The biggest thing at the last meeting was a discussion on term limits but before doing so I had the pleasure of honoring a WWII veteran Leo C. Bialek for his 100thbirthday which was this weekend, November 24th.
We also had a few residents speak to us about the cancellation of the dial-a-ride service that Orland Park has previously provided. This program is subsidized by Orland park and Pace by over $150,000 annually for approximately 25 regular riders. Additionally, our staff indicated to us that these riders are eligible for other services (Pace ADA transport, Orland Township Senior Services, and others). The services are duplicative and extremely costly (approximately $17 per trip one way). The vote to eliminate the program was unanimous once the facts were presented (and it’s rare to get this board to vote unanimously on tough issues).
I also want to say to those that have spoken as it appears that our staff was not entirely correct. It appears that a few of our most vulnerable residents are still falling through the cracks. Therefore, we are working to find alternative, cost-effective solutions for those residents (it appears there are 3 at last count). These thoughtful and respectful comments are welcome and we do listen. These comments don’t change the fact that this program is duplicative and very costly, but they do make the board aware of issues that Village staff has missed. For this reason, I will continue to work with the Trustees and with staff to find alternative solutions to the issues that have been raised.
The Board also unanimously approved an appearance improvement grant to upgrade lighting in the Macy’s parking lot at Orland Square. Through retention visits, it came to my attention that the Macy’s portion of the parking lot was never upgraded (each store owns their own store and parking area). The darker parking lot is feeding the perception issues at the mall so we took this action to help correct it. It is important to note that the reality is that Orland Square is the safest major mall in the Chicagoland area, but anything that improves perception is a positive. On that note, please shop local and visit Orland Square!
The other big item discussed was a “binding” term limit referendum that I put on the agenda for the April 2019 election. The only way to institute term limits is by binding referendum. This item would have created a three-term limit for each position (trustee, clerk and mayor), beginning with the April 2019 election. The trustees then put an agenda item to put this referendum question on the November 2020 ballot. Personally, I feel that since the term limits are for local officials that it should be on an April ballot which is a local election.
The discussion then got very interesting and was clearly orchestrated by the Trustees. Trustee Carroll didn’t understand why we were discussing an item I put on the agenda since we “know what the outcome of the vote is going to be.” Personally, I didn’t know what the outcome of the vote was going to be but apparently Trustees Carroll did. The Trustees decided to postpone the vote on the April referendum 5-2 (Trustee Ruzich and I voted against). Next, they voted on the November 2020 referendum question, two years away. The vote was 3 to 3 with Trustees Gira, Ruzich and Calandriello supporting the referendum (Trustee Carroll, Fenton and Dodge opposed) and bringing the vote to me to cast the deciding vote. Of course, I voted to put the referendum on the ballot as I promised 19 months ago!
There was a lot of discussion among the Trustees. I encourage you to listen here (beginning at 16:08). However the most interesting comments were from Trustee Dodge. For some reason, he brought my Dad’s re-election campaign of 1974 into the discussion (he and other Trustees were voted out after voting for the mall). He also discussed my election from 2017. He indicated that these two elections demonstrate that the system works and we don’t need term limits.
Since Trustee Dodge brought it up, here’s what I know. The Trustees of the 1970’s didn’t stay on the board for decades. Only the Mayor had a long tenure. There are several reasons for this:
- We had a different form of government at the time where the checks and balances were balanced between the Mayor and the Trustees. Trustees rotated off regularly after a couple of terms. However, since we changed the form of government, power shifted to staff and the Trustees. Where there used to be checks and balances that involved the Mayor, now the only check on the staff are the Trustees and the only check on the Trustees are the voters. Therefore, Mayors benefit by keeping Trustees that reliably support them on the board so that the Mayor can control the staff and the Trustees.
- Trustees in the 70’s didn’t get pensions like they do now. Today, a trustee who stays in office for 30 years can secure a six-figure pension with just one four-year appointment or four-year term in a high paying government position.
Trustee Dodge also mentioned that my election shows that the system works. I will also share with you his exact words to me when he heard I was running – “You’re going to get you’re a** kicked.” I am sure these thoughts came from the view that long tenured incumbents are almost unbeatable. Historically, this is true which is one of several reasons why I support term limits. I ran on instituting term limits and now we will have them on the ballot. I know that implementing the platform you ran on is a novel concept for politicians, but I am not a life time politician and believe in following through with my promises.
Also, during the discussion, Trustee Dodge later said that he would save his comments for the press. His comment to the press was the big suprise of the night — he announced that he is running for mayor mayor in two years.
Based on all of this, I guess we can expect very little to get done in the next 6 months. That’s OK, because in the first 18 months a lot has been accomplished.
- I was elected and opted out of the pension, saving taxpayers over $2M
- A term limit referendum was introduced
- Paid down over $50M in net debt
- Introduced technologies to improve efficiency and lower our operating budget by over $3M over the last two years.
- Chose with a developer to develop the remainder of the Triangle rather than developing it parcel by parcel
- Weathered the closing of two major anchors with an AMC theater and Von Maur scheduled to replace them and open within the next 18 months
- Improved transparency with Facebook live and audio recordings of village board meetings
- Prioritized the I-80 corridor and started the Chicago Southland Interstate Alliance to facilitate its development
- Overall crime reduction of 17% in 2017 including a 29% decrease in crime at Orland Square
- Further crime reductions of over 10% YTD in 2018
- Increased investment in technology that are improving village operating efficiencies
- Approved investment of $600,000 to improve Humphrey Sports Complex
- Multiple restaurants opened as we transition away from retail toward more food and entertainment
We have had these successes in spite of a divided board, including several Trustees that put politics over the people. Imagine what could be done with Trustees that put the people first.
I plan to support three Orland Park residents for Trustee that promise to do exactly that. Put the people first. No political agendas or aspirations – simply interested in doing the right thing for the people. That doesn’t mean that we will always agree, as good people often disagree. However, when the interests of the people are put first, disagreements can usually be worked out to find even better solutions.
Now for a short commercial:
I will be having a celebration of my first 18 months in office on December 13th at Papa Joe’s from 6-8PM. At this event, I will be introducing the three candidates that I will be endorsing for Trustee in the upcoming election. Please join me and get to know the candidates.
Please be safe during the Holiday Season! I look forward to seeing you all tonight at the Holiday Lighting Celebration and Christmas Market which opens at 3:30pm at the Village Hall.