Look who’s “grandstanding” now in Orland Park

Look who’s “grandstanding” now in Orland Park
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Opinion: Look who’s “grandstanding” now in Orland Park

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau is a nasty bully who can’t take any criticism but has one quality: he can turn friends into enemies faster than any politician I have met in 45 years. Monday (May 18, 2020), Pekau threatened to take Pritzker to court after bashing the Illinois Legislature and basically arguing that the people most susceptible to the Coronavirus, Seniors, should fend for themselves. Fortunately, there is one sane voice on the board, Trustee Dan Calandriello, who continues to stand up to Pekau’s bullying offering fresh, commonsense ideas to protect the interests of Orland Park’s taxpayers.

By Ray Hanania

On April 6, 2020, during a Committee of the Whole, Orland Park Trustee Dan Calandriello asked that the Village consider addressing the needs of local businesses in the wake of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic restrictions which had been announced in a Disaster Declaration by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on March 9.

Pekau began by asserting that Calandriello’s motion would force the Village staff to “spend resources and time” to put a plan together and then attacked Calandriello personally and viciously, calling him a “grandstander.”

During the meeting, Pekau angrily declared, “This is an attempt by one person [Calandriello] to grandstand and play political games during a crisis. This is unacceptable.”

Image from the March 16, 2020 Village of Orland Park board meeting.

Image from the March 16, 2020 Village of Orland Park board meeting.

As a consequence, the board refused to discuss Calandriello’s request that the board consider ways to help local businesses. Restaurants which were restricted to only offering pick-up and delivery services, while other businesses were allowed limited functions. Some closed entirely.

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As a result, Pekau was roundly criticized for his bullying style, a singular trait epitomized by his failed government leadership, resulting in the characterization that his only other talent besides bullying is that he is skilled at “making enemies out of friends.”

How things have changed in just six short weeks.

Last night, Monday May 18, 2020, Mayor Pekau introduced a resolution attacking both Gov. Pritzker and all of the members of the Illinois General Assembly, Democrat and Republican in part for not helping businesses. Pekau’s attacks widened and imply criticism that includes local State Senators Michael Hastings (19th Dist) and Bill Cunningham (18th Dist), and State Representative Fran Hurley (35th Dist), including our neighboring legislators such as State Rep. Jim Dunkin in the 82nd District.

All of those legislators have worked and are working hard to protect the health our our residents, especially senior citizens who are most vulnerable to the deadly virus that has taken 25 lives in Orland Park, according to Pekau, and has infected 226 residents, a number that has climbed in the past two weeks from 174. Add in victims in 60467, and the numbers jumps 133 cases to 359 infections.

Polling I have seen shows that Pekau’s popularity in the community is extremely weak. A part of that weakness comes from criticism that Pekau is a bully who can’t work with anyone, and who spends more time patting himself on the back than dealing with Orland Park’s real issues.

Orland Park Trustee Dan Calandriello at a Village of Orland Park Board meeting.

Orland Park Trustee Dan Calandriello at a Village of Orland Park Board meeting.

So Pekau took a different strategy towards Calandriello last night when the youngest member of the board proposed that a resolution threatening to file a lawsuit against Pritzker that was introduced by Pekau’s board coalition — Cindy Katsenes, Michael Milani, and William Healy — was counter-productive and should be amended.

The first amendment would edit a paragraph that would expand the resolution’s criticism to include not only State Government but also the Federal Government. Normally, Pekau would just attack Calandriello and bully him into silence, the way he did during the April 6 COW meeting. But possibly, sensitive to a bruised and damaged public image, Pekau bit his lip and let Calandriello’s motion through. Veteran Trustee Jim Dodge seconded the motion conditionally, trying to make both sides happy, it seemed.

That motion was discussed. Pekau was polite. But it was rejected by a 4 to 3 vote with Pekau joining his coalition in shooting it down and Calandriello, Dodge and Kathy Fenton voting to change it.

Calandriello then moved a second motion, and Dodge seconded it again, this time to strike a paragraph attacking the Illinois Legislature and members like Hastings, Cunningham and Hurley. Pekau again bit his lip and seemingly reluctantly, let Calandriello explain that the legislators are working and continue to work to help all of their communities including Orland Park. But again, the amendment was voted down by the same 4 to 3 vote.

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There have been 25 deaths in Orland Park, according to Pekau, and coronavirus has infected 226 residents, a number that has climbed in the past two weeks from 174. Add in victims from neighboring 60467, and the coronavirus infections jump by 133 cases to 359 infections.

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Finally, Calandriello tried to motion a 3rd amendment to eliminate the threat to spend taxpayer money to file a lawsuit against the state, but Dodge remained silent and it died. 

Calandriello made some significant points in explaining the amendment. The most important is that the resolution doesn’t direct the village to file a lawsuit, it only criticizes everyone from the Governor on down. 

Here is what the 28th paragraph states: “WHEREAS, if the legislature fails to act, the Village believes that resolving these controversies by bringing them before a court will provide clarity to the Village and to the residents, businesses and taxpayers of the Village and will benefit the economic, physical, and mental health of the residents and taxpayers of the Village.”

That decision to go to court won’t be made by the village until the end of May, in two weeks, about when Pritzker is preparing to start lifting the statewide restrictions if the pandemic peaks and begins a downward slide in infections and deaths.

Basically, the resolution is pure “grandstanding,” the very criticism Pekau used when Calandriello tried to raise the issue of supporting local businesses but was shot down by Pekau on April 6. Instead of working back then to help businesses, Pekau couldn’t get over the fact that Calandriello might get the credit.

No one during the meeting spoke more than Pekau. This is a guy who never tires of hearing himself speak, or, to use his term, “grandstand.” His bluster is pathetic. Clearly, all Pekau is doing is setting himself up as if he will be the champion to fight Pritzker, and when the state finally eases or lifts the restrictions, Pekau will pat himself on the back and falsely claim victory.

During the meeting, Pekau suggested that his prior actions had forced Pritzker to make changes, even though the truth is Pekau is ineffective in Springfield. He went there last year and spent days achieving nothing. Maybe that’s why Pekau is mad.

Pekau’s message was described clearly by Katsenes who told the board, “One death is too much with the virus, but it is time to open up … individuals should decide for themselves.” Pekau seemed to underscore that, adding seniors “need to take care of themselves.”

That is an odd thing to suggest, that seniors are the most vulnerable but we should open up anyway because it would help local businesses. Let the seniors fend for themselves? They can decide if they need to stay at home?

Calandriello had the most congent remarks, saying, “This resolution is not helping the Village of Orland Park. It is starting a non-productive fight” with the legislature and governor. Calandriello said a lawsuit “would waste taxpayer money,” adding that Pekau’s resolution “is not good government.” Calandriello, the moderate and commonsense public servant that he is, suggested the Village pursue a “more constructive” strategy rather than be “confrontational.”

Village officials reported during the meeting that Orland Park is losing as much as two million a month in retail sales taxes. But they seemed to downplay the reality that working with the legislature and state government would qualify Orland Park for millions more in state financial support.

The reality is that Pritzker represents one extreme side, but Pekau represents the other. Somewhere in the middle are sensible people who can help Orland Park’s local businesses productively and more effectively.

Grandstanding, bullying and name calling, all of Pekau’s significant traits (or failings, if you will), do nothing except feed the mayor’s bloated ego. But that’s good. He’ll keep thinking he walks on water until he is thrown out of office in the Spring.

Pekau is in for a political rude awakening.

Ray Hanania

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