UPDATE: Julie Ann Craig Calls Political Accusations 'Sour Grapes,' Says She Will Complete Questionnaire
Village board candidate Rich Kelly said non-incumbents had a hard road and wound up splitting votes. Judges at polling stations endured a slow, hungry Election Day.
Welcome to the Orland Park Patch 2011 Election Log, our main hub for all things election. From new developments to events, announcements and positions taken on issues by the candidates, we’ll be reporting up to April 5 and beyond. Bookmark the link and check in. Offer comments. And let us know if we should be aware of something.
For more details about candidates, registering and polling locations, visit the 2011 Orland Park Patch Election Central database.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Craig Reaches Out: Julie Ann Craig says she's pleased with Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman's endorsement but dismisses the charge of bringing a political element to the Orland Park Public Library Board.
"When people lose, there's sour grapes," she said Tuesday, one week after Election Day, "and they're always looking for ways to make the other person look bad. That just goes with politics."
Gorman's and Craig's kids attend the same school. On winning a seat, Craig thanked those who elected her and noted, "How could you not be happy when you win?"
In a couple years Craig's 15-year-old daughter will leave for college. After coaching all of her OYA teams, "I thought maybe this would be another way to still be involved," library board member-elect said. "I thought this would be a great opportunity to be involved in my community and try to make it a better place."
Craig said she was probably out of town when Patch left its questionnaire with the guard in front of her subdivision. Either way, she has agreed to complete the questionnaire by email. It will be posted as soon as it comes back.
Wydajewski Shares his Post-Election Thoughts: Orland Park Public Library board candidate Brian Wydajewski said Thursday he was disappointed with losing his seat after two full terms but proud to have helped build the new library which provides so many "enhanced services."
He also sided with candidates Nancy Wendt Healy and George Sims, who were distraught over what they saw as a political chess game between local Democrats and Republicans to extend their influence.
"It's a shame because traditionally the library board has been non-partisan and non-political," Wydajewski said, "independent, and really has deeply focused on providing library service to Orland Park...Unfortunately, those days are gone."
Still, Wydajewski said he has little fear Denis Ryan, who received an endorsement from the mayor, is a "really good man." Wydajewski said he read over Ryan's questionnaire answers and thought they were consistent with what the rest of the board believes.
On Wednesday Ryan acknowledged his endorsement from Mayor Dan McLaughlin but dubbed fears of him being a political pawn "paranoia."
Throughout the election, Craig was unreachable. A questionnaire was left with a security guard at the front of her gated subdivision.
Wydajewski, like several other board member, said he's never met Craig and isn't certain she's ever set foot in the library.
"It's disappointing folks would cast a vote for her without knowing where she stood on the issues..." he said. "I can only deduce that the reason she was able to get elected was because she had that backing."
Dubelbeis Asks Candidates to Move Forward and Lead: Former village trustee Thomas Dubelbeis said Wednesday he supported Bob Cacciato for the Orland Fire Protection District board but offered congratulations to both newcomers Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy.
"I'll support the majority decision and wish them well. Whatever they can do to make the fire district more efficient is great," he said, adding a caveat. "I just hope they take the time to learn what the fire district is all about.
"I hope any new candidate who's elected, regardless of the board, will listen to the people, the professionals who run it. They certainly have some good ideas for controlling spending...now it's time for them to go forward and lead."
Dubelbeis, who just lost a bid for the Orland Park Public Library board, said sometimes local elections boil down to popularity contests, wishing instead that candidates were judged on their merits.
Rich Kelly Election Reaction: Rich Kelly, candidate for the Village Board, called Tuesday's poor turnout "depressing" and said he knew within two hours after the polls opened that independent candidates like himself were in trouble.
"If you're running against incumbents you need a lot of voters to come out," he said Wednesday by phone.
From Sam McGuire's Pub Tuesday night, Brudnak told Patch by phone that the independent candidates diverted votes away from Fiscal Voices. Kelly agreed, but also said that wasn't the intended goal in running.
"Theoretically, we (independents) did take votes away," he said. "But when you run as an independent you don't go out with thoughts of taking votes away. I ran to win."
But win he did not. It's important to bear in mind, Kelly noted, that the Orland Park United slate had established candidates, and that anyone who ran against them was vying for the attention of voters who disagreed with the state of the village.
Kelly said he believes the argument about losing votes could go both ways.
"We (independents) could say the same thing," he said. "Just because you're on a slate doesn't mean you're the chosen one."
Kelly said he would call Schussler, Gira and Ruzich on Wednesday afternoon to congratulate them. He's hasn't ruled out another run for Village Trustee, though he's most focused on the next Orland Township Assessor's race, which is two years away.
"After a while," he said, "you get used to wins and losses."
Uneventful Day at the Robert Davidson Center: Judges there also reported a low turnout, with precinct 4 getting 111 votes, precinct 84 had 161 and precinct 56 with 92 votes.
Judges from precinct 56 said 911 people were registered to vote there.
“It’s a shame people don’t take more of an interest,” said polling judge Joan Hernon. “These elections affect a lot of aspects of people lives.”
Turnout Still Low but Rising at Riviera Country Club: Ballots cast as of 5:45 p.m., excluding early voting: Precinct 10 (100), Precinct 18 (103), Precinct 37 (111) and Precinct 39 (89).
Outside the Country Club, Madelyn Flaherty, Tom Cunningham’s campaign chair, called the low turnout a “shame” as she handed out fliers.
“Politics is local,” she said, “and if people feel they can really make a difference, they do it locally.”
“If you’re gonna complain,” she added, changing her tone, “you better get out there. All of our servicemen have given their lives for this right, and there are people overseas who are dying for this right—how could you say, ‘I don’t vote?’ or ‘I don’t want to vote?’”
Others were less rhetorical, handing out fliers with Mayor Dan McLaughlin’s endorsements. For the Village Board, he’s endorsing the Orland Park United slate. For library: Denis Ryan, Tom Dubelbeis and Basaam Abdullah. For District 135: Joe LaMargo. For District 230: Top 3 for D230 slate. For Orland Fire Protection District: Bob Cacciato.
Judges at Riviera made similar complaints of going hungry and said their calls to the village have not been returned. Some of the more humorous judges say they’re still waiting for pizza delivery men to come rushing through the doors. Don’t hold your breath, Riviera.
Low Turnout at Sportsplex: Judges working at the polling location with the highest number of precincts in Orland Township say the day has been slow.
“It’s been a steady trickle,” polling judge Sandra Marshall said about the turnout. “It’s not bad for this type of election."
Other judges said the day had been slow throughout, but they are expecting more after people get out of work for the day.
Precinct 29 at the Orland Park Sportsplex dealt with a jammed electronic voting machine, but it was quickly fixed. Some voters at the Sportsplex still preferred paper ballots, even with the electronic option.
Orland Park Village Board candidates Edward Schussler, Steven Williams and John Fotopoulos were outside of the Sportsplex commiserating with voters and non-voters alike.
By 4:30 p.m., 599 registered voters had placed their ballots at the Sportsplex, out of eight precincts. The highest turnout was precinct 29 with 127 votes, while precinct 20 had 43 votes. To be fair, 29 covers more land than 20.
Low Turnout Better than Expected, Election Judges go Hungry: Election judges for precincts 8, 19, 30 and 62, stationed at Faith United Methodist Church, say they were not provided lunch today.
"We're not mad about it, they just should have told us and we would have brought our own," said one judge who refused to be named out of fear her taxes would increase if she complained openly. Others noted they had to cut out to grab food and snacks for diabetic judges. One man picked up a whole rotisserie chicken, devouring nearly all of it and then wishing he had also bought potatoes.
Though judges are employed by the county, they say the village has provided them with a lunch for at least 25 years. They say they received no warning whatsoever, while calls to the Mayor's office were never returned.
The ballots cast at the church were modest as of 4:15 p.m.: Precinct 8 (59), Precinct 19 (89), Precinct 30 (69), Precinct 62 (81).
Walter Rafacz, an Orland Fire Protection District firefighter, was seen outside the church passing out fliers in support of incumbent candidate Bob Cacciato. He said the turn out was higher than he expected, albeit low, because this is only a local election.
Few Troubles Reported to Cook County Clerk, Though Readers Speak of Aggressive Supporters: Few complaints of electioneering or troubles at polling locations in Orland Township have been received by the Cook County Clerk’s Office. But a few of our readers have commented on aggressive supporters outside polling location trying to get the last-minute support.
Has anyone ever made a decision to vote based on someone outside a polling place giving out literature? Just curious.
In all of suburban Cook County, sheriff’s deputies were sent to 10 locations to settle disputes as of 3 p.m., but no visits were made in Orland Township, said Courtney Greve, spokesperson for the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
Sheriff’s deputies were called around 11:25 a.m. from the Christian Reform Church about people violating the electioneering rules, one of which includes distance that supporters need to keep from polling place entrances. But the call was resolved over the phone and the deputies didn’t need to go to the church, Greve said.
Other calls were made from Orland, including one about electioneering too close to the Robert Davidson Center entrance, but so far, all Orland calls have been resolved over the phone, she said. It is also possible, issues and disputes weren't reported to the clerk's office, Greve, said.
Four polling judges assigned to cover Orland Township polling places didn’t come as scheduled, but the clerk’s office has people on standby for such a thing.
“So far, overall turnout appears to be low, but it usually picks up later in the day,” Greve said.
Asked about his odds, "I'm increasingly hopeful because I think people are a little frustrated with the back-and-forth between the two slates of three," he said, referring to Top 3 for D230 and another consisting of Kevin Burns, Rena Esposito-Sheehan and Patrick Sullivan.
Dupee's modest campaign funds may have turned out to be a blessing. He said it forced him to get out and campaign on foot rather than through the mail or robo-calls.
"I met 8,000 voters, all door to door," he said. "I have been in every single municipality, including Willow Springs," which only possesses 32 registered D230 voters. "I'm running independently, and it's been a challenge. (Slate candidates) are well-connected: they're endorsed by everyone. Those people didn't meet me, they don't know me, but they endorsed my opponents. That's frustrating."
Consolidated Election 2011 is Here: The time has come to cast a vote. We’ll be visiting the polling places later today to talk with judges, voters and candidates if we see them, to see how the day is going. Early voting and registration numbers are a bit down compared to 2009, so we’ll see how that plays out at the polls.
Remember to go to our Election Central page for polling locations and links to information about the candidates.
Later tonight, starting between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., we will be posting election results in real time as soon as we get the numbers. We’ll be adding all the way to the end. We will then be reaching out to the various candidates for a final word.
If you see us around, say hi. Let us know your thoughts on the day.
Fotopoulos: Alternative Dispute Resolution can End the Triangle Dispute: Orland Park Village Board candidate John Fotopoulos believes a form of judge-overseen mediation can bring the various arguments in the Main Street Triangle case to a faster and cheaper end than continuing litigation.
Alternative dispute resolution would allow village government, Orland Plaza landowners and tenants to make their various cases in writing to a judge, with expert opinions, land value assessments and other reports. Then, their attorneys would present testimony before the judge after he or she has read and absorbed the submitted materials. After the testimony, the judge makes a binding decision in the case that all sides contractually agree ahead of time to accept.
“Instead of six or seven months from now, or however much longer, this could be finished in two months,” Fotopoulos said. “The judge is paid hourly, but that cost is minimal compared to what’s already been spent, and what will be spent if litigation continues.”
Fotopoulos said the costs for an ADR are about $300 to $500 an hour, and estimates the Triangle case could be resolved through this method for $15,000 to $20,000.
The judges who officiate ADRs are retired commercial and federal judges, some with as much as 40 years experience as a judge, Fotopoulos said. The judges have an advantage over the Cook County judges by not having hundreds to thousands of other cases on their docket, he said.
“Let’s end this thing,” Fotopoulos said. “It just gets more expensive for everyone. There comes a time when you have to say, ‘Hey, let’s sit down and resolve this.'"
Cacciato Touts District Finances: Orland Fire Protection District incumbent trustee Bob Cacciato sent a release Friday describing cost-saving measures implemented by the district board and staff since 2005. Among the details described is lowering the district’s tax rate from 1.0622 in 2004 to 0.837 today.
In response to criticism that the district’s portion of Orland residents’ property tax bills has risen during the same window, Cacciato said that is because of Cook County increasing their tax collections.
“Whatever (Cook County) sets up for the property taxes, and what they ask of the property owners, we only now ask for 0.837 percent, whereas before the district asked for 1.0622,” Cacciato said during a phone interview. “We ask for less of a number that they set. The county keeps asking for more taxes to operate the whole county, and we say we don’t need to escalate it each time.”
Cacciato further said that though actual bills have risen, the service provided has also been elevated.
Within the release, different changes to the district that he said have been added since 2005 are described in a lengthy bullet list.
Robo-Calls in Tinley Park about the Orland Fire Protection District: At least one Tinley Park home received a robo-call Friday morning from Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman about the Orland Fire Protection District and its board of trustees race.
In the message left on the homeowner's answering machine, Gorman accused fire district candidate Bob Cacciato, under the watch of board president Patrick Maher, of patronage hiring and inflated payrolls.
Gorman said Friday that a marketing company she hired was responsible for making the calls, and may have crossed over into Tinley properties when attempting to stick to homes on the border of Orland and Tinley.
The message heard by Patch was cut off after 35 seconds by the answering machine, without mention of the two Gorman-endorsed Orland Fire Protection District candidates Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy.
March 31, 5:45 p.m.
Fire Board Candidate fills in Questionnaire: Today we noticed that Orland Fire Protection District Board candidate Blair Rhode answered all but one of the questions on his latest questionnaire. He said it was an accident and then answered the remaining question by telephone.
March 31, 5:53 a.m.
Can the Assessor also sit on the Village Board? Carole Ruzich is of the opinion that Rich Kelly wouldn’t be able to serve faithfully as a trustee and Township Assessor, because as she wrote in an email, “as the Assessor, he does have a DIRECT impact on the setting assessed values of properties which in turn directly affects the amount of tax dollars all the taxing districts, including the Village, will receive.”
Kelly, however, has a different take on his role.
“The bottom line is we don’t make any decision on the assessment,” Kelly said. “We help people fill the forms out, send the forms to Cook County (Assessor’s Office), then the county makes the decision as to whether to lower an assessment or not.”
Kelly further said his office also helps residents stay aware of exemptions, and assists in filling out appeal forms for people who disagree with the county’s assessment.
“I don’t know where the conflict could be since I don’t influence the decision at all,” he said.
Ruzich cited a letter written in 1993 by then-Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, where he states his opinion that a township assessor shouldn’t be on village board, because some municipal land is taxed. Kelly said the only time he gets involved with village and property is when the village is looking to buy land, and they ask his office if a house sits on that land. Kelly further pointed out that the letter refers to multi-township assessors who do make tax assessment decisions, but only in townships outside of Cook County. Within Cook County, the county office makes the final assessment call, he said.
Ruzich also cited a recent appellate court ruling that Harvey resident Keith Price couldn’t sit on the city’s council as an alderman, while also sitting on the local District 152 school board and serving as a park district commissioner. Ruzich wrote that the ruling “clearly supports (Kelly’s) need to give up one of the positions.”
The court ruled against Price because the three government bodies engage in financial contracts with each other for real estate, traffic regulation or fire protection. The Township Assessor’s Office, however, doesn’t get into financial contracts with the Village, Kelly said. Ruzich said she was not aware of any contracts between Kelly’s office and the village.
Ruzich also said she was not aware of any specific court rulings in Illinois where it was said that a conflict exists between a township assessor’s office and a municipal governing board or council.
March 29, 2:05 p.m.
Orland Park Village Board Candidate Tom Cunningham informed Patch that his issues questionnaire response was emailed Sunday evening to a different address than the Patch email. The recipient of Cunningham's email confirmed receiving the questionnaire, which was intended to be sent to Patch.
The full questionnaire response is now posted, and he answers that he was never convicted of a crime and records were expunged.
March 29, 5:55 a.m.
Arrest Record Found in a Police Report (Update above): Tom Cunningham, independent candidate for the Orland Park Village Board, just responded to a Patch questionnaire that includes issue-focused questions sent to him about three weeks ago.
Cunningham did briefly say during a phone call Friday that he did not like one particular question: Do you have any past arrests and/or convictions?
The issues questionnaire was sent to candidates on March 9, with a deadline of March 16. Until recently, despite numerous other phone calls, emails and an in-person request after the Orland Township candidate forum on Friday—where he said he would talk with Patch after talking with potential voters but then left the Orland Township Administrative Building without doing so—Cunningham had not answered any of the issues questions.
Until recently, he was the only candidate for Orland Park Village Board to not respond to this issues questionnaire.
Patch acquired police reports regarding Tom Cunningham. On Jan. 7, 2002, Cunningham told a police officer that he had been arrested before for domestic battery and an order of protection had been filed against him, according to one police report. He told this to police while at the Orland Park Police Department, the report stated, explaining that he and a woman were working through “relationship difficulties." The report is attached as a PDF in this blog's gallery link.
Cunningham told police he received 15 phone calls on his cell from the woman who was using his house phone to make the calls, police said. Cunningham was reluctant to go back to his home because of the order of protection, according to the report. The woman was at his home to use his computer when an argument ensued over the phone, police said. An officer then warned the woman that after petitioning for an order of protection, she could not violate the order herself by visiting Cunningham's home, according to the report.
The other Orland Park police reports regarding Cunningham show several calls involving domestic disputes and incidents between 1995 and 2005.
Monday afternoon, Patch asked Cunningham to talk about his arrest and the information in the reports. He did not respond.
Here are the issue-based questions Patch has asked Cunningham and other village board candidates to answer:
Does the current board engage in enough debate and discussion before voting?
You had an opportunity in the last questionnaire to name the biggest problem facing Orland Park. Are there any others? How do you plan to solve them?
Trustees and staff plugged a $1.8 million budget gap this fall by increasing certain fees and fines, including vehicle stickers, without cutting staff. Is there anything you would have done differently?
The phrases “fiscally conservative” and “efficient use of taxpayer money” comes up regularly on the campaign trail. How do you propose keeping a tighter budget that doesn’t burden taxpayers, while keeping Orland Park accessible, competitive and desirable?
The Main Street Triangle project—and eminent domain lawsuit—has divided many residents. Is it a worthwhile use of taxpayers’ money? How can the village help these businesses get started that?
What are your thoughts on the village’s use of TIF districts? Has the village used them effectively? Why or why not? Would you do anything differently with TIF?
The board unanimously approved a resolution this fall that gives the board the power to award village contracts to local vendors, even if they haven’t offered the lowest bid (within limits). Is this a good policy? Why or why not?
The board on March 7 voted to add reasons for which police can impound the car of an alleged offender. These include, but are not limited to: motor vehicle accidents involving damage to the vehicle and public indecency. It costs the alleged offender $500 to retrieve their impounded car. Do you support expanding the reasons for impoundment?
When the village sold “open space” land to the Orland Fire Protection District last summer some residents worried that it would set a precedent that would result in loss of open space land. Do you agree with those residents?
Would you support a referendum to bring the Orland Fire Protection District back under the control of the village? Why?
Would you support term limits for trustees and village president? Why?
Do you have any past arrests and/or convictions?
Cunningham did send Patch an e-mail Monday evening pointing out that he is losing a significant number of campaign signs to thieves, and several supporters have told him signs are even being taken from front yards.
“This is getting ridiculous,” Cunningham wrote in the e-mail about missing signs.
Believe in What You Say? Then Have a Spine and Add Your Real Name: In the last three or four days, an election tradition has finally sprouted on the site: character criticism. The 2011 Consolidated Election is in the home stretch, and with April 5 drawing near, I challenge all commenters to go by your real names.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with putting a magnifying glass on the people who are eager for your vote. It’s part of the deal with any public office, and in races as contentious as these, comments have been reasonable, for the most part. The character of a candidate built on his or her past experiences will always, and should always, be taken into account when voting. A few of you have even posted links to stories written before Orland Park Patch was around, and that is a great addition. Conversation will always be a strong element of Patch, and few times will this aspect on the site be more important than during an election. I thank you for the overall reasonable candor.
But if you are going to speak your mind in the forum we have provided, free of any charge and with several ways to comment, then use your real name. Why hide? It immediately cheapens anything you have to say. What are you afraid of, especially if you are right? Don’t you think it’s just a little ridiculous to be speculating on candidates’ motives for running and on their personal lives without being willing to simply put your identity behind the words you feel empowered to write?
Try it. Even once. I promise, you’re going to hesitate before you click “submit.” That’s a good thing. That right there is the first pang of what a great journalism professor, Walt Harrington at the University of Illinois, calls the “fear” of a journalist. We are supposed to operate under the fear we will get something wrong. After all, our name goes with everything we publish.
Mike Sager, an extraordinary writer and my mentor, once told me he never worries about running into a person he has written about after a story is published. As he put it, in his 30+ year career, he has never felt the need to cross a street if a past interviewee is coming his way. Why? Because he has that much faith in his fact-finding. Because if he isn’t certain about a detail, it stays out of his stories.
If you really are afraid of repercussions, and you believe something should be looked into, contact me directly and we’ll go from there. For those who actually want to take up this challenge, let me know, I will unsubscribe you, and you can sign back up under your real name.
A community is only as strong as its people, so be stronger. For those of you with kids, haven’t you given your children a similar message before? Put your name with your words.
Lastly, for those of you who have been curious about Tom Cunningham, we’ll have an update later today.
About Ads: A few people have noted local campaign ads appearing on Orland Park Patch. These are paid advertisements, not endorsements by Patch. All the candidates were notified previously that ads on the site are for sale. For the record, Patch does not endorse candidates. If you're a candidate or a group interested in buying such an ad, contact Drew Richards, the account manager for Orland Park Patch.
Ruzich Wants to Help with Foreclosures: In February, Orland Park Village Board candidate Carole Ruzich said that if she is elected, she would work to create a Homeowner’s Assistance Program, to instruct homeowners about options and to help them stay in their homes.
“If staying in their home is not an option, the program would provide assistance in finding rental options here in Orland Park so that the impact upon families and in particular, children, can be minimized,” Ruzich wrote in a release.
Live Blog: Look out for our live coverage later today of the candidate forum held at Orland Township for Orland Park Village Board hopefuls. We’ll be updating throughout the forum with the candidates’ answers and a few video snippets, similar to our coverage of the recent Orland School District 135 forum.
Sign Reported Stolen: John Fotopoulos filed a report with Orland Park police after a four-foot by four-foot sign of his was taken off of private property. The sign was placed near the 143rd Street and Southwest Highway intersection with permission from the property owner, and the owner had not received a call about the sign not being compliant, Fotopoulos said.
“People move to the suburbs to get away from city politics,” Fotopoulos said. “It’s getting dirtier and dirtier. I’m starting to realize what the village is turning into, and hopefully the voters say enough is enough.”
Cacciato and LaMargo Endorsed: Orland Fire Protection District Incumbent Bob Cacciato was endorsed by the Orland Fire Fighters IAFF Local 2754. Joe LaMargo was endorsed for his run for Orland School District 135 Board of Education by the Orland Council of Educators.
“Old-Fashioned” Candidates Forum on Friday: Orland Township will be hosting a candidates forum for the Orland Park Village Board race at the township’s administrative offices on Ravinia Drive from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Attendees will be able to put candidates on the spot with their own questions.
Fiscal Voices Candidates Pledge to Return Pay: Hopefuls running for Orland Park Village Board and Orland Fire Protection District Board under the Fiscal Voices for Orland banner have pledged to give back a chunk of the change they would get if elected.
John Brudnak, Steven Williams and Molly McAvoy Flynn, who are running as a slate for village board, said in a release they will return 10 percent of their annual salary if elected. Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy, who are running for the Orland Fire Protection District, said they would return $250 of each meeting stipend.
“If we want a 10 percent cut in overall government spending and a 10 percent reduction in property taxes, we need to lead by example. If things get worse, we will share the pain with an additional 10 percent cut,” Williams said in the release.
Liz Gorman, who has backed FVFO, said in the release she was honored to be associated with the campaign.
Fotopoulos vs. the Village on Signage: Orland Park attorney John Fotopoulos is next up to bat in the latest sign issue. He was notified last week that some of his campaign signs were bigger than the village-allotted six square feet of surface area, and that they would have to be removed. The owners of businesses where the signs were placed also were called.
But Fotopoulos said the signs were up before he received the village’s notice about size restrictions, which was sent out on March 9, and that the business owners were questioned as to whether permission was given to place the signs in the first place.
“The business owners said they felt intimidated by the calls,” Fotopoulos said. “They have constitutional right to express themselves and if (the village is) going down that route I will fight them in federal court.”
Fotopoulos goes on to write in a letter sent to the village that Assistant Village Clerk Joe LaMargo told him that he authorized staff to remove the signs from private properties. In the letter, which has been attached here, Fotopoulos requests that village “immediately cease and desist from contacting any residents and businesses that exercise their Constitutional rights to support my candidacy for Orland Park Trustee.”
LaMargo and Village Manager Paul Grimes say otherwise. LaMargo said he never made any such statement, and both him and Grimes said the clerk’s office doesn’t have the power to authorize public works staff to do anything of the kind.
LaMargo said the complaint about Fotopoulos’ signs involved size. He said that if the village is notified that a sign is too large and on private property, then they first reach out to both the candidate and the property owner to let them know a sign may be in violation of code before any action is taken. LaMargo also said if a sign is too big but on private property, the village doesn’t walk up and remove them.
“If we see a sign that’s illegal public works staff is instructed to pick them up, but only if they are on public property,” LaMargo said. “If the sign is on private property, then we call the candidate and the business owner, ask them to remove the sign, and let them know that if they don’t they could be given a citation.”
Grimes said business owners are not asked if they gave permission for signs to be placed when staff calls about a sign complaint on private property.
“That aspect is between the property owner and the candidate, and we’re not going to go take the paternalistic approach on that,” Grimes said.
The letter from the village explaining signage code has also been attached.
Unrelated to the signs, Fotopoulos wants the village to start openly broadcasting board meetings on TV.
"The village has a free channel from Comcast lets starts broadcasting the meetings so residents can see for themselves how their tax dollars are being spent,” he said in a release.
Cacciato Fills in Missing Answers: Earlier in the month, Salvatore "Bob" Cacciato, incumbent trustee on the Orland Fire Protection District, submitted his initial questionnaire, but a few questions were left blank. Answers to those questions were put together in a separate document that didn't attach correctly, hence the missing material, he said. His bio information is now complete.
Fiscal Voices Cry ‘Thief,’ while Orland United Says ‘Follow the Rules’: Candidates with the Fiscal Voices of Orland got a rude awakening Sunday morning. About 300 campaign signs for the Orland Park Village board slate of John Brudnak, Steven Williams and Molly McAvoy-Flynn, as well as fire district board hopefuls Chris Evoy and Blair Rhode, were taken away, says FVO spokesman Tom Mannix. The “very expensive oversized and two-color signs” as Mannix described, cost the group that is campaigning on a return to fiscal responsibility $4 to $6 apiece, leaving between $1200 and $1800 down the campaign drain.
According to a release Mannix sent out to area media, eyewitnesses saw a heavyset man snatching signs and putting them in his car’s trunk on Sunday around 2 a.m. near 131st Street and LaGrange. FVO “put two and two together” when seeing that signs for the Orland Park United slate, which includes incumbents Patricia Gira and Ed Schussler, as well as newcomer Carole Ruzich, were still up, especially in places near where FVO signs were removed, he said.
“We heard very clear cut evidence that the signs were stolen, and we believe the board incumbents are responsible,” Mannix said.
FVO reps also contacted independent candidates Rich Kelly, John Fotopolous and Tom Cunningham also running for Orland Park Village Board, and Mannix said that they too noticed a “a high frequency of signs were removed as well.”
But that’s not what the three men said themselves.
Kelly noticed four signs placed in pairs near 108th Avenue and 162nd Street at different times were taken, but that was all he was aware of. Cunningham said missing signs are common to local elections, and he is aware of a few that are missing.
“That’s going to happen every year,” Cunningham said about missing signs. “It hasn’t slowed my campaign down at all.”
Fotopoulos said he doesn’t believe anyone is stealing his signs, and hasn’t noticed any significant number of them missing.
“Most of mine are on residents’ lawns,” Fotopoulos said. “I can’t imagine anyone going to that level of swiping them from private properties.
Ed Schussler had two theories, after saying his group didn’t steal any signs. The signs could’ve been placed in a public right-of-way, a violation of village code, and in which case, village staff take them down. Or FVO’s signs possibly appeared on lawns without the homeowner’s permission, he said.
“I know of at least three instances where homeowners took Fiscal Voices’ signs off their front lawn, because they didn’t give permission to place them,” Schussler said.
Mannix said they did ask permission of all homeowners before placing signs, and that FVO placed some signs in the public right of way.
Lastly, if signs were stolen, Orland Park police hadn't heard a word about it by Tuesday afternoon.
"There was nothing we could find from dispatch," Orland Park Police Cmdr. John Keating said. "I had them check traffic, phone-in calls, anonymous calls—nothing all day Sunday."
Mannix said they are waiting for a more concrete description of the intrepid husky sign thief and a license plate number before contacting police.
Orland Park’s signage code says the following about campaign signs:
Signs announcing candidates seeking public political office and other data pertinent thereto shall be permitted up to a total area of six (6) square feet for each zoning lot. These signs shall be confined within private property and kiosks in public places, and shall not be less than fifteen (15) feet from the nearest edge of the street pavement and one hundred (100) feet from the nearest curb intersection from any street or road.
1:30 p.m. Another Fire Candidate Out: Orland Fire Protection District board candidate Janice Brooks has dropped out of the race, citing personal issues with her family but declining to comment further.
"This just isn't the right time right now," she said Monday afternoon by telephone about running for a spot on the board.
Brooks, a Realtor, is the second candidate to drop out of this race for family-related reasons. She said it's too early to say whether she'll make a run for the board next time around and declined to endorse any of the remaining candidates.
Fotopoulos Likes Audit, Dislikes $40K Price Tag: Orland Park-based attorney and candidate for village board John Fotopoulos thinks it’s a good idea for the village to take a critical look at its staffing needs, but he doesn’t like paying $40,000 to do so. Orland Park Village Board approved spending the amount on March 7 on a consultant to decide where staff could be cut.
“While I do not support spending the 40,000 dollars approved by the board because I believe the village manager can perform a simple staff audit, I commend Mayor McLaughlin and join with him in his efforts to save Orland Park residents money,” Fotopoulos said in a release.
Issue Questionnaires, A Note From the Editor: Readers, you’ll notice we are starting to run responses to our second, issues-focused questionnaire. We are publishing them in the order they are received, just in case you’re curious. With three weeks to go, a lot of ground remains to be covered in this election.
LaMargo Calls for A Rethink on 135's Tax Levy Raise: Joe LaMargo, candidate for Orland School District 135 Board of Education, said he studied financial records on District 135’s Web site and believes all the bills could be paid this year without a tax increase. Citing the district’s balance of about $50.9 million as of June 30, 2010, LaMargo said the tax rate where it was could cover what remained of the district’s $70.7 million in expenses.
“As taxpayers, we are entitled to know why the School District 135 board voted unanimously to increase the tax levy when the district’s documents show that the hike wasn’t necessary,” LaMargo said in a release. “This money should either be returned to the taxpayers or used immediately to benefit our children’s education.”
LaMargo also proposed a fund balance policy be set up for the district.
John Reiniche, District 135 assistant superintedent of business services, said recently that contract salaries are the district’s biggest expense, and even without raises, contractual increases in salary will outpace the money coming in.
“We can give (teachers) no raises and there still would be step increases and base increases on their salaries,” Reiniche said.
Evoy Wants Answers to Cacciato’s Questionnaire: In the Orland Fire Protection District Board race, Christopher Evoy wants to know why Salvatore “Bob” Cacciato’s initial Patch questionnaire left a few questions unanswered, including education and his priorities for the district.
“The people of our community deserve to know a little bit about the people they are expected to vote for, especially in light of the scandal that recently erupted due to undisclosed information by an elected official on the same board,” Evoy said.
Maher’s Out: Patrick Maher has decided to not for re-election after eight years as president of the Orland Fire Protection District Board of Trustees. Maher wrote in a letter that he wants to focus on his family and not put them through “another grueling political campaign.
“For the kids’ sake and ours, it's time to move on,” Maher wrote. Maher did not return messages over the weekend.
Shutdown Days Instead of Fee/Tax Increases: John Fotopoulos thinks the village can save money by closing down on a few days around holidays that he describes as “the 5 slowest days that residents use Village Hall for government business.”
- April 22, 2011 - Friday
- May 27, 2011 - Friday, Memorial Day Weekend
- July 1, 2011 - Friday, Independence Day Weekend
- September 2, 2011 - Friday, Labor Day Weekend
- November 25, 2011 - Friday after Thanksgiving
No figures were provided on how savings from these shutdown days would compare to a) revenue the village expects from a recent tax levy increase for the recreation department, and/or b) an across-the-board bump in vehicle sticker fees.
No to Statewide School District Consolidation: Joe LaMargo, candidate for Orland School District 135, is among many who think Rep. Bob Rita's bill to consolidate nearly all school districts in the state is a bad idea. LaMargo also said it is "frightening" that a bill like HB 1886 could be considered "without input from the voters."
"As an advocate for our children and the taxpayers, I am calling on Governor Quinn to show how this legislation will enhance education and benefit the state economically," LaMargo said. "Unfortunately, the state has a poor track record of managing money, and there’s no evidence that this drastic bill will do anything but add to government bureaucracy."
Early Voting in Orland Park: Residents have until 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, to register to vote in the April 5th election. All eligible Cook County voters can register at the Orland Park Village Clerk's Office within the Franklin T. Owens Village Hall.
Early voting will then be available from March 14-31, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Polls for registered voters will also be open on Saturdays, March 19 and March 26, 9 a.m. until noon.
Orland Park has had a strong track record for early voting turnout. We'll see if the trend continues. And don't forget a valid I.D.
Senior Space in Triangle, TIF Transparency: John Fotopolous sees dwellings for seniors in the Main Street Triangle, but he’s against building upscale rental apartments on the site.
“I would like to see a developer that is committed to a mix use of affordable senior condominiums or townhomes and retail in the Metra Triangle district for those seniors who are looking to downsize and remain in Orland Park,” Fotopoulos said in a release. “Our seniors would have a close and accessible way to shops, restaurants, and transportation."
Fotopoulos also said that TIF districts need closer analysis, and the effectiveness of them needs to be reported publically.
FVO Fundraiser: Fiscal Voices for Orland has candidates running for Orland Park Village Board and to sit on the Orland Fire Protection District’s board. John Brudnak, who now sits on the Orland School District 135 board, Steven Williams and Molly McAvoy Flynn are running for village board. Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy are in the race for the fire district’s board of trustees.
FVO is holding a fundraiser at Sam Maguire’s on Thursday, March 3, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Entry starts at $40 per person and then goes up:
- Table: $500
- Sponsor: $1,000
- Patron: $2,500
Price includes drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Check the attached flier for more information.
OPU's Position on Finances: The Orland Park United slate say they intend to run a positive and issue-focused campaign for Orland Park Village Board. Comprised of incumbents Edward Schussler and Patricia Gira, as well as attorney Carole Ruzich, the OPU slate said they are pushing for conservative spending and continuing capital projects.
“During these challenging times Orland Park has adopted balanced budgets and maintained an outstanding Standard & Poor AA+ bond rating,” Schussler wrote in a release.
Take Over the Fire District? John Fotopoulos, an Orland Park-based resident and attorney, is running for Orland Park Village Board as an independent under the slogan “People Before Politics."
Fotopoulos sent a release on Feb. 17, calling for action on what he described as a “tax burden imposed on the Orland Park residents by the Orland Fire Protection District.”
He is suggesting the village conduct a feasibility study to see if there are “cost savings of eliminating the fire protection district from our tax bills by providing fire and life safety services through the village.”
“The fire district‘s tax per household is larger than the total bill for the Village of Orland Park and the problem plagued Cook County government,” Fotopoulos wrote in the release. “It is difficult to comprehend that the Village can offer police, public works, and parks and recreation services for a fraction of what the fire district is charging.”
Cunningham Fundraiser: Tom Cunningham, who also is running as an independent for Orland Park Village Board, will be holding a fundraising event this evening (Thursday, Feb. 24) at Fox’s from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. You may remember him from the Orland School District Board of Education, where he has served as president for the last two years and has sat on the board for the last five years.
“As a 25-year resident, Tom has a vested interest in ensuring that Orland Park remains competitive with other suburbs and runs fiscally responsible to its residents,” wrote Madelyn Flaherty, chairwoman for Friends of Tom Cunningham.
Entry to the event starts at $50 per person, and goes up as follows:
- Friend: $100
- Host: $250
- Patron: $500
- Sponsor: $1000
Includes all-you-can-eat pizza, drinks and open bar.