Orland Park Mayor disappointed in Trustees’ rejection of concert series plan
The Orland Park Village board, still angry over the voter’s rejection of Dan McLaughlin as Mayor and the election of Keith Pekau, continue to block Pekau’s ideas and proposals. Critics have accused the new board of continuing to put politics over the best interests of the village residents
By a vote of 4-3, Orland Park Village Trustee’s Monday (May 7, 2018) rejected a proposal to approve funds for a new concert series at Centennial Park West introduced by the Village’s new mayor Keith Pekau.
A virtual unknown, Pekau ended McLaughlin’s 24-year reign in a landslide victory of 6,983 to 5,863 votes, a margin of more than 1,100 votes. Nearly 13,000 voters cast ballots in the 2017 elections, setting a new record, compared to only 5,562 total votes cast in 2013 and 8,359 cast in 2009.
McLaughlin was close to Trustee Michael Carroll, who also serves as the Democratic Committeeman of Orland Township. Carroll has been outspoken in attacking critics of McLaughlin and has voted to block the new mayor at nearly every turn at the board meetings.
Orland Park Village Trustees Dan Calandriello, Carroll, Kathy Fenton and Patricia Gira voted against the Pekau proposal, while Trustees Jim Dodge, Carole Ruzich and Mayor Pekau voted in favor of it.
“I am extremely disappointed that the board voted this down,” Mayor Pekau said in a press release Thursday
“When land was purchased for what is now Centennial Park West, it was generally understood that the venue would be used for concerts and other significant events. The first concert in the series could have happened this year but the board pushed it off into the future.”
Mayor Pekau began vetting the idea of an August concert with trustees and staff on February 5th. At that time, every board member agreed that this was a board goal for the year.
“It is budget neutral and would be a great event for the people of Orland Park. Now, the event is being blocked by four board members,” Pekau said.
“It’s past time to put people before politics and work together to promote positive activities that benefit our residents.”
Pekau said he had hoped to bring in popular bands such as Blue Oyster Cult and Grand Funk Railroad and predicted that the concert would have easily covered the costs. When McLaughlin was mayor, the village trustees never dared to challenge his proposals for expansion and extravagant outdoor concerts which he often personally kicked-off with speeches and remarks.
Prior to Monday’s vote, virtually all of the trustees stated that they were “supportive of the concept,” Pekau said, but wanted to wait until next year. To which Mayor Pekau responded, “I’m letting the board know that I will be bringing forth a proposal to add this to our next budget. As they are all on record saying they support it, I hope their word is good when it comes time for a vote.”
Prior to the vote, Carroll justified his opposition to many of the new mayor’s ideas, asserting, “There are some things that he has tried to advance, without checking with us, and we have disagreed. We all took an oath to represent the people of Orland Park to the best of our ability, and take that oath seriously.”
Carroll added that the issue is that the mayor, despite winning a majority of the vote in the Village, is no more important than he is as a trustee.
“The mayor is no more important than any of the six trustees in a council-manager form of government,” Carroll wrote on the Orland Parker Facebook Page on Saturday, May 5, before the Village Board meeting.
“We all seven set policy, and the village manager implements that policy. We’ve always done that. If someone thinks they can be king, and rule without the majority of the board, he or she will be blocked by the Board.”
Many people believe the board’s 4-vote majority was shocked and surprised by McLaughlin’s loss. It is also believed that McLaughlin is planning a comeback remaining active in the village’s activities and continuing discussions with some board officials.
McLaughlin was ousted after he pushed through a measure backed by Carroll that would have raised his salary from $40,000 a year to $150,000 a year, including a comparable increase in McLaughlin’s pension. The increase was the single most important issue in McLaughlin’s defeat in the mayoral contest on April 4, 2017. The sponsors of the bill never expected McLaughlin to lose and had believed that the salary and pension increase would apply to him directly.
Under the trustees plan for McLaughlin, McLaughlin’s pension benefit would have jumped from $25,000 to $100,000 had he been re-elected to the four year term. Trustees have said they play to rollback the wage and pension hikes and are discussing a plan to “review” Pekau. During his 24 years in office, McLaughlin’s performance was never given a “review” by the trustees.
Since his upset election victory, Pekau has said he will not take the pension. But several trustees who backed McLaughlin are angry that he, not McLaughlin, is benefiting from the pay hike and new status as a “full-time” mayor.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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