Difference between O’Grady and Pekau is night and day

Difference between O’Grady and Pekau is night and day
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Difference between O’Grady and Pekau is night and day

Opinion: A battle over whether or not Orland Park can close a once-a-week homeless shelter at a local church has pitted Orland Park’s Mayor Keith Pekau against Orland Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady. Pekau is trying to prevent Hope Covenant Church from hosting the weekly homeless shelter nights while O’Grady says the village should have been more “measured” in finding a solution for a serious social need

By Ray Hanania

The difference between Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau and Orland Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady is like night and day.

Pekau is brash, thinned-skinned and impetuous, starting fights with anyone who disagrees with his roughshod policies and actions, while O’Grady is thoughtful, reasoned and seeks to find solutions rather than fights.

Pekau stumbled into the mayor’s office in April 2017 after former Mayor Dan McLaughlin pushed through a new policy that would increase his salary from $40,000 a year to $150,000 — and giving himself a massive pension hike after serving only one term in office of $100,000 a year. Under the pension deal, McLaughlin would have received $160,000 in pension payments annually after 20 years in retirement.

Orland Township supervisor Paul O'Grady

Orland Township supervisor Paul O’Grady

Click here to read a detailed story about the vote that ended McLaughlin;s career and began the ouster of the incumbent board members.

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Voters justifiably got angry with McLaughlin and the village board which approved the hike — it was introduced by Carole Ruzich who lost re-election last April and was backed by the entire board including Dan Calandriello, Kathy Fenton, and Jim Dodge. Ruzich ran for re-election and was defeated by a slate backed by Pekau. But since the election last April, Dodge, Fenton and Calandriello have been trying to spin the pay hike issue to blame it on Pekau, when in fact they pushed it, implemented it and dragged the village down the political drain.

But somehow, Pekau thinks the election was all about him. The truth is, anyone who ran against McLaughlin would have won office.

Pekau’s problem is he is thin-skinned and can’t take any criticism. He attacks his critics, who have been vicious at times, but he responds using the same level of viciousness himself.

And while he has done some good things in the village, Pekau has undermined his image by acting like a baby at times, whining to anyone who will listen about anyone who criticizes his administration. He thinks he is some kind of king not a mayor, and is trying to re-organize the village and the Republican Organization fighting with everyone.

Click here to read an analysis of how Pekau is throwing away his lucky victory over McLaughlin setting himself up to be unseated in 2021.

Last week, Pekau stepped in it when he ordered village lawyers to block Hope Covenant Church, 14401 West Avenue, from operating a Homeless Shelter one night each week on Tuesdays. Many churches provide sleeping quarters and food to help the homeless, especially when the weather is frigid as it has been the past few weeks. As many as 50 homeless individuals have stayed at Hope Covenant Church’s homeless shelter since it was opened in late September.

Keith Pekau

By attacking the church, Pekau has made himself look like an uncaring, selfish political leader who doesn’t care for the homeless. And some of his allies, drunk with Pekau’s political ego, have been viciously attacking anyone who dares to question the mayor’s actions, including me. One person related to the mayor has been personally attacking me for publishing a story about a press release O’Grady issued criticizing Pekau’s fight against the homeless shelter.

I can understand why Pekau’s people are berserk with anger. The mayor looks like an uncaring tyrant. Worse is that when he gets criticized, he can’t stop himself from being meaner than his critics. There have been a series of anonymous robocalls that have been attacking Pekau viciously. The robocalls are stupid and no one believes anything that is being spewed in them. In fact, the robocalls have the potential to make Pekau look good and build up his base, save for the fact that Pekau is his own worst enemy and can’t handle any criticism. So he rolls up his sleeves and starts trash-talking the unknown individual or individuals who are doing the robocalls, and crawls down into the mud himself. And that just makes him look bad.

Pekau is incapable of controlling himself so I doubt anything will change. He’s a one-term mayor. His slate won in the last election because they were qualified, Cindy Katsenes, Bill Healy and Michael Milani, running against Ruzich and two barely known candidates who never previously held municipal office. Worse is that the people who ran Ruzich’s slate — she should have easily won re-election — ran one of the dirtiest and ugliest campaigns I have seen in 45 years of covering suburban politics. The majority of their mailers were ugly and negative, and they made the incredulous argument that some how Pekau (not Ruzich, Dodge, Fenton or Calandriello) was responsible for increasing the mayor’s pay and pension.

Pekau has rejected the pension but is taking the salary that was shoved on him by the political fools who remain on the village board. I can’t see Fenton, Calandriello or even Dodge getting re-elected when their terms are up. They won’t lose because of Pekau. They’ll lose because voters are still upset with their lack of respect for the interests of the taxpayers. They’ll lose because no matter what any side says, the voters are smart. They are NOT stupid, as Pekau thinks they are.

The move to give McLaughlin that massive pay hike and pension boost was so obscene, none of the incumbents running for re-election have come to terms with the reality that the voters can’t get over it. And they can’t be misled either. 

O’Grady is a stark contrast to Pekau.

O’Grady runs a tight ship at the Township. Under O’Grady’s leadership the Township provides important services to the needy, to seniors and to the youth. 

While the image of Pekau and the Village of Orland Park is associated these days with scandal, political infighting, selfishness and greed uncaring of the taxpayer’s interests, O’Grady’s Township is an icon of what a perfect government should be all about.

O’Grady is also politically smarter than Pekau. While Pekau could have found another more sympathetic way to deal with Hope Covenant Church, O’Grady was offering the church support. O’Grady offered to help. Smart leadership. Caring leadership.

Helping the homeless is a good thing. And when a mayor or elected official like Pekau can’t see that, you know that the problems are insurmountable.

O’Grady sees it. He gets it. He has commonsense. His statement criticizing Pekau and the Village for using the courts to shut down a homeless shelter — just saying those words bring up an incomprehensibly stupid image — was reasoned and rational.

Click here to read the story I wrote (under my byline) about O’Grady’s statement. (I normally write opinion and analysis but this story was just too good of a story to pass up.)

Of course, Pekau responded to the news story not by attacking O’Grady, but rather by attacking me for writing the news story. Yes, Mayor Pekau. Learn something. News is news. Opinion is opinion. That was a news story, Mayor. This is my opinion. Upfront and clear for everyone to understand. His entourage of bullies also joined in attacking me personally, too.

I’m used to it. I”ve been attacked by tougher politicians including Mayors Jane M. Byrne, Harold Washington and Richard M. Daley. So I think I can take the personal attacks from the Pekau circus.

O’Grady has a bright future. He might even decide to run for mayor against Pekau, which would be a good thing to help peal away the thick layer of controversy, conflict and dark clouds that have turned Orland Park from one of the brightest and most important suburban communities into a regional joke.

People are wondering what the hell is going on in Orland Park.

I’ve lived in Orland Park 35 years. O’Grady is one of the brightest things to happen to this community. Pekau, on the other hand, stumbled into his office and will probably stumble back out very soon. He had a bright future but his tendency to make enemies out of friends is something he just can’t seem to control.

Maybe what Pekau should do is build up some public sympathy and open up his own homeless shelter for failed public officials.

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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