Pekau is way off base in starting fight with Gorman

Pekau is way off base in starting fight with Gorman
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Pekau is way off base in starting fight with Gorman

The mudslinging battle to elect three trustees in Orland Park has taken another ugly turn over the issue of vicious but anonymous robocalls as Mayor Keith Pekau widens his list of enemies by taking shots this time at Liz Gorman, the centrist populist who made a name for herself by championing the rights of taxpayers. I like Liz Gorman and when you attack her, I won’t stay silent

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Opinion columnist راى حنانيا.
Ray Hanania

I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to ignore the ugly mud-slinging battle for trustee in Orland Park. It’s one of the worst I have ever seen. But I’m perplexed at why Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau has inserted himself personally into the battle, making this election all about himself rather than about the taxpayers.

Pekau was elected in April 2017 not because the public loved him or because he was a political genius, but because his predecessor, Dan McLaughlin, got greedy and stupid. McLaughlin orchestrated a change in village law to increase his own salary from $40,000 to $150,000 a year, plus to let him qualify for an obscene six-figure pension.

Mickey Mouse could have run and beat McLaughlin, who wasn’t helped by the fact that the Orland Park Democrats were being led by a total no-talent political imbecile, Orland Trustee Michael Carroll.

I would have stayed out of this stupid election save for the fact that Pekau just can’t prevent himself from stepping into the fray. This guy thinks that it all revolves around him, and that’s a real disappointment.

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Keith Pekau

Last month, a series of anonymous robocalls attacked the slate led by Carol Griffin Ruzich, the “Orland Integrity Party” (OIP). The robocalls were poorly crafted and ineffective. But they had one quality; they were filled with vicious hatred against Ruzich, probably one of the nicest trustees to ever serve Orland Park. Ruzich is running against a slate led by the very competent and equally popular Cindy Nelson Katsenes of the “People Over Politics” slate, who is backed by Pekau.

People were blaming Pekau for the poorly crafted, stupid robocalls because of common sense. Who benefits from them?

Ruzich’s biggest problem is she is surrounded by several village trustee idiots who created this mess when they voted to give McLaughlin the retirement pay-hike gift at the taxpayer’s expense back in 2017. That they lied about it in repeated mailers, trying to blame it on Pekau, made it worse. That issue should have helped Pekau by giving him public sympathy. Instead, he decided to muck-up the fight by personally attacking Liz Gorman.

Former Cook County Commissioner and taxpayer advocate Liz Gorman

Former Cook County Commissioner and taxpayer advocate Liz Gorman

Pekau started to tell anyone who would listen that the person making those ugly, ridiculous robocalls was Liz Gorman, one of the most respected elected officials in the Chicagoland region.

Gorman called Pekau and told him to stop lying to people, telling him that she had nothing to do with the robocalls. Gorman didn’t want to get involved in the race because she is friends with both Ruzich and Katsenes.

But Pekau wouldn’t stop. And when another idiot robocall landed, he started blaming Gorman again. This time, Gorman didn’t call Pekau to complain. She did a robocall herself endorsing Ruzich for Trustee; but she did not attack the Katsenes slate. Gorman blamed Pekau for the robocalls knowing that Pekau can be his own worst enemy. She hit a nerve with Pekau apparently when she pointed out that Pekau was enjoying many freebies as mayor including “full membership” at Crystal Tree including playing golf there for free.

Pekau became angry and attacked Gorman publicly, this time making it sound like Gorman was attacking him as a part of a campaign against him and his slate.

It worsened the next day when an article in the “South Cook News” newspaper featured a faked-up Crystal Tree delinquency list. Someone doctored the real list to include Gorman’s name. Pekau claimed Gorman got to play golf for free, but that’s not true. Gorman had a “social membership” which required her to pay for golf privileges.

I always wondered why Pekau wouldn’t work with Gorman. Pekau’s ego probably got in the way. Gorman is a woman, who is more popular than Pekau. Gorman is a Centrist and moderate Republican while Pekau is a conservative Republican allied with some extreme rightwing activists.

Two slates of candidates running in the Trustee elections in the Village of Orland Park,: on the left the Orland Integrity Party with Carole Griffin Ruzich, Devin Hodge and Kelly O'Brien, and on the right, the People Over Politics slate with Michael Milani, William Healy and Cindy Katsenes.

Two slates of candidates running in the Trustee elections in the Village of Orland Park: on the left the Orland Integrity Party with Carole Griffin Ruzich, Devin Hodge, and Kelly O’Brien, and on the right, the People Over Politics slate with Michael Milani, William Healy and Cindy Nelson Katsenes.

Pekau wouldn’t work with Gorman, which in hindsight is probably a good thing for Gorman who earned her stripes fighting for taxpayer rights on the Cook County Board. She led the fight to block the sales tax and property tax hikes, too.

Maybe it’s just political inexperience that makes Pekau step into it, or maybe it’s just his ego. But in the middle of one of the most nauseating mudslinging battles for Orland Park Trustee, Pekau made this election all about himself, not about the failings of the incumbents and not about the needs of the taxpayers.

It could also be male arrogance. Liz Gorman, a woman, is not only more popular than he is but also more adept at politics. Gorman recognized early on that Pekau turns friends into enemies.

I get that Pekau has been fighting an obstreperous and hypocritical board of trustees at Orland Park over the past two years. They’ve been vindictive, doing everything possible to prevent him from doing his job. They’ve lied. They wiped his name almost completely from the Village Newsletter that once showcased Mayor McLaughlin’s name and picture on the front page of every issue and many pages inside.

But instead of being smart, Pekau has been reckless. And many people were surprised that Katsenes would remain quiet while her friend, Gorman, was being attacked maliciously by Pekau. Maybe after all this ruckus, Crystal Tree might consider ending the policy of giving full memberships to Orland Park’s mayors. The board and members have to be peeved Pekau has raised all these issues.

I had hoped Pekau would have gotten his act together. He could have used the opposition he faced on the board to build a base. But if you can’t get along with Liz Gorman, you pretty much can’t get along with anyone.

He could have been smart and built alliances. Maybe he is delirious from constantly banging his head against the insufferable prevarications of McLaughlin’s board of trustee cronies. It was Mike Carroll as Democratic Committeeman who shoulders responsibility for McLaughlin’s failure and handing the office to Pekau.

I don’t know who is going to win the election on Tuesday, April 2, the Katsenes slate or the Ruzich slate.

If Katsenes wins, it won’t be because of Pekau. But I bet he will be the first person to claim the credit.

No one likes a politician like that.

(Ray Hanania is an award-winning opinion columnist and former Chicago City Hall political reporter who has covered suburban and Orland Park politics since 1984. Hanania hosts the “Ray Hanania on Politics” podcast on iTunes, Spotify and on many podcasting sites. His personal website is www.Hanania.com. Email him at rghanania@gmail.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

Click here to listen to Ray's Political Podcast. 

Hanania's columns are archived on his personal website at RayHanania.com. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at rghanania@gmail.com.
Ray Hanania

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