How Pekau is trying to hide his many failings

How Pekau is trying to hide his many failings
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How Pekau is trying to hide his many failings

By Ray Hanania

Like 54 other people, I watched the YouTube broadcast of the Orland Park Village Board debate over Mayor Pekau’s efforts to prevent a church from hosting a homeless shelter to help the needy during this frigid holiday season.

It’s hard to imagine that any public agency would block a shelter to help the homeless, but that’s exactly what Pekau is trying to do. He’s even gone to court to prevent Hope Covenant Church, 14401 West Avenue, which started the weekly, Tuesday night homeless shelter in September, from continuing to provide shelter for the homeless.

I have a problem with Pekau’s opposition to the homeless shelter and with the way the mayor has been trying to justify it.

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First, as a taxpayer in Orland Park for the past 35 years, I don’t think he should be spending my money to have lawyers take the church to court. Then again, Pekau is a mayor who has waffled over the issue of his enormous salary and the even larger pension he will be able to take when he leaves office (according to some of his critics) despite his public claims he would never take the pension.

Second, Pekau hasn’t been honest. Well, let’s call it what it really is, dishonest.

When media reports about his bah-hum buggish actions to block a homeless shelter for the needy became public knowledge, he quickly had employees put together a timeline that was favorable to his argument.

The presentation by the Village Manager and his staff included a lot of scare tactics. If the public won’t believe Pekau, he bullies them with fear into thinking the church homeless shelter will be a replica of a past tragedy like the E2 stampede that killed 21 people – Pekau’s staff dug deep into the Internet archives to boost up a weak presentation detailing the most frightening examples to make their case. The E2 tragedy took place in 2003.

It is a form of bullying that is a growing characteristic of Pekau’s administration. When he can’t get his way, he makes phone calls to get people fired from their jobs, or to intimidate people. It’s no different than the anonymous robocalls he is complaining about, of course.

Mayor Pekau and his social media thugs have been bullying anyone who dares to challenge his dictates, including this writer who has been bullied by Mayor Pekau.

Pekau referenced a lengthy powerpoint timeline that was distributed on social media and then displayed on a big screen at the village board meeting to argue that the church didn’t bother to speak with the village until only after launching the homeless shelter. Pekau said several times he didn’t recall ever speaking with Hope’s Pastor Jon Fogel, who said he tried repeatedly to communicate with the village about the church’s plans but no one got back to him (before Oct. 4).

Don’t you get it, Pastor Fogel? The Village doesn’t care about you, your church or about the homeless people who are in need, the way other communities care.

The power point asserts that the first meeting took place on October 4, 2019, but that’s just not true. What Pekau left out was that the first confirmed discussion on the homeless shelter took place two months before on August 5 at the podium of the Village board meeting that night when Pastor Fogel detailed his plan to help the needy in the presence of the Mayor and all the board members. Fogel said he has tried to reach out to Pekau since April.

Coincidentally, the video of the August 5 meeting is not on the village’s YouTube channel. It was taken down by someone. Who knows? Maybe they will put it back up now after reading this. But I managed to search through the minutes and found the official village audio file of the August 5 meeting and low and behold, Pastor Fogel did in fact speak, detailing his church’s plans to open a one night a week homeless shelter.

 

Meeting minutes from August 5, 2019 Village of Orland Park board showing Fogel did in fact address the homeless shelter plan with the board and Pekau.

Meeting minutes from August 5, 2019 Village of Orland Park board showing Fogel did in fact address the homeless shelter plan with the board and Pekau.

 

Listen to the audio of Pastor Jon Fogel’s presentation to the village board on August 5, 2019 by using the widget below. The audio is taken from the audio that accompanied the minutes that are found on the Village of Orland Park’s website.


Maybe Mayor Pekau was dozing off while a member of the Orland Park public was addressing the board meeting that evening. Pekau, in fact, recognized Fogel (mispronouncing his name) and gave him the floor. Fogel detailed the urgency to help Orland Park’s needy and his plans to open the homeless shelter and he urged the village to help the church. Pekau casually thanked Fogel for his presentation and then without any comments or expression of concern about a homeless shelter being opened in Orland Park, went on to recognize the next member of the public, whom he probably ignored, too.

Pekau had a choice to listen to Fogel, a resident of Orland Park, or ignore him. Pekau also had the choice to work with the church to help the homeless or to waste taxpayer money and take the matter to the courts. Why not? Pekau doesn’t pay for the legal expenses. The taxpayers do.

Trustee Jim Dodge had the most salient quote after the meeting.

“The most troubling issue is that when a member of the public came to the mayor in April and again in August, Pekau failed as a leader and didn’t listen to the church leaders or the community about their concerns for the homeless,” Dodge said.

“After I visited the church and witnessed the work they were doing and the people they were helping,  I was moved and realized there is a better way to address the issues. The village’s legal push was heavy-handed. As elected officials, we as a village need to work this out the right way.”

 

Orland Park Trustee Jim Dodge

Orland Park Trustee Jim Dodge

 

Pekau also brought up the issue of the robocalls that have been criticizing him and several trustees. One recently named family members of one of his trustees, Mike Milani, who justifiably denounced the attacks.

(Pekau’s been using the robocalls to push his fundraisers, too, and energize supporters to come out, donate and support him.)

Being the victim of the Pekau bullying entourage, I can’t help but wonder if the robocalls are designed by someone to help Pekau rather than to “slime” him.

It’s kind of like a typical Chicago aldermanic election. I covered Chicago City Hall for almost 20 years, and Chicago politics for more than 40 years. During that time, in nearly every election, a ward office windowpane would be shot out by some anonymous shooter. The alderman or the candidate would then call a press conference and point to the window hoping for a sympathy vote.

No one knows who is behind the robocalls targeting Pekau and some of the trustees, but his bully entourage is blaming them on his political rivals, the same way those aldermen in Chicago always did, too.

The robocalls are a distraction from Pekau’s growing problems.

I can just imagine Pekau at the next board meeting wearing a giant white bandage wrapped around his forehead, much like the one former congressman Mel Reynolds wore when he claimed he had been shot during a drive-by shooting.

The stunt got Reynolds elected over incumbent Gus Savage in 1992 but was later convicted three different times.

Yet I don’t think that at this point, Pekau can do anything to save his sagging political career, one he won by accident by being the only other candidate voters could choose over Dan McLaughlin two years ago.

Let’s face it. Pekau blew it with the homeless shelter.

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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