Pekau clamps down on democracy, plays victim card again

Pekau clamps down on democracy, plays victim card again
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Pekau clamps down on democracy, plays victim card again

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau is accusing others of personal and vicious attacks, but the truth is Pekau doesn’t shy away from name-calling,  attacking others personally when it benefits his political agenda. His latest effort to stifle Democracy in the village by eliminating critical voices is a violation of the public’s interests. Pekau says everyone is unfairly attacking him, but he is the first to unfairly attack other. He has attacked Jim Dodge, but Jim Dodge responds with reason

By Ray Hanania

When Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau won re-election by pure accident two years ago, he promised that the taxpayers would see a new day.

It sure is a new day.

Pekau bullies anyone who doesn’t agree with him, including in his eNewsletter where he personally attacks trustees on the Village Board who don’t agree with him, and whines about how he is the victim of “slimy” criticism.

In this week’s “newsletter,” Pekau attacks both Trustees Dan Calandriello and Jim Dodge who combined have far more experience running local government than Pekau and his three trustee allies on the board accusing them of attacking him.

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Keith Pekau

But worse, by asserting that he is a victim rather than the bully that he has become, Pekau is using that as a cover to push through draconian policies, including his measure to curtail Democracy.

Pekau and his board majority have decided to end the Democratic process by eliminating all of the village board committees by creating one “Committee of the Whole” that will review everything. It’s intended to silence his critics and give the majority the power to ram through their interests over everyone else.

What he is doing is eliminating all of the committees in which trustees could discuss issues and assert their experience and authority. Those committees would include three trustees not all six of the board’s trustees. That way, issues can be discussed and then presented to the board.

And he is eliminating what topics can be discussed.

Pekau controls three of the votes, with Cindy Katsenes, Bill Healy and Mike Milani. The opposition that challenges his dictates includes Dodge, Calandriello and Kathy Fenton.

How does this curtail Democracy? It puts all of the power in Pekau’s hands and curtails diverse views and opinions from getting aired prior to the board meetings. The Committee system is supposed to be a part of the “Checks and Balance” process that separates Democracy from Tyranny.

By eliminating the committees, Pekau has anointed himself as the “Tyrant in Chief,” silencing any discussions he does not like, and putting all the power in his own hands.

Orland Park Trustee Jim Dodge

Orland Park Trustee Jim Dodge

Because the responsibilities of the various committees are distributed to the committees, Pekau can’t control them. So, he just eliminates them and orders that there is now one big committee where he can ensure that any other views besides his will be snuffed-out and prevented from ever being explored publicly.

The old system Pekau is eliminating is used by every other Democracy in America, every suburb and municipality in Cook County, Illinois and the Country. The old system allows a meeting to take place to discuss a topic that Pekau doesn’t like with only three trustees present, without him interfering of stifling open discussion. Since committees might include two trustees he doesn’t control, he can’t stop them from raising issues that he wants to silence.

It’s a cheap political trick that has many downsides. The most important is that those who disagree with him will no longer have a platform to discuss their ideas. The issues he disagrees with will now be killed and silenced in the Committee of the Whole that he controls – with his 3 trustee votes, Pekau casts the tie-breaking vote and can shove any issue down the throats of taxpayers anytime he wants.

It also creates a particularly offensive, unDemocratic system that makes it far more difficult to hold meetings and to explore issues for the public to understand. A quorum is required to hold meetings. (A quorum is defined as 50 percent plus one).

For a meeting of three members, you must have at least two members to meet the quorum responsibility. For a meeting of six members, you must have four members present, and that means Pekau and his three trustees can meet and do whatever they want with or without their rivals.

Under Pekau’s rules, which I believe violate Robert’s Rules of Order, an issue that is voted down cannot be reintroduced for one year. That’s ridiculous. Issues can be reintroduced at anytime, based on whether or not the sponsor has the votes to get it approved.

Pekau is acting more like a dictator than a mayor. He doesn’t want anyone to challenge his flawed logic. Pekau has turned the Village Board meetings into a bully pulpit where he can silence his critics, accuse them of anything and then push through anything he wants whether it’s in the best interests of the public or not.

Anonymous robocalls

Pekau thinks he can get away with this by hiding behind the anonymous robocalls that have been attacking him and his board majority. The robocalls are disgusting but limited to a target audience, slandering Pekau’s policies anonymously. Not everyone is receiving them which makes me suspicious. Some people believe the robocalls are being produced by his political rivals. But others believe he or his allies are behind the robocalls as a strategy to build up sympathy which Pekau uses as a force of sympathy to silence his critics.

Politicians do that all the time. It’s most often seen in Chicago’s aldermanic political elections when a candidate’s window is shot-out by gunfire and the candidate stands in front of the broken window seeking sympathy and using the incident to overshadow other legitimate issues in the public discussion.

Pekau is a dictator. He stumbled into office because of the mistakes of his predecessor Dan McLaughlin, who was a good mayor who made one major mistake during his entire career, pushing for a massive pay and pension hike that Pekau now can claim despite his public assertions that he would not.

Here’s Pekau’s explanation of what he is doing from his eNewsletter in which he personally attacks his critics (the same way he claims he is being personally attacked.)

“Next, we discussed the change to Committee of the Whole. A summary of this change is that the existing Committees will be replaced with a Committee of the Whole where instead of 3 trustees, the entire board will discuss an issue before sending it to a board meeting for a final vote. This will happen for several types of issues that were identified. Several items, like those already budgeted, that were put out for bid and within budget will go directly to the Village Board. Regardless, no matter what the issue, the entire Village Board is still the approval authority. Sometimes, however, we may talk about it twice.

“Of course, Trustee Dodge had process concerns. He pontificated about how he didn’t like the 1 year wait to revisit issues that the board had already decided (unless the board waives that requirement). Also, on how he doesn’t like the Agenda Initiative process and he wanted our attorney to clarify the rules for how it will be conducted. He was very adamant that “in 1989 we had a committee of the whole” and that he had been here for “30 years” and the existing process has worked fine. During all of this grandstanding, he didn’t bother to offer an amendment to the process, which is how motions have been amended for the last 30 years.

“Trustee Calandriello then stepped in to show him the way by offering an amendment that would have stripped the mayor of the right to put anything on the agenda. Yes, you read that correctly, would have made it so the mayor could not put anything on the agenda. [PEKAU’S EMPHASIS] The vote failed 4 to 2, with Trustees Calandriello and Dodge voting to strip the mayor of this right.”

Jim Dodge responds

I spoke with Trustee Dodge to get his perspective in response to the Mayor’s public attacks. Dodge has been in public office for more than 30 years elected to the Village as Clerk in 1989. He’s also a veteran who served in the Illinois Army National Guard, and as a veteran myself I respect that.

Here’s what Dodge had to say in response to Pekau’s personal attacks”

“The people of Orland Park need to understand if Keith doesn’t like you or your idea because it challenges him, he changes the rules to benefit himself. It’s bad for the future of Orland Park but it reflects his true nature. I would also point out, I always tried to work with him. When he didn’t have the votes, we didn’t changes the  rules to suppress him or his ideas.  A bigger factor for his ineffectiveness is no collaboration skills,” said Dodge, who earned a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago with concentrations in finance and economics.

“He attacks me personally all the time, but I chose not to respond to him at that level.  Flat out lies and misrepresentations deliberately set up to mislead. He feeds red meat to his angry minions all the time.  Very tiresome. No other mayor I’ve worked with (total of 4) has ever used a Village of Orland Park microphone at public meetings to promote his own personal political agenda. He does all the time and is shameless about it.”  

An example, Dodge said, is decision to approve the Sears Fitness Center at the Mall.

“They sped through the approval process to allow Sears to open up a 24-hour fitness club inside the mall.  It’s not clear to me enough people on Orland know what used to be Sears will now be a movie theater and a fitness club.  Don’t bank on a lot of sales tax revenue from those uses,” Dodge said.

Dodge isn’t the only veteran public official to speak out against Pekau’s excesses. Orland Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady spoke out against Pekau’s effort to shutter a homeless shelter at the Hope Covenant Church. It was amazing how Pekau’s assault against the homeless relied on fear-mongering, citing all kinds of wild tragedies that took dozens of lives to frighten people, only to succumb when a judge ruled that the church only needed smoke detectors. (The church already has a sprinkler system, one of the most effective ways to prevent fire.) Click here to read O’Grady’s criticism of Pekau’s efforts.

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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