Saturday, November 28, 2009

Forys challenges Maher use of taxpayer funds for political newsletter

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Democrat Victor Forys’ Campaign Calls on Opponent to Refund Taxpayers for Cost of Publicly Funded Campaign Propaganda

Forys calls on Patrick Maher to refund taxpayers for cost of printing and mailing campaign propaganda on Orland Park Fire District newsletter.

Chicago, November 27, 2009— Dr. Victor Forys’ campaign is calling on their opponent to refund tax dollars used to print and mail the Orland Park Fire District newsletter to promote his campaign.  

“With the election less than 70 days away, it is absolutely unacceptable and potentially illegal for Patrick Maher to use taxpayer dollars to promote his campaign,” said campaign spokesman Rick Bohn. “In a time when people are struggling to make ends meet and pay their bills, he’s using their hard-earned tax dollars to defend his campaign positions.  People are tired of being used by corrupt politicians and they deserve better.  I call on Patrick Maher to use his campaign funds to reimburse the cost of printing and mailing the newsletter, and I’d ask that he use better judgment in the future. ”

Republican incumbent, Liz Gorman, issued a press release claiming Maher’s views on property taxes were incorrect and not representing the truth.  Patrick Maher then issued a front page response on the Eagle, the Orland Park Fire District newsletter, refuting those claims.

“I think it sets the wrong precedent for how he’d use the taxpayers’ money,” Bohn said. “Mr. Maher obviously doesn’t believe there is a clear line drawn when it comes to using public funds for political purposes.  I think this is indicative of the corrupt culture of Cook County Board politics and I think that’s wrong.  He should apologize to the community for such an improper use of tax dollars.”

The Orland Park Fire District is funded through tax dollars paid by residents of Orland Park.

Victor Forys has pledged to run an ethical campaign free of patronage and pay-to-play corruption.  Forys will use his seat to increase transparency on the Board and find ways to save taxpayer dollars.

Excuse the hissy-fit at the Chicago News Bench (Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde writer there, I think)

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The Chicago News Bench took my writings out of context and used them to attack a public official, instead of dealing with the facts. The fact is that no where did I attack Jim Dodge (or any of the candidates for Illinois Comptroller, by the way). And when I pointed it out, and then decided the web site isn't worth writing about, the writer, Tom Mannis went berserk with wild accusations and mud slinging and name-calling.

Real professional, Tom. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. : )

Tom could be a professional writer, one day, when he gets past the childish behavior.

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nothing like the aroma of Thanksgiving

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There is something wonderful about Thanksgiving. The aroma of the food in the morning.

I got up early and prepared the turkey and will, later, stuff grape leaves and make the tabouleh salad. But the aroma in the house is so wonderful. Food has a power to bring a sense of serenity to the world. I wish everyone could experience that in this world.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, one of the best, that brings out the best in human beings. We need to care for those with less fortune and reach out to those in need. We have to help each other and not make this about getting up early on Friday Morning (Black Friday) and simply running to spend money for bargains.

It would be so great if all those people who can run to spend can also find time to help the needy in some way. Not everyone has to work at a soup kitchen, or deliver groceries to the needy. There are other ways and many things that can be done and I hope everyone engages in doing that.

Help people in need. Or, if you have someone in your family who is in need, give to them and help them. Not everyone has the tragedy of someone in a family that is in need and those that do oftentimes focus their resources -- their extra resources -- on helping those other family members who are need.

But if you are fortunate to be in a family that does not have a challenged individual or relatives who are in serious need, then take the time to find someone in need and help them.

Thanksgiving is all about giving and creating a better world. Say something good today. Say something nice. Try to do something good today so that that goodness can spread around and help others.

Happy Thanksgiving
Ray Hanania

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Time to eliminate Orland Fire Protection District and Save taxpayers money

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I don’t think I ever would have thought about the Orland Fire Protection District (OFPD) had it not been for the email I received from former Orland Park trustee Tom Dubelbeis. Dubelbeis, as I later learned, is an unofficial campaign adviser to Pat Maher, the son of the Orland Park Village Clerk David Maher whose royalty in politics traces back to the privileged 19th Ward Democratic Organization.

Dubelbeis was the “enabler” who “introduced me” to Pat Maher, in much the same way that a royal announcer introduces the Queen of England when she enters a room. In this case, Maher was entering serious politics beyond his role as President of the Orland Fire Protection District which I had assumed was just like any other fire department.

It’s not. In fact, it is one of the most expensive fire protection districts in the state with a budget of about $26 million a year. It takes 12.51 percent of your property taxes, the largest chunk of any government agency not including the school districts.

I guess that’s the definition of royalty. But in reality, it’s the taxpayers who getting the royal screws.


Every Saturday, I like to work on my lawn, read a book and find those old black and white movies from the 50s on the TCM Channel. It’s the one time where I actually get to greet the mailman, too, and collect the mail personally.

You can imagine how shocked I was when I opened my mail and found a full color eight page brochure from the Orland Fire Protection District. It was addressed to “RESIDENT” so I assume everyone in the Orland Fire Protection Distirct, almost exclusively residents of Orland Park and unincorporated Orland Township, received one.

Most government brochures are informative. This one was all about politics, promoting the fact that Pat Maher is a candidate not for re-election but for a bigger job, one suitable for a person of his 19th Ward pedigree, the commissioner of the Cook County Board from the 17th District which encompasses Orland Township and the OFPD, and communities all the way north to Wheeling.

Right on the front page was the debate that Maher is engaging in as the foundation of his election campaign. Maher insists -- despite the facts – that the Orland Fire Protection District is a benefit to taxpayers. The front page article paralleled the arguments he made recently in a press release about how he has “reduced” taxes. The rest of the information was useless timber,  including “Tips” on how to shovel snow, and “Tips” for Thanksgiving. Hey, it reminded us days before Thanksgiving, “The Holidays are around the corner.”

Like I needed the Orland Fire Protection District to tell me in an expensive mailer that I would estimate probably costs over $20,000 to produce a mail, maybe more.

Is that a way to save taxes, Mr. President, your Excellency, your 19th Ward Prince?

I don’t think so. The whole purpose clearly is so that Maher can respond to charges that the Orland Fire Protection District is a costly waste of money to taxpayers. That’s not a good platform to run on, so candidates who manage bloated government agencies always tell you about how much they have cut back taxes, reduced spending, rebated money and protected your interests as a taxpayer.



Fire Protection Districts were an ingenious idea when the suburbs were prairies and communities were miles apart and they couldn’t afford huge municipal budgets to pay for a fulltime fire department. A Fire Protection District was a great way to have each community share in the cost and save the tax payers money. The alternative is to have a volunteer fire department, as many communities big and small still do.

The Lemont Fire Protection District, for example, covers an area of approximately 40 square miles and serves the Village of Lemont, portions of Woodridge, Darien, Bolingbrook, and Homer Glen. It collected about $12.2 million in revenues including $7.5 million from property taxes and they spent about $10.7 million in overall expenses.

I know that because the Lemont Fire Department puts their budget on their web site, obviously because they are very proud of what they do. Click here for the link.

The typical fire department costs about $8 million to manage

The Orland Fire Protection District budget is $25.6 million and covers only 33 square miles. It has 157 employees (or 81 percent of the entire budget), expanded this year with several new hires and positions from last years. Click here for the link.

That’s three times the average cost of a Fire Department?

Of course, when you see how they spend money, and understand that the Prince of the Orland Fire Protection District is planning to break into politics in a big way next year, you can then understand why they don’t care about spending $20,000 to publish a newsletter with a lot of worthless drivel.

$20,000, by my estimate, so that on Page 1 with his picture, Prince Maher can tell the taxpayers that he “abated” $1.3 million.

Of course he can abate $1.3 million. He’s collecting $25.6 million far more than any other fire department in the region (outside of Chicago).

When you look at the budget, it’s a shell game. He’s not cutting back taxes, he has a bloated budget that has so much excess funds including rolled-over bond issues that if retired would save tax payers millions but have been recommitted to a new training center.

Believe me when I tell you this is all about politics. When a politician tells you they are cutting your taxes, figure that your taxes will go up a fortune.

In fact, over the past eight years, my taxes paid to the Orland Fire Protection District have continued to skyrocket.

Do we get accountability? No. We get rhetoric and statistical shell games. When I pointed out one of the OFPD Battalion Chiefs was using his gas-guzzling Fire District-owned SUV for personal reasons outside of the district, they shrugged and said they’d look in to it.

It still goes on.


The bottom line is this. We don’t need an Orland Fire Protection District. It’s a patronage haven. It responded to 8,300 calls last year. That’s $3,132 for every call, double what it costs other communities.

Orland Park should absorb the Orland Fire Protection District into a Fire Department, cut the budget, trim the staff and really save the taxpayers a lot of wasted money.

But that would be the responsible thing to do.

And when it comes to responsibility for the interests of taxpayers, we don’t seem to get much of it in the Orland Fire Protection District.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, November 20, 2009

Riddles Comedy Club returning, in Alsip on 111th Street

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When I first got into comedy (the way I always do everything, with a bang and lots of controversy), Riddles Comedy Club was the first place that reached out to me to give me support. The Orland Park club supporting an Orland Parker was great.

I did my first three ever comedy open mics at Riddles Comedy Club beginning in November 2001 just putting together material and trying to figure out how to make American Arab comedy work. And then the owner at Zanies heard about me and scooped me up and put me on stage where I did thirty shows and then booked for a full week in August/September 2002 over the Labor Day Weekend. Just before the show, Jackie Mason announced a new Broadway play and he wanted to come through Chicago to practice and ready for New York and Zanies asked me to set aside three of my nine shows so Jackie could headline. Did I have a problem, they asked? No. But make sure to tell Mason I am Palestinian, I said. The owner and manager laughed saying the Middle East conflict had "no place" on a comedy stage.

Of course, I had sold out the nine shows to friends, family and news media. And the night of the show, Mason discovered I wasn't just an Arab -- gasp! -- I was Palestinian. And he told Zanies I could not perform with him "because I was Palestinian." Sure enough, that decision exploded in headlines and a five-day tsunami of controversy erupted. I think I did the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS morning News, Donahue, Hannity & Colmes (Hannity is such an ass), ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS network news interviews, CNN and MSNBC and even interviews remotely in London, Paris, Moscow, Beirut, Jerusalem ... hey, doesn't everyone know Palestinians and Israelis don't seem to get along, and it's not really about the Hummus.

But that weekend when I was canned from Zanies -- and then decided to cancel the remaining six shows after I started receiving death threats (it was after Sept. 11, 2001 and I am an Arab who everyone thinks is Muslim and related to Bin Laden of course) at Zanies, Ken Stevens at Riddles reached out and invited me to do some sets on his stage not just for the publicity but because he cares about the comedy industry. He gave me tips, pointers and I still sucked! But hey, who cares? It was fun and the audiences loved it. I think I have some of the old Riddles shows on Youtube or Google video. Now I do standup all over the world (London, Dublin, Toronto, New York, LA with the Israeli Palestinian Comedy tour I have a performance this Sunday for Hadassah in Morton Grove and bookings through the coming year.

I really owe my comedy career to Bin Laden, my overall insane career in journalism, but most especially to Riddles Comedy Club which really gave me my first start.

Last night, I was performing at St. Xavier for 100 screaming little old ladies and seniors and that was a blast, too. And as I drove home on 111th Street I happened to see Riddles Sign back up on a club storefront.

Riddles is reopening at 5055 W. 111th Street in Alsip. The grand opening is this weekend, Nov. 20. Here's their web page Check it out. The place closed in Orland a number of months back, maybe even longer. It had changed hands and Ken had left. But Ken is back and professional comedy is returning to the Southwest Suburbs, finally. There isn't a better club around.

Break a leg Ken (and whatever else you can -- I love the fact that comedy is so full of violence!) I look forward to seeing you soon. (Check the Radio Chicagoland web site at Im working on getting Ken and some of Riddles' great comedians on the show soon.)

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

County board approves Gorman sales tax repeal motion

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County board approves Gorman sales tax repeal motion
By Ray Hanania

The Cook County Board voted 12 to 5 Tuesday to roll back half of County Board President Todd Stroger’s 1 percent sales tax which has heaped economic hardship on county residents already hammered by the recession.

Although the motion was sponsored by several commissioners, clearly the heart and spirit of the rollback drive is County Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman from the 17^th District which represents one of the largest cross-sections of the county’s suburban communities, 51 square miles from northwest to southwest. Gorman initiated the first effort to repeal the sales tax on May 5 and refused to back down, introducing and sponsoring several more motions including the one passed Tuesday.

“I am excited that we have once again represented the best interested of the people of Cook County and rolled backed half of Stroger’s 1 percent sales tax hike,” Gorman said after the meeting.

“Instead of increasing the sales tax, which is considered the most repressive form of taxation because it undermines the economy, Stroger should have proposed cuts in his administration and pushed office holders to embrace economic belt tightening. Every citizen of Cook County has been forced by the economy to cut back. We need to consolidate offices, restructure and reform Cook County before going to the business community to bailout mismanagement of county government out.”

Stroger is again expected to veto the ordinance. He may even challenge it saying it is redundant arguing that the rollback is not a substantive change from the measure he defeated with his veto to protect the sales tax increase.

Gorman said she is hopeful that all 12 members who supported the rollback will stand firm for all of the taxpayers in Cook County and send Stroger a strong message that his tax and spend policies will not be tolerated.

Gorman was instrumental in insisting that the board not give up fighting for taxpayers after the first effort she introduced on May 5 to roll back and repeal the Stroger sales tax failed. Several more motions were made and failed.

During the last vote, the board voted 14 to 3 to rollback the sales tax, but Stroger vetoed the motion and one member, Commissioner Deborah Simms, who supported the roll back, surrendered to Stroger’s political pressure and supported his veto.

Gorman’s persistence on refusing to give up and her repeated attempts to repeal and rollback the tax paid off when leaders of the Illinois General Assembly voted to reduce the number of votes required to override Stroger’s veto from 14 to only 11. Legislative leaders said they were prompted to act by Gorman’s and the board’s refusal to give up.

On Tuesday, Gorman tried again to first repeal the entire sales tax. The measure was also sponsored by Commissioners Gregg Goslin and Timothy Schneider. Commissioner Tony Peraica tried to introduce a similar bill but complained when no one would second his motion. Critics charge it reflects his increased isolation on the county board.

Anti-suburban Commissioner Bridget Gainer, whose family hails from the powerful Chicago 19th Ward but whose district represents the north side of Chicago, led the vote to defend Stroger’s sales tax. The full rollback received only five votes.

And Stroger found another ally in Southwest suburban Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy. Murphy voted against both the repeal and the rollback measures Tuesday, a slap in the face of district activists seeking to relieve excessive taxation.

Gorman is seeking to hold down taxes in the 17th District and she blasted Patrick Maher, one of four Democrats seeking to challenge her next fall. Maher is president of the controversy-plagued Orland Fire Protection District Board, which takes the largest chunk of taxes from Orland Township’s tax bill outside of the school districts.

The OFPD collects 12.51 percent from residents within the Village of Orland Park, and 13.9% in the unincorporated areas of the Village of Orland Township's entire property tax bill. Its budget is the largest Fire Districts in the state, Gorman said.

Meanwhile, Cook County GOP Chairman Lee Roupas praised the board and its GOP members and called it a “rare day” in the county.

“On behalf of taxpayers across Cook County, I want to thank the Republican Commissioners for their relentless work and attention to this issue,” said Cook County GOP Chairman Lee Roupas. “Not only is it a tangible tax reduction, but also a moral victory for taxpayers – finally.  The entire one-percent rollback would have been ideal, but I guess the Democrats’ rhetoric on taxes is more symbolic than substantive.  I urge the Republicans on the Board to continue the fight to lower taxes in Cook County.”


Yes (12 votes) to reduce the Stroger sales tax by half:

Lawrence Suffredin (D-Evanston)
Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman (R-Orland Park)
Timothy Schneider (R-Streamwood)
Gregg Goslin (R-Glenview)
Edwin Reyes (D-Chicago)
John Daley (D-Chicago)
Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park)
Tony Peraica (R-Riverside)
Robert Steele (D-Chicago)
Earlean Collins (D-Chicago)
Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago)
Bridget Gainer (D-Chicago), 

No (5 votes) to retain the full sales tax:

William Beavers (D-Chicago)
Deborah Sims (D-Chicago)
Jerry Butler (D-Chicago)
Joan Patricia Murphy (D-Crestwood)
Joseph Mario Moreno (D-Chicago).


Friday, November 13, 2009

Forys appointed to state board of health by Governor Pat Quinn, faces battle in 17th District

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Dr. Victor Forys, the leading Democratic candidate in the 17th Cook County Board district's battle for the party nomination in the Feb. 2, was named this week by Gov. Quinn to the Illinois Board of Health.

Quinn and a laundry list of leading Democrats have endorsed Forys in his bid to the win the Democratic primary, but many media have been pretending he doesn't exist as a candidate to promote their friend and heir to 19th Ward political clout Pat Maher, the controversy-plagued president of the Orland Fire Protection District.

The 17th District is solidly Republican and the seat is now held by Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman, who in two terms has become the leading advocate for tax reduction on the Cook County board.

It's a fascinating race and any Democrat who wins the primary will have a tough time defeating Gorman, whose record on fighting taxes has emboldened not only other county board members but the Illinois General Assembly to fight the tax-raising administration of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. Two other candidates are running in the Democratic primary and one more is running in the Republican primary. (You can read a complete story by clicking here.)

Forys is being written off because the district is a bowling alley that geographically looks like it is founded on Orland Park. But while Orland Township may look like it has the weighted vote, as you move north, the voter density increases significantly.

The district, as you can see, stretches from Wheeling and Northfield all the way down along the Cook County Board to Orland Township in the South.

Forys ran in the last battle for the Congressional seat vacated by Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff to President Barack Obama, which was won by former County Commissioner Mike Quigley. Although Forys did not win, he raised a substantial amount of money and received strong endorsements, as he is doing again this year.

Forys believes that he can win the Democratic Primary on Feb. 2 by allowing Maher, who is backed by the 19th Ward Machine that is trying to put Orland Township is a political headlock, to fight with Gorman. And Maher hasn't hesitated to attack Gorman, even though the winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries won't face off until 9 months later. Maher is hoping to deflect voter attention away from the Orland Fire Protection District's outrageous tax increases and from the fact that the OFPD takes the largest bite out of the district's taxpayer's pocketbook of any other taxing body save for the schools -- more than 12.5 percent of the county's bills pays for Maher's fiefdom.

Maher is the politically ambitious son of Orland Park's part-time village clerk David Maher, who  is a county patronage employee working for 19th Ward superstar and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. Stroger oversees their budget and all are Democrats.

But Gorman has elevated herself above Maher and others by being the most vocal anti-tax member of the Cook County Board. Gorman was the only county commissioner to challenge a $190,000 county loan to controversial Regional Schools Superintendent Charles Flowers Flowers budget has since come under scrutinyA report by the auditor general shows that Flowers has since mismanaged millions of dollars in funds. His office has an annual budget of about $1 million and is reportedly more than $1 million in debt. The audit shows that Flowers has borrowed money to pay for all kinds of expenses, without proper records, but he insisted he has repaid everything.

Gorman was the only voice to challenge Flowers' poor leadership. But this past June, the entire County board joined Gorman to repudiate Flowers and reject the loan and acknowledge Gorman's leadership.

And, Gorman was the leader of a coalition of Republicans and Democrats on the Cook County Board to repeal Todd Stroger's repressive 1 percent sales tax, which is crippling the county's taxpayers and forcing businesses to relocate to neighboring counties. Stroger used his veto to block the last effort. Gorman was so persistent that she help force the county board to try three times to repeal and roll back the tax and that caught the attention of the Illinois General Assembly which then voted to reduce the number of votes needed to override Stroger's outrageous 80 percent override vote need.

Now, Gorman and others are planning to launch another drive to rollback the sales tax with a better chance of withstanding Stroger's pro-tax veto.

Forys will have his work cut out for him in November against Gorman, but first he has to win the February Democratic Primary, and that's a race some don't want you to know he is in.

Of course, don't right off  Donna Sanders who also hails from the Orland Township district and is running in the Democratic primary. A popular library turstee, Sanders has real credentials and you can't ignore the powerful woman's vote in this district. They have a voice. On the Cook County Board, that voice, though, belongs to Gorman.

-- Ray Hanania

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gorman challenges "lies" from challenger Patrick Maher

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Stroger Veto Power Diminished / Tax Bills Don’t Lie

This weekend marks a big victory for our reform movement for Cook County government and for taxpayers. As a result of a resolution I introduced and passed on October 6, the General Assembly passed a bill reducing the override threshold for the Cook County Board President. On Saturday, Governor Quinn signed into law the 3/5 override veto bill that will now allow the Cook County board to be an effective legislative body with the reasonable ability to override a veto of the board president. Thus, eliminating the 4/5 majority override rule that centralized legislative power in the hands of the county board president. We can now move forward once again to repeal the Stroger sales tax increase which has hammered business and taxpayers especially in suburban Cook County. 

Since property taxes have been on the minds of all of us for the last few weeks I think it would be appropriate to address the attempt by some novice candidates to politicize this issue and mislead taxpayers with false information. Even though Halloween is over, one candidate in particular is still trying to play trick or treat with residents.

Democratic machine candidate Maher believes our property tax bills are not telling the truth. As he claims in a recent email blast sent out by his campaign he accuses me of voting “for the last two Todd Stroger budgets.” For anyone who actually follows Cook County government closely you would know that to be a completely false but it seems politics is more important to Mr. Maher than the facts. The record shows that I voted against the 2007-2008 Budget. That county budget, along with the 133% sales tax increase, was approved solely by Mr. Maher’s democratic party on the County Board. It was his party’s Board President Todd Stroger and his democratic machine majority that shoved the 133% sales tax hike down the throats of Cook County taxpayers. It was his party’s Board President and majority that sustained the President’s veto of the sales tax rollback when I helped lead the charge to repeal it. The 2008-2009 budget was not Todd Stroger’s budget but an amended budget proposed by county board reformers. In fact, I have never voted for a budget as proposed by either Stroger.

He then makes an outlandish claim that “those budgets triggered tax increases that sent our taxes through the roof”, another false statement. If he had done his homework, he would have found that in 2002 the County asked for $720,483,542 from property taxes. The exact same amount was requested from 2003 through 2009. That reflects a 0% property tax increase. While during that same period of time, the Orland Fire Protection District went from collecting $17,334,360 in property taxes to asking Orland property taxpayers to pay a whopping $26,316,113 in property taxes. That amounts to a massive 52% property tax increase since candidate Maher has been on the Fire District Board. The difference in your tax bills is that the County asks for just over 6% of your total property taxes to run the court system, public health system, public safety, jails, roads and all other purposes while the Orland Fire Protection District asks for about 12.5%, almost twice what the County asks for.

His next statement is evidence that he truly doesn’t understand property taxes. He claims that under his leadership, the tax rate dropped by 20%. If he truly understood property taxes, he would know that taxing agencies do not set the tax rate. They merely submit a tax levy to the County Clerk who then sets the tax rate. As illustrated, the amount of money he has asked the taxpayers for is up by 52% since he took over while the County of Cook has asked for 0% more this year and every year since 2002.

The facts that I have provided can be checked and proven. This latest attempt by democrat Maher of political mudslinging is but the first of what is sure to be numerous “mud of the week” letters. You can expect more of this type of ‘nonsense politics’ from my opponent in the weeks and months to come. After all, he is the Deputy Committeeman of one of the democrat machine organizations that hand-picked Todd Stroger and placed him on the ballot in 2006 and then handed him the keys to the President’s office and the county’s checkbook and it was members of his family who donated thousands upon thousands of dollars to the Todd Stroger campaign.

I’m proud to have stood up time and again against the waste and mismanagement of the Stroger administration and as your county commissioner I will continue to challenge the patronage programs, excessive taxation and the questionable policies put forth by this administration and the democratic machine that backs him up every time at taxpayers’ expense.

If you would like more information on my record as 17th District Commissioner and Cook County government, please visit my website at:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Heavyweights opt out of challenge to Lipinski; overview of other regional statewide races

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Two years ago, Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) faced serious challenges from two rivals. This year, most of the challengers have lesser known names and few if any have significant organizations.

In the Democratic race in this predominantly Democratic district, one challenger filed by Monday night's deadline, Jorge Mujicas of Berwyn who is a somewhat known activist on immigration and non-citizen rights. His web site is in both English and Spanish and he has frequently spoken out against mandating "English-only" laws denying immigrants, especially Hispanics, rights to use their languages in official circumstances.

One Republican filed, Michael Bendas of Chicago, and one candidate for the Green Party (which is filing a full slate of statewide and local candidates in Cook County) filed, Laurel Lambert Schmidt of Riverside, Illinois.

Two years ago, Lipinski overcame stiff challenges. Lipinski won with 54 percent of the vote against 26 percent for challenger and Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mark Pera, 12 percent for Chicago attorney Jim Capparelli and 8 percent for Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett

Pera's campaign was being ballyhooed by many of the writers for the DailyKoz Web Blog, a very popular politically controlled blog that includes some racists who attack minorities and left-wing extremists, although the majority of the bloggers are mainstream and very pro-Democratic. But many of the bloggers who hammered Lipinski lived outside of the congressional district. Lipinski was first elected in 2004 after succeeding his father, Bill Lipinski.


Incumbent Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-13th) takes a pass in the February 2, 2010 Republican primary and is being challenged by one Democrat in the November General election. That candidate is Democrat Scott Harper of Lockport. Harper challenged Biggert in 2008 and came closest to ousting Biggert who has been criticized for failing to be accessible to everyone in her district, especially from Orland Park.

It's a race worth watching as Biggert has been distributing government paid-for newsletter attacking the need for Health Care reform and rejecting proposals to create competition for the scumbag health Insurance Industry. Biggert has blasted reform measures introduced by President Barack Obama and has conveyed the lies that some far right-wing extremists have offered, including bigots like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck claiming that the reforms proposed by Obama call for funding for abortion (they don't) and propose covering illegal aliens with health insurance (which is also a typical big lie in her literature).

Biggert has been one of the most inaccessible congress members and Harper has a shot at unseating her.

Not surprisingly, 13 candidates filed for governor including besieged and beleaguered incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn. The lead Democrat is Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes who has been pummeling Quinn and exposing Quinn's apparent hypocrisy. Quinn, a former reformer, has compromised his views to work with Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and to undermine and weaken campaign finance reform measures. 

The former running mate with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Quinn has been as equally unaccessible to the public and especially to the community media as was Blagojevich, who faces a slew of federal corruption charges.

Also running on the Democratic side are: Ed Scanlan of Oak Park and William "Dock" Walls of Chicago, a former aide to the late Mayor Harold Washington.

On the Republican side, former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, who lost in a bid against Blagojevich in 2002, filed his petitions. But many believe Ryan's candidacy is tainted with the bad politics of the past. Ryan is not the only person running for statewide office who tried to unseat Blagojevich. Former Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, in a surprising move, turned her sights on the Illinois Comptroller's race.

Other Republican candidates include the high profile Dan Proft who started his campaign before most and has received widespread media attention and support.

Former Republican Party chief Andy McKenna also entered the race, broadcasting strong commercials harmed only by a cheap joke reference to Blagojevich's "hair." The TV Commercial comes across very strong until it makes the stupid "hair" reference and makes McKenna look like his strongest feature is his dislike for Blagojevich instead of focusing mainly on the campaign issues that confront taxpayers throughout Illinois. Get a new advertising agency Andy!

Also running on the Republican ticket: Robert Schillerstrom of Naperville; Sen. Kirk Dillard, a strong candidate who has the endorsement of former Governor turned political consultant Jim Edgar (Edgar's political public affairs firm represented convicted felon Antoin "Tony" Rezko); Illinois Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington; and Adam Andrzejewski of Hinsdale.

Topinka entered the race after METRA Board member Jim Dodge announced his own candidacy for the Comptroller's race. Also running as a Republican is William J. Kelly, a cable TV sports host.  Several Democrats have filed including Raja Krishnamoorthi, David Miller and Clint Krislov.  Erika Shafer filed on the Green Party slate.

In the "race" for attorney General, Incumbent Lisa Madigan, Mike Madigan's daughter, faces no Democratic challengers. She will face Republican Kim Steve of Northbrook and Green Party candidate David Black of Belvidere.

The race for lieutenant governor is packed and includes: (Republicans) Brad Cole, Jason Plummer, Don Tracy, Randy White Sr., Matt Murphy, and Dennis Cook; (Democrats) Rickey Hendon, the best known so far, Terry Link, Art Turner, Scott Lee Cohen, Thomas Michael Castillo and Mike Boland. (Green party) Don Crawford.

Secretary of State Jesse White is also getting a pass in the Democratic primary, facing Republican Robert Enriquez and Green Party candidate Adrian Frost in the November 2010 election.

And in the race for State Treasurer, three Democrats are battling it out including Justin Oberman, the son of former Ald. Martin Oberman, Robin Kelly and Mark Doyle. The winner will face Illinois Rep. Dan Rutherford, the only Republican, and Green Party candidate Scott Summers.

Here is a link to the State Election Board's very inefficient and not-user-friendly web site (they should take a lesson from the Cook County Clerk David Orr's web site which is one of the most user-friendly and citizen friendly web sites in government.) Click here to go to the state's difficult to use web site.

-- Ray Hanania 

Monday, November 2, 2009

UNITY Party no longer united in Oak Lawn

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Dave Heilmann has brought a breath of fresh air to Oak lawn, a village that was run by a benevolent dictator whose successor ran the place to the ground. In 2005, Heilmann won and with him came several new trustees including Alex Olejniczak and Tom Phelan, and a new village clerk, Jane Quinlan. Together with Bob Streit, they formed a new coalition and eventually ousted all the remnants of the old guard that reigned over years of taxpayer waste. The only survivor is Jerry Hurckes, a seasoned politician who very recently suffered an unfortunate family tragedy with the loss of his young daughter.

Two years later, Carol Quinlan joined the ticket winning her first election.

This past April, Hurckes ran head-to-head against Heilmann and another of Hurckes allies was defeated, succeeded by Thom Duhig.

Yet, over the past two years, instead of enjoying a reform majority coalition, the UNITY Party that Heilmann founded, found itself drifting apart over self-interests.

It's a tragedy for Oak Lawn, a village the Heilmann helped bring back to economic stability. But, as always, egos get in the way.

Take Bob Streit, for example. Streit was always the underdog outsider attacked and ridiculed by the former ruling government of the late Ernie Kolb. At one point, Streit told me he thought about resigning to avoid the constant assaults. Every time Streit tried to raise and issue or question the actions of the majority, he was hammered, vilified and slandered simply because the Kolb majority was just that brutal. They didn't respect anyone and they played to their own power, brokering insider deals and sweetheart contracts that cost the taxpayers millions in wasted spending.

But Streit was from one district.

That's when Heilmann arrived. He brought the taxpayer's anger together and they voted out the wasteful spenders. And the village started to see savings.

But instead of staying the reform course, Streit's ego started to get in the way. Maybe he wanted to get back at a former political rival who dared to challenge him/ Maybe it's just about power. After being on the outside for so many years, without any power, and then suddenly finding that over, thanks to Heilmann's victory, maybe some of it has gone to his head.

I've known Streit for a long time. We were always good friends going back to the 1980s. But when I saw Streit at a recent board meeting, dressed like he was auditioning for a part in a New York movie on political clout, the "Don" Or Oak Lawn, I didn't recognize him. He was even harder to recognize when he began to talk, wielding his power to beat down someone who dared to criticize the village's manager, Larry Deetjen.

That's not the Bob Streit I know. It was someone different.

And frankly, I can say without hesitation that I do not know anything about Larry Deetjen and I doubt that the taxpayers in Oak Lawn really know Deetjen either. Yet Deetjen and Phelan and Streit are suddenly the new power hogs in Oak Lawn. They make the rules. They make the decisions. They are the "players."

And then there was the wholly one-sided and vicious attack against Heilmann in the Daily Southtown recently, a story that seemed a bit unfair for a news story. Phelan tossing attacks against Heilmann as if Heilmann were Oak lawn's problems. I have seen this happen before and it always stinks!

You just change a few names and suddenly, we're back to the old days when it was all about power and nothing about the best interests of the village.

Heilmann has his fundraiser at Palermos (great choice by the way_ On Nov. 18. He'll be there with Carol Quinlan and maybe with Jane Quinlan the village clerk -- maybe if Jane Quinlan can rise up above the petty politics and name calling that has characterized the attacks of some of Heilmann's former allies.

The voters are not stupid. They're pretty smart. I've stayed out of it until now, hoping that Oak Lawn's politics can shake itself out

I'll be at Heilmann's fundraiser because I believe he is the village's future. I'm just an opinion columnist. But I know what my gut feeling tells me and from what I have heard from voters in Oak Lawn, I think I know what their gut feeling tells them, too.

If I didn't go to the fundraiser, I'd be a big fat hypocrite, like some of the rest. And hypocrites are the worst kind of politicians.

-- Ray Hanania