Michael J. Madigan. Madigan wasn’t a member of the “Cable of Evil Men” that Byrne railed against when she was a “reformer” toppling the house of Mayor Michael A. Bilandic. But Byrne threw out reform and embraced the cabal, and then cut a deal with Madigan to try to destroy her arch enemy, Richard M. Daley.

Although Madigan could not stop Daley from becoming State's Attorney in 1980, he was able to stopD aley from becoming mayor. People have forgotten Madigan's support of Byrne was one of the chief reasons why Daley lost the Democratic Primary election in 1983 against Byrne and then Mayor Harold Washington.

But Mrumlinski was never a hypocrite. And when Madigan abandoned the needs of the Southwest Side to trade off his support of Byrne for her favors, Mrumlinski did not hesitate to take up the challenge and fight to help Daley in his bid for state's attorney.
Later, Mrumlinski ran for alderman against Madigan’s handpicked incumbent, John S. Madrzyk to weaken Byrne's re-election support.

Madryzk was a nice enough fellow. But he was Madigan’s personal henchman in the Byrne City Council.

In 1980, when Daley ran for Cook County State’s Attorney hoping to survive Byrne’s often vicious personal onslaught, Madigan lined up to undermine Daley. Byrne hated Daley more than she hated Vrdolyak, the leader of the “Cabal” and one of the cleverest members of the notoriously corrupt Chicago City Council. Vrdolyak, she knew, wanted power. Daley she was convinced by Vrdolyak, wanted her job. Mrumlinski helped Daley win that election.

In 1983, when Daley challenged Byrne, Mrumlinski again stood up for Daley by running for 13th Ward alderman and challenging Madryzk. The truth was it was an impossible election to win for Mrumlinski. But he knew it would put Madigan in a spot. he could take Mrumlinski for granted and send his precinct workers throughout the city to help Byrne where she needed help, or keep them in the 13th Ward to take no chances with Mrumlinski.

Mrumlinski's candidacy forced Madigan to refocus his ward resources from championing Byrne's re-election campaign. Instead of putting his powerful 13th Ward Democratic Machine Precinct Captains in wards throughout the city that might have favored Daley, Madigan was forced to pile them up five-deep in precincts in the 13th Ward to protect their own. nd that was critical.

Madigan could not afford any embarrassments. Although Mrumlinski might not beat Madryzk, he could garner enough votes to make Madigan look weak. Byrne was like the Roman Emperor Caligula, who ruthlessly sacrificed his ablest generals fearing they might undermine him.

I remember that election so well. Mrumlinski held his fundraiser at a small bar on Pulaski Road in the 13th Ward one night. There were more 13th Ward precinct captains spying on the Mrumlinski fundraiser event than there were attendees. Many people helped and loved Mrumlinski but they recognized how vicious Madigan could be. If they dared to show up, he would have had them fired.

Madigan drowned the ward’s front yards with “Re-elect Madigan” signs and his precinct goons ripped down the few that Mrumlinski was able to place. But Mrumlinski was relentless. Every time one of his signs came down, he was there to put it back up.

Madrzyk won re-election, thanks to Madigan’s power. But thanks to Mrumlinski, Madigan could not help Byrne as much as he might have.

Years later in 1998, Madryzk was convicted of corruption and was sentenced to 41 months for mail fraud. But long before the Feds grabbed Madrzyk and scarred Madigan’s Machine, Art Mrumlinski was on the front lines, an aldermanic Don Quixote who raised his banner to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming and powerful forces.

Mrumlinski spent the rest of his years working to help educate children in the Chicago public schools, and served as the principal of John F. Kennedy High school, 6325 W. 56th Street in Chicago.

Mrumlinski is a tough name to pronounce, but it is a hard name to forget. He’ll be remembered for a long time as a person who stood up for what is right. Persevering against all odds and challenges, be it an impossible uphill aldermanic fight or the refusal to go down easy for cancer.

Arthur J. Mrumlinski: Jan. 11, 1944 - Feb. 9, 2009
Wake: Sunday, February 15th, 3PM-9PM, Blake Lamb Funeral Home, 4727 W 103rd, Oak Lawn, IL 60453. Funeral Mass/Burial: Monday, February 16th, 9:30 AM, Funeral Mass, St. Linus Church, 10300 S. Lawler. Burial at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 6001 West 111th Street in Worth, Illinois.

-- Ray Hanania

Companies doing business with village line the campaign funds of the elected officials

Everyone thinks the problem with Gov. Rod Blagojevich was simply that he was greedy and took money for himself and his campaign war chest. But they miss the bigger picture. This practice is common place. And while Blagojevich is alleged to have made pay-to-play a mandatory hallmark of doing business with him, the contributions from big contractors also have ended up in the campaign election war-chests of others, from House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Lisa Madigan, all the way to the lily ponds and their big bullfrogs in the outlying suburbs.

This week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Justice Department has subpoenaed the records of 18 big engineering and construction companies, many of whom gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Blagojevich. One company literally let the governor borrow their Lear Jet, and Blagojevich dutifully reported it on his campaign disclosures.

But deep down beyond the Blagojevich headlines, some of those construction companies targeted in the sweeping examination of donations to contract awards, also gave money to some of our local officials.

A review of campaign filings last summer, for the first six months of 2008, showed that almost one-third of the donations made to Mayor McLaughlin during the reporting period (June 1, 2007-Dec. 31, 2007) came from contributors who do or have done business with the Village of Orland Park, or that are existing village businesses.

In the same analysis of the campaign disclosures, I noted in this blog about how one of those village contractors, the 800 Pound Gorilla in the Contract Room McDonough & Associates donated money to Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin. And not just a few bucks for event tickets.

On April 2, 2007, McDonough requested approval from the Orland Park Village Board for $10,000 in additional fees for construction work they were doing at 159th and Ravinia, you know, the intersection for Costco that took forever.

On April 16, 2007, the village approved the $10,000 additional payment.

On October 19, 2007, McDonough made a $1,000 contribution to McLaughlin's campaign fund, which he will use for his re-election bid this April 7.

At 10 percent, that's a slightly more that McDonough is paying than the 9.75 percent sales tax we taxpayers have to pay on purchases we make in this village.

A review of McDonough's campaign contributions over the years show that McLaughlin received nearly $12,000 in contributions from the firm. But it's easier to get that information than it is to find out how much money McDonough has received from McLaughlin's obedient board of trustees. That doesn’t include donations made by individuals associated with McDonough.

McDonough also made $1,750 in donations to the Orland Township Democratic Organization that McLaughlin chairs as Democratic Committeeman.

And, McDonough made another $800 in donations to McLaughlin’s running mates, Trustee Kathy Fenton and the 19th Ward’s Ambassador to Orland Park, Trustee Brad O’Halloran.


But McDonough’s contributions to secure good relations with a village that it does business with don’t stop at Orland Park. The company also donated money to Patrick Maher, the head of the Orland Park Fire District and the son of Orland Park Village Clerk David Maher, who’s a decent guy. (The Maher’s are closely tied to the Hynes’ family, as in “Dan Hynes,” the Illinois Comptroller.)

That might explain Patrick Maher’s rumored ambitions to run for the office of Cook County Commissioner in the 17th District, which includes Orland Park and is now held by Orland Park Republican Commiteeman Elizabeth Doody Gorman. Gorman, I should note, has frequently challenged the work McDonough has done for Cook County.

We know what those contributors got from the state and the city of Chicago. But how much did McDonough Associates, Inc. get from Orland Park?

That's a question that Gerald Maher, who is challenging McLaughlin in the April 7 Orland elections for mayor (no relation to David or Patrick Maher), issued a press release earlier today asking those very questions.

Asked Gerald Maher, "Why is the Mayor and his team continuing to rush forward with projects such as the Main Street Triangle and the widening of the 143rd and Lagrange Intersection? These projects are not only unnecessary and untimely, but will also place an extreme hardship on the local businesses. These businesses struggle along under the Mayor’s Eminent Domain which will lead to their extinction. Now Mayor McLaughlin wants to disrupt traffic flow to make way for his legacy project. This is the wrong time and the wrong solution. Right hand turn lanes should have been added as suggested in 2001 by this writer. Why has the Mayor and his team run a budget deficit for 2 out of the last 3 years, being forced to extend the current budget to 15 months to cover another $4.8 million deficit? Why do they continue to borrow and spend money for these projects?"

Everyone is focused on Blagojevich. But I think not enough attention is paid to the little frog on the Orland Park lily pad in the muddy little pond.

-- Ray Hanania

Sunday, February 8, 2009

GOP still rules roost in Orland Park

As many people who read know, Elizabeth Doody Gorman, the Republican Committeeman of Orland Township and member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, has had her share of criticism.

(One thing I keep telling you folks is that the reason voter turnout in Cook County's suburban elections is so low is that the politics out here is so darn confusing.)

But, I have to give Gorman credit. Despite her countywide leadership challenges and associations with people like former Chicago Alderman and Democratc-turned-Republican Ed "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak (now headed for the hoosegow), she has actually managed to bring together a formidable collection of local GOP activists.

And, she even managed to launch a web site for the Orland Township Republican Organization. I know, it's hard to believe an important organization wouldn't have a web site. But it happens, folks. (Not having the internet or a web site is like not having a telephone and a listing in the Yellow Pages, for those of my dad's generation.)

Which brings me to another achievement. Type in the words Orland Township Democratic Party on Google (that's a search engine on the World Wide Web for those dinosaurs who don't know) and whose web site turns up?

Gorman's Orland Park Township Republican Party blog is 3rd in line, which is, by itself, a major achievement. Number one on the Google listing is a letter from one of Gorman's precinct captains, Mark Daniel, in the Daily Southtown/Star from Feb. 2, 2009. (Who happens to be my neighbor. I'd say he is a "good friend" too, but I don't want to hurt his standing with his GOP colleagues! LOL -- that's Internet lingo for "Lot's of laughs" or "Lot's of Love.")

This blog and web site ( holds many of the top spots as a widely read news and blog sites. And there are listings for some candidates like judges, and more information on, you bet, Elizabeth Doody Gorman.

Now I am not saying thet Gorman is a Democrat. She's not. The Township is solidly Republican and is a major part of the Senate District of Senate Republican Minority Leader Christine Radogno, who has been on my radio show often. (Her 41st Senate District swings all the way from LaGrange, Hinsdale, Willowbrook, and Darien in the North to Most of Orland Park, Tinley Park, Lemont, new Lenox, Mokena and Frankfort.)

But it sure says something about leadership when you keep flipping through the Google index under "Orland Park Democratic Party" and you don't find one listing for Orland Park's "Democratic Party" headed by embattled Orland Park Mayor AND Orland Park Democratic Committeeman Daniel McLaughlin. (Orland Park has a GREAT Village Web site, thanks to the
IS Department, of course.)

But no web site for the Orland Park Democratic Organization. I know they have fundraisers. I know they have meetings. They have precinct captains, although you have to be friendly when they come knocking on your doors because some are a long way from home having to drive here all the way from the Chicago Machine's confines in the 19th Ward in Chicago. (Be polite when they say, "Eh. Is der a maul erawnd eair?" If you don't understand Chicago-ese, just shrug your shoulders and reply in their language, "Da Bulls. Da Bears. Da mayr!")

County officials in frenzy over employee who does her job

Let me get this straight. Some Cook County officials are upset because an employee is doing her job?

Betty Hancock Perry is the Contract Compliance Administrator for Cook County. Her job is simple. When a municipality like Chicago, Orland Park or Arlington Heights claims that they awarded a contract to a minority-owned firm, Perry’s department is supposed to check to make sure the firm is what is says it is. Too often, they are not.

But Perry is strapped by a county board where some commissioners spend more time giving themselves funds and staff than they do agencies they supervise like Perry’s. She only has six employees to check out more than 900 firms with “minority contract” awards.

After the Federal government discovered that one of those 900 firms was not what it said it was, the board, reacting to the media headlines as they always do, ordered Perry to stop simply accepting certification claims submitted by the municipalities. Basically in many cases, cities like Chicago simply told the county the firms receiving minority certification were in fact “minority owned.”

At first, Perry said she couldn’t do it. Then later, she did start doing it. So now some members of the County Board want Perry fired. Why? For doing the job the board asked her to do? Apparently, the board members complained, because Perry didn’t inform them.

One of those board members is Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman. Because apparently, Perry went to suburban Orland Park and challenged the certification of a clout-heavy firm there. In addition to being a county board commissioner, Gorman is also the Orland Township Republican Committeeman. And citing a local company got Gorman all flustered and off her chair. It takes a lot to get Gorman to get up and do much – when she was the Republican Party’s county Chairman, Gorman failed to do her job, Republicans complained, failing to slate candidates for many of the county’s electable offices. And slating candidates is one of the main responsibilities of a county chairman. No wonder the Cook County Republican Party has a pathetic track record.

So what started out as a story about worrying about confirming that companies that benefit from the minority set-aside program are in fact minority-owned, actually is more about the usual politics that concerns our Cook County officials.

-- Ray Hanania

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Odelson calls Orland Park candidate's challenge "meritless"

Election law attorney Burton S. Odelson said that although he knows Michael Davies, the Chicago Ridge trustee appointed by Circuit Court Chief Justice Tim Evans, he insisted they don't socialize and it had nothing to do with the ruling by the Orland Park Election Commission Friday night.

"Davies had nothing to do with the ruling," Odelson said. "Davies is an acquantince -- we don't socialize!!!"

The slate headed by Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin, called the "Orland Park First Party," was challenge by Gerald Maher, his challenger and head of the Concerned Citizens of Orland Park. McLaughlin and village clerk David Maher, who would have sat on the election petition review committee for the village, were replaced by their colleagues, Trustees Bernard Murphy and Ed Schussler. Evans appointed Davies as a third member of the hearing held Friday night at 5:30.

As for the challenge, Odelson stressed, "The objection was BS. It was stupid, frivolous and a waste of time. The lawyer [representing the challengers] quoted from two cases in the appellate court -- which were both my cases from the 1980's. I dont care who sat on Board, there was no legal merit, plain and simple."

Maher's camp indicated Friday they did not plan to challenge the ruling in the Circuit Court, where some challenges thrown out by local election officials often end up.

"We plan to win the election," a Maher aid said.

Meanwhile, Odelson is representing challenges in other villages in elections around the region.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, February 6, 2009

Stacked election review panel rules predictably Friday night

A predictable ruling in an unpredictable election

As everyone expected, the Orland Park Election Board threw out Gerald Maher’s challenge of Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin’s candidacy.

At issue was not the law, but the lawyers and the board's "objectivity."

The Orland Park election committee consisted of two incumbent Orland Park trustees, for the most part very fair. They are Trustee Ed Schussler and Trustee Bernard Murphy. Murphy and Schussler ran for re-election together in the 2007 village elections and they are considered allies – based on their vote – with McLaughlin and his slate of candidates who are now running for re-election in the April 7 election, incumbent trustees Kathy Fenton, Brad O’Halloran and Jim Dodge, and clerk David Maher.

Maher challenged McLaughlin’s petitions saying they violated the law. McLaughlin’s committee is described on the petitions as a “new” party but the Orland Park First Party is not new at all. It is an existing, established party. You cannot name your independent party after an existing established party according to a fair reading of the state election law.

But the law was never the issue. The deck was always stacked against Maher, who has McLaughlin on the run, however.

The original village election board consisted of McLaughlin and Clerk Maher (no relation to Gerald Maher). They stepped aside and their colleagues on the board, Schussler and Murphy were named to take their place.

A third “judge” who would join the panel to review the challenge was named by Cook County Chief Justice Tim Evans, the former Chicago alderman who lost his bid to become mayor to Eugene Sawyer in 1987 following the death of Harold Washington. Evans is a very pleasant person, but very political too.

Evans named as that 3rd panel member, Michael Davies, who for the past two years has been a trustee in Chicago Ridge. For the 18 years prior to that time, he was a trustee on the Worth Township Board, a board that Burt Odelson’s powerful law firm represented for many years. Davies and Odelson are good friends.

Some say the connection runs deeper. But there is nothing nefarious there about Burt. I like Burt. Not everyone does. He's a frequent guest on my radio show and he is both knowledgable and informed. He doesn't pull punches and he is upfront and honest. And usually right.

But as controversial as Odelson might be, he is also one of the state’s best if not the nation’s best election law attorneys. Which means he knows the law better than anyone. And he knows when and how to interpret the law better than anyone. In fact, I would go as far to say that had Gerald Maher hired Odelson as his attorney, he would probably today be the only candidate for mayor on the Village of Orland Park ballot.

I asked Odelson, as McLaughin’s attorney, for his comment but couldn’t reach him late Friday night (hours after the election review board met, ruled and adjourned).

The real problem in all this, I think, is Judge Evans. Instead of appointing a truly objective arbiter to sit on the already stacked election board deck, Evans appointed someone that Maher’s people said "yelled a greeting" aloud at the beginning of the meeting to welcome Odelson. And, they said, he asked only two questions ... at the end of the session.

Maher’s people praised Schussler, a straight shooter when it comes to village politics. But, would he vote to remove his fellow trustees and mayor from the ballot? Murphy also is considered very ethical, too. But no matter how much ethics you have, voting to remove your best friends on the village board from their re-election would be almost impossible. (Murphy, Fenton, Dodge, Schussler and O'Halloran, and McLaughlin and Clerk Maher have all served together for years.)

Why do we, the taxpayers, tolerate, such a failed election review process where the pals (and sometimes enemies) of village incumbents get to decide who stays and who goes?

The whole process is shameful. But that’s not a knock on Odelson.

The fact that the challenge got this far, though, is a harbinger of the challenges McLaughlin and his “First Party” face. The real issue is whether the voters have had enough of unaccountable government, skyrocketing property taxes, the gutting of the popular property tax rebate plan, the millions spent on a development that hasn’t yet been developed. The plate is full.

Personally, I always favor candidates facing-off and oppose seeing anyone, even those deserving of criticism, to be knocked off ballots. I think the voters' interests are always better served when there is an election contest. That's the onlyw ay officials are forced to be accountable.

But this challenge wasn’t judged objectively. Some might argue, it wasn't fair at all.

And that’s something the people of Orland Park have become accustomed to receiving.

-- Ray Hanania

Obama's Stimulus Plan: Will it help? radio discussion ...

Jim Sweeney, Vice-President of Local 150 Operating Engineers in Chicago, talks about the impact of the Stimulus Package introduced by Barack Obama ... then we switch gears and discuss allegations of war crimes in the Gaza Strip by Amnesty International ... followed by a lighter discussion with Bill Zwecker, the celebrity columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and WBBM TV on Hollywood, the Grammys and the Oscars ... A wide range of topics ... hey! It's live radio ...

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Illinois faces $9 billion budget shortfall -- and it's all Blagojevich's fault. Right!

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his troubles could not have come at a more convenient time. Not for the people and taxpayers of Illinois but for the "pass-the-buck" circus that impersonates responsible elected officials in our state.

Suddenly, everyone is saying the trouble all started because of Blagojevich's corruption. He insisted that the state give senior citizens free CTA passes as a part of a tax increase plan to bailout the mostly Chicago sevices. It costs $30 million a year to do that.

And, he also insisted that the state provide free healthcare to little children whose families are low-moderate incomes and don't have health insurance, something that costs $250 million a year.

So that leaves what, about $8.6 billion in massive spending that Blagojevich had nothing to do with. For example, the billions needed to fund the state pensions, which mainly go to state workers and hacks and relatives of elected officials who double dip into several public service jobs and get full pensions for serving only a few years in public office -- while you and I have to work 20 years just to get maybe 60 percent of our salaries in pensions and have to wait 20 years till he hit 62 to start collecting it all.

Not our selfish, buck-passing elected officials in Illinois.

Jim Tobin of the National Taxpayer's United of Illinois will help us sort through all this tax muck and try to understand where the real pork and waste sits in our post-Blagojevich budget and how much exactly with the acting Gov. Pat Quinn and De facto Gov. Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan will shove down our throats in the coming legislative session. He'll be on our radio show this morning at 8 am on WJJG 1530 AM (also broadcast live on the Internet at

Increased taxes are coming and even if the economy finds even kilter, the fact is those increases will hang around our devastated taxpayer necks for years to come.

-- Ray Hanania

Radio Chicagoland for Thursday Jan. 5, 2009

Jim Tobin of the National TaxPayers United of Illinois discusses the impending tax threat from acting Gov. Pat Quinn. Either Quinn is star struck, a patsy or is a part of the Madigan game plan. House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who controls many members of the legislators with political leashes, will orchestrate one of the largest tax increase packages the state has ever seen -- and boost up the budget of the Illinois Arts Council -- which does what? -- with more millions the state can't afford.

Tobin is on at 8 am on WJJG 1530 AM Radio ... and our program is rocking council and legislative chambers around Chicagoland and the state.

Tune in live on the radio and live on the Internet.

Ray Hanania

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Special hearing called to review challenge to Orland Mayor's candidacy

It’s unprecedented. A challenge was filed against the election candidacy documents of Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin and his running mates on the “Orland Park First Party" slate, Trustees Kathy Fenton, Brad O’Halloran, Jim Dodge and Village Clerk David Maher.

The challenge was filed by McLaughlin’s mayoral rival, Gerald P. Maher, and his running mates on the Concerned Citizens of Orland Park, trustee candidates Marian Klemme, Kenneth Houston, Kenneth Wzorek and clerk candidate Patrice Pykett.

Normally, challenges are filed by incumbents against their non-incumbent challengers, but McLaughlin’s party never filed any challenges.

This is all strange. You see, the people in power are usually the ones who decide if a challenger’s challenge will stand. So petition challenges against non-incumbents are frequent.

The review body that would normally consider the candidacy challenges in Orland Park would be the incumbents, and in this case, Mayor McLaughlin and Clerk Maher. But since the challenge is against them, they were forced to step aside. Two of his colleagues on the village board were appointed to take their places, Trustees Bernard Murphy and Ed Schussler.

At 4:59 pm on Wednesday, Clerk Maher’s office posted a notice of a special meeting to review the challenges to take place at 5:30 PM on Friday night, just slightly more than 48 hours notice, just meeting the requirements of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

The challenge argues that the name being used by McLaughlin slate, the “Orland Park First Party” is not a "new" party, as designated in the election filings. Instead, and we all know this to be true, the name is an “existing” party that McLaughlin and his same trustees used in 2001 and in 2005, when they ran unopposed.

The law says you can't use the name of an existing "established" party and then file it as a "new" party. It's an important technicality, the kind of technicality that usually will get challengers thrown off of ballots, usually not incumbents. Technicalities like these cause election losses.

Who decides these issues?

I'm going to say that Murphy and Schussler are very friendly and sympathetic to McLaughlin, their colleague and friend. In fact, I can't recall an instance where either trustee has ever seriously challenged any of McLaughlin's decisions. But Murphy and Schussler are under pressure to do the right thing and to follow the letter of the law. Chief Judge of the Circuit Court Tim Evans appointed a “third” person to join the review panel -- the name of that person was not immediately made public.

The law is very clear that candidacy petitions must be precise in language and form. The whole system of incumbent officials in a village reviewing their own challenges is really ludicrous because there is no real impartiality. It’s a serious flaw in the county's election system that should be changed, but won't. Usually, these challenges end up in the courts.

When the challenge was filed in the village hall offices of Clerk Maher on Monday, sources said McLaughlin came rushing down from his own office to Clerk Maher’s office. There, challenger Gerald Maher’s filer sat for 40 minutes until an official in Clerk Maher’s office finally provided a one-sentence typed receipt acknowledging the challenge was officially filed. Forty minutes to type one sentence. That's a record!

Not the most efficient re-election strategy

I’m going to say that this election is not going to be the synch for McLaughlin many had expected. The terrible economy, the dramatic increases in property taxes and village fees, the cutbacks in programming and new charges added to programs that previously were free have caused much alarm among village taxpayers.

When a proposal was made last week to hike the village vehicle sticker fee, even nominally, fear that it would be the hike that broke the camel’s back forced the village to decide to put it on hold – probably until after the election. (It's a strange thing. Taxpayers complain about but will accept property tax hikes, which are imposed a year after they are hiked and paid as a part of a monthly mortgage payment. But vehicle fees, for some reason, really tick voters off even though the increase are only a few dollars.)

In the shadows of all this are rumors that not all is copacetic in Camelot or in the Orland Park First Party where issues of egos seem to be clashing. Was McLaughlin really considering not running for re-election or, was it that one of his close allies wearing the robes of a 19th Ward Brutes, might have been planning a coup?

Who knows?

But I will be SHOCKED if the challenge is upheld. That, my friends, would truly be unprecendented.

-- Ray Hanania

More internet humor about the humorless Bush Administration

Dear Fellow Constituent:

The George W. Bush Presidential Library is now in the planning stages and accepting donations.

The Library will include:

1. The Hurricane Katrina Room, which is still under construction.

2. The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you won't be able to remember anything.

3. The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you don't even have to show up.

4. The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they don't let you in.

5. The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they don't let you out.

6. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room, which no one has been able to find.

7. The National Debt Room, which is huge and has no ceiling.

8. The Tax Cut Room, with entry only to the wealthy.

9. The Economy Room, which is in the toilet.

10. The Iraq War Room. (After you complete your first visit, they make you go back for a second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth visit.)

11. The Dick Cheney Room, in the famous undisclosed location, complete with shooting gallery.

12. The Environmental Conservation Room, still empty.

13. The Supreme Gift Shop, where you can buy an election.

14. The Airport Men's Room, where you can meet some of your favorite Republican Senators.

15. The Decider Room, complete with dart board, magic 8-ball, Ouija board, dice, coins, and straws.

Note: The library will feature an electron microscope to help you locate and view the President's accomplishments.

The library will also include many famous Quotations by George W.Bush:

1. 'The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country.'

2. 'If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.'

3. 'Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.'

4. 'No senior citizen should ever have to choose between prescription drugs and medicine.'

5. 'I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy - but that could change.'

6. 'One word sums up probably the responsibility of any Governor, and that one word is .. 'to be prepared'.'

7. 'Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.'

8. 'I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future.'

9. 'The future will be better tomorrow.'

10. 'We're going to have the best educated American people in the world..'

11. 'One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.' (during an education photo-op)

12. 'Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it.'

13. 'We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.'

14. 'It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.'

15. 'I stand by all the misstatements that I've made.'...George W.Bush to Sam Donaldson



Jack Abramoff, Co-Chair
G.W. Bush Library Board of Directors

Race is on iTunes as to who is more popular: Chris Ciciora or Cindy Nelson Katsenes

I was able to interview two of the candidates running in the Orland Park Fire Protection District Race, a race that involves a taxing body that has been extremely taxing over the past year and under the leadership of a nepotistic politician.

The two candidates were on my radio Show, "Radio Chicagoland" on WJJG 1530 AM Tuesday Feb. 3, 2009 (, separately.

I podcast major interviews and I noticed this morning that the race is on to see whose podcast gets more listeners. They've raced up the charts and are neck and neck, which only goes to show you that sometimes local issuesa are far more interesting than the more explosive national and international issues.

The podcasts are available through several podcasting sites like iTunes, Podcast Pickle and others, and combined, the two have already broken through records in terms of downloads.

You can hear the podcast off the RadioC hicagoland web site (we have a green virtual iPod player on the web site and you can scroll through the podcasts to find either and then just click to listen, or go to the Radio Chicagoland iPod blog archive.)

Here are the links:

8:05 Cris Ciciora, candidate for Orland Park Fire Protection District Trustee (Listen to Podcast?)

8:45 Cindy Nelson Katsenes, candidate for Orland Park Fire Protection District Trustee (Listen to Podcast?)

I'm not sure if the skyrocketing hits represent votes or not but clearly these two guests have a HUGE following and will make an interesting race April 7.

Hopefully, one of them can help put a spotlight on the excessive taxation of the Fire Protection District and put an end to what Katsenes points out is excessive legal spending which averaged about $80,000 during ewach year from 2001 to 2006 but that skyrocketed to more than $300,000 in the years since.

No wonder the Fire Protection District chief Patrick Maher, the son of Orland Park Village Clerk David Maher, has ordered that fire department ambulances charge victims upfront instead of billing their insurance.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tax fever spreads from Orland Park to Homer Glen

The poor residents of Homer Glen, the little swamp that could. It formed a local government and the idea was to do better than what its neighbors were doing. But alas, you elect a guy who worked at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange for 14 years and made a fortune, and you find that all he can do is exactly what everyone else does: raise taxes. And worse, without giving much notice to the people who have to pay the tax, the citizens of the village.

Mayor Jim Daley (yes, but don’t make any jokes about being a Chicago Machine Politician like the mini 19th Ward in Orland Park) this week raised the sales tax from 7 to 8 percent using his newly acquired home rule powers.

It came as a surprise to everyone and his difference in raising this punitive tax on residents is that most of the people impacted will be non-residents of the little village just west of Orland Park.

One member of the Homer Township board suggested that the board delay the vote to give residents a chance to be informed about the sales tax hike, which is one of the most regressive forms of taxation out there in today’s depressed economies. But the board was too anxious to leave the confines of caring public leadership to be just like the rest of the neighborhood.

Daley described Homer Glen as the “donut hole” in the surrounding area of growing communities with lots of land that can be developed. Folks. That’s the kind of talk you should be afraid of, not welcome.

Here is what Daley told the Homer Township Chamber of Commerce March 11, 2008 in his “State of the Village Address” – what do these suburban politicians all think they are presidents or something? In it, though, there was not warning of a sales tax increase, just talk about the confusing term “impact fees,” which refers to revenue generated off development not off the backs of the struggling public:

“Our zoning ordinance is also under review which includes the review of our development standards and impact fees. We believe development should pay its own way so that current residents and businesses are not paying for new development. This means making sure that our infrastructure needs are addressed and paid for by new development. This includes road improvements, storm water improvements and the adequate cost effective provision of utilities. Trustee Ward has been working on formulating new impact fee ordinances that will provide additional revenue sources to accomplish many of the Village’s goals. We are also updating our Storm Water Ordinance which will prove to be another benchmark for municipal ordinances. ...

"The Village will be taking a special census this summer. Currently we are
receiving a per capita tax of $134.35 per resident based on the 2004 census
which was 24,083. However, we estimate our population to be between 1100 and
1600 more than that. These are residents that are not counted and therefore we
are not collecting the per capita tax due us for these residents. We have
estimated this loss to be somewhere between $420,000 and $525,000. This is money owed to the Village. We need to make sure every resident is counted. The best time to ensure an accurate count is this summer, so that we can count the
college kids. We will be launching a campaign shortly to educate the residents
on the importance of being counted.

“We anticipate the census resulting in home rule status for Homer Glen. This will provide additional revenue sources for the village such as the creation of additional impact fees. There are over 190 communities with home rule status in Illinois. Studies have shown that home rule communities have the ability to broaden the tax burden beyond the residents and businesses who typically pay property taxes. This is primarily due to the fact that home rule communities have more revenue sources to pick from. The most important aspect of home rule for Homer Glen is the ability to exact impact fees on new development that we can not do as a non-home rule community. A municipal property tax has not been the intention or desire of this Board and absent the revenue that most communities receive through property tax, we have to explore other options. We will continue to recruit more businesses to town – But equally important to recruiting more businesses is making sure they pay their way. We need home rule to make that happen.”

So much for the idea of "impact fees" driving the growth of Homer Glen.

Poor folks in Homer Glen. Welcome to the new world of being over taxed by leaders with big visions of grandeur!

Without even raising the sales tax, Homer Glen already generated some $500,000 just by entering the Home Rule status. But no politician can ever say enough to new taxes and money to spend. "Impact fees!" Right!

As an Orland Park resident, I'll have to re-direct my shopping compass to another Will County community where the sales taxes remain low, like Lockport, where the sales tax remains, after all these years, only 7 percent.

-- Ray Hanania

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Steelers' James Harrison -- you STINK!

The Steelers' defensive linebacker James Harrison intercepted a pass from Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and ran the ball back 100 yards to give the Steelers an advantage most of the game -- the longest return in Super Bowl History -- only to come back as one of the worst and poorest sportsmen of the game when he pummeled over and over again an Arizona player at the end of the 4th Quarter.

Harrison should have been thrown out of the game.

Harrison, you Stink!

And on top of it, the Arizona Cardinals start to KICK ASS in the final 3 minutes of the game. They deserve to win this game and the Steelers Deserve to lose because of their unsportmanlinke conduct!

But the Steelers played a better game, despite Harrison's punching of another team's player, and they managed to pull it off in the final minutes of the game.

In the end, the referees, who seemed to show a preference for the Steelers in a Tampa stadium filled with Pittsburgh fans, played better football than the Cardinals.

A great game not because of talent, but because of the incompetent drama! but again, I ask myself, why do I care?

-- Ray Hanania

Although Orland Park Village is hurting for money, its elected officials are not

Orland Park may be facing the toughest economic times, but the people who run the village are swimming in funds.

The village's problems have a lot to do with the poor planning of the Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin and his down-the-line domino trustees who nary challenge him, and do what they are told.

Orland Park has raised its property taxes and even gerrymandered the "fiscal year" from 12 to 15 months because they couldn't meet their expenses. They said they were changing the fiscal year in order to re-align it with the annual calendar. But many suspect the real reason is they just don't have the funds to pay all the bills in the 12 month budget and use a cute trick to turn the budget period to 15 months to cover 12 months of expenses. It's typical bad management to delay troubles until after the election April 7, 2009.

  • Property taxes have skyrocketed.
  • Fees continue to climb.
    Once free programs now cost money.
  • The Tax Rebate program has been gutted to barely nothing.
  • Millions have been wasted in poorly managed projects.

But that's the problem of the village and the taxpayers -- you and me, pal -- will be made to pay out of our hard earned tax dollars.

That's not the problem of Mayor McLaughlin and his running mates this year, trustees Brad O'Halloran, the Orland Park ambassador from the banana Republic of the Chicago 19th Ward; Kathy Fenton, and former Republican Committeeman Jim Dodge.

When you look at their campaign finance reports, you discover a whopping cumulative total of more than $275,000 in their combined campaign war chests. That is one of the largest gross campaign funds available to any local election outside of the Chicago Machine. And that assumes, of course, that this election has nothing to do with the Chicago Machine. (And I wouldn't assume that at all.)

That $275,000 breaks down as follows, based on the campaign disclosure filings this past month by all of the McLaughlin Machine candidates:

  • Citizens for O'Halloran, $12,000
  • Jim Dodge for Trustee, $20,000
  • Citizens for Kathy Fenton, $13,000
  • Orland Park First Party, $5,000 (all loans from Dodge, O'Halloran, McLaughlin and clerk David Maher)
  • Citizens for Daniel J. McLaughlin, $61, 905
  • Citizens for Daniel J. McLaughlin investments, $163,239 (up $6,000 which McLaughlin amended since my first report).

Every penny can be spent on inundating you with crafty spin, double-talk, happy talk, misleading campaign advertisements on issues like property taxes, fees and the tax rebate int he form of direct mail pieces.

They also have access to the very costly and slick regular village newsletter in which McLaughlin, like former Jane. M. Byrne 30 years ago, fills with references to his great achievements. The newsletter includes "reports" from O'Halloran, Dodge and Fenton, too.

And, they are regularly the stars of the Village's rerun self-promotional videos, paid for by the village taxpayers, of course, on Comcast Channel 4. Over and over and over again, ad nauseum.

Yet in the face of these overwhelming odds, one brave soul in the village has the guts to say that our elected officials must be accountable. They must be forced to explain why they raised property taxes, gutted the rebate program and increased fees, and cut back programs.

That one man is Gerald F. Maher and his slate of candidates who recently formed their committee, but have yet to report one dollar raised in their campaign.

That's why the local newspapers -- that feed on McLaughlin's good will and press releases -- keep hammering home that the last time Gerald Maher ran against McLaughlin, he got less than 30 percent of the vote.

Yet, that was 8 years ago when the economy was at its best.

Retail stores keep closing and vacancies fill strip malls like this was a neighborhood in a New York Ghetto. And if you think the tax increases they have approved are it, you are wrong.

-- Ray Hanania