Safety for a church but not for shoppers at the mall

Safety for a church but not for shoppers at the mall
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Safety for a church but not for shoppers at the mall

Former Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman has called on the Village of Orland Park to take a careful look at the issue of safety at the Orland Square Mall. But Mayor Pekau’s administration doesn’t think that’s important, even after making a mountain out of a mole hill when a church hosted a one-night a week homeless shelter that Pekau tried to block. Safety shouldn’t be about politics. It should be about safety and the politicians should be taking it more seriously.

By Ray Hanania

Last week, former Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman called on the Village of Orland Park to take a closer look at the issue of safety at the Orland Square Mall.

The issue of the Mall’s safety surfaced following a tragic accident in which a St. Michael’s teacher attending a Christmas Party at one of the restaurants in the mall property was killed when another party attendee, a retired Catholic Priest who had been drinking, struck her with his car and killed her. Another teacher was injured.

Instead of working with Gorman, the administration of Orland Park’s accidental Mayor Keith Pekau continued to play politics, criticizing the idea. His minion bullies were all over it arguing that the vehicle accident at the mall “had nothing to do with” the other safety concerns at the mall.

That was kind of ironic, considering that Pekau and his minions were trying to shut down a one-day-a-week homeless shelter at a local church claiming that the issue was “safety.” In attacking the church, which had a working sprinkler system and a clear concern for the well-being of the needy during this past holiday season — more concern than Pekau had for the homeless — Pekau argued it was an issue of “safety.”

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View of the Orland Park Mall. Photo courtesy Ray Hanania

View of the Orland Park Mall. Photo courtesy Ray Hanania

Pekau had his village manager make the most outrageous arguments that failure to improve safety at the church could result in tragedies like the E2 Club tragedy and other tragedies in which people were killed because of the lack of unrelated safety issues that had nothing to do with the local church’s homeless shelter.

Faced with a public backlash, Pekau backed down claiming that the church had finally agreed to install a few smoke detectors. So, the absence of smoke detectors, even with a sprinkler system, made the church as dangerous as the E2 nightclub and other tragedies across the country that took lives?

Wow, what a stretch!

The village was clearly hoping to fear-monger the public into opposing the homeless shelter, but now accuses Gorman of fear-mongering over the issue of mall safety.

It was truly ironic that Pekau didn’t mind the exaggeration in comparing the situation at the homeless shelter at the church with the massive loss of life at tragedies across the country, but somehow now argues that safety at the Orland Square Mall has nothing to do with the accident and the tragic death of a St. Michael’s teacher.

I drive through the Orland Square Mall every morning and evening. I drive the speed limit through the Mall, which is 25 MPH. But I am one of the few. Most of the people who drive through the mall do so at enormous speeds in excess of 40 MPH and sometimes as much as 50 MPH. The mall has poor lighting and with the added activities around the mall’s “ring road,” with pedestrians crossing the ring road as cars speed past, it creates a dangerous situation.

Sure, the hit-and-run death of the St. Michael teacher had nothing to do with the issue of speeding on the Mall’s “ring road.” That’s obvious. But it is not the point. The hit-and-run occurred in one of the outlet areas within what the public views as being a part of the shopping mall. But the two involve safety. The road where the teacher was killed needs better lighting, too, in my opinion.

The speed limits on the ring road need to be enforced, but the Orland Park Police — one of the best in the Southwest region no thanks to anything Pekau has done and solely because of the professionalism of Police Chief Tim McCarthy — do not have jurisdiction over the cars that speed. They’re called in when there is an accident.

The Orland Square Mall has safety issues. That is a fact.

Something needs to be done to slow the motorists down. Maybe the Orland Park Police should be given jurisdiction over the ring road and all of the mall property at every level, not just when called to respond to gun fire, physical violence, assaults, petty theft and other crimes that have been taking place there over the past few years.

When it comes to the issue of safety, I trust Police Chief McCarthy over Mayor Pekau. I also applaud Gorman for raising the issue knowing full well that Pekau’s minions of bullies would try to spin this as being all about politics. Safety is only a concern to the mayor apparently when it suits his politics.

Something MUST be done to make the mall safer. Gorman is right on to raise the issue. In her press release, she suggested that the issue of safety be carefully examined. Why is that so wrong? We should always be thinking of making the mall a safer place not just for shoppers but for motorists and pedestrians, too.

But I understand Mayor Pekau all too well. Over the 40 years of covering politics, I have run into his political type often, politicians who think they are better than the issues or the public. Politicians who make their interests the top priority rather than the interests of the public. Pekau won election by accident, lucking out as a result of the fumbling greed of former Mayor Dan McLaughlin. Voters voted against McLaughlin’s last-minute policy to hike his salary and his pension. Pekau just happened to be the benefactor.

But as it turns out, the residents of Orland Park have been the big losers.

Ray Hanania

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