Pekau uses Orland Village Board to put politics over people
Opinion columnist Ray Hanania examines the stark differences between Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau and former Mayor Dan McLaughlin in this analysis. Pekau cares about politics. McLaughlin cares about people. No politician is perfect but Pekau is on the furthest extreme. Pekau has turned taxpayer-funded village board meetings into a campaign bully pulpit to attack his rivals and critics.
By Ray Hanania
Orland Park’s beleaguered Mayor Keith Pekau clearly is concerned he will be thrown out of office in the local elections on April 6 when he faces-off with his predecessor Dan McLaughlin.
What else explains his unhinged actions at meetings of the Orland Park Village Board that are supposed to focus on policies that help taxpayers and homeowners but that he has turned into a political platform to attack his critics and rivals.
While McLaughlin has crafted a campaign based on facts and defined a vision for Orland Park’s future, Pekau has continued his style of bullying, name calling and personal attacks.
Last week, Pekau once again used the taxpayer funded Village Board of Trustees meeting to advance his political attacks in the hopes of undermining McLaughlin. Pekau has turned the taxpayer-funded Village Board meetings into a bully pulpit, a platform to promote his re-election campaign.
It’s truly ironic that Pekau will throw so much mud considering that it was Pekau and his minions who were whining about anonymous robocalls that were being made attacking him. Pekau clearly is no better.
At the board meeting, Pekau’s bully-syndicate attacked McLaughlin’s handling of floods that slammed Orland Park back in August 1996. He also accused McLaughlin of having an interest in property on Beacon Avenue, all issues that should have been better brought up in political mailings and campaign literature.
But the issue isn’t what McLaughlin did nearly a quarter century ago. The more important issue is, what is being done now?
My home was one of those homes severely flooded in 1996 and wasn’t purchased by the village. Instead, they chose a home that had less flooding issues nearby. I protested and objected back then. I don’t recall Pekau or any of his minions speaking out about it back then. (Rescuers had to use a boat to help me out of the seriously flooded house from a second floor window.)
For a guy like Pekau to use my problems from nearly 25 years ago after he has spent the past two years trying to get me fired – attacking me personally because he didn’t like columns I wrote applauding another responsible and brilliant elected official, Orland Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady – is the epitome of hypocrisy.
What McLaughlin did do right back then was to have the street where the flooding occurred renovated adding a larger water drainage system and added a new pipe to the nearby retention pond which was the cause of the flooding. There hasn’t been any major flooding there since thanks to the larger drainage pipes that were installed in my area and in areas where other homes flooded.
While Pekau wants the village to spend taxpayer money to “investigate” the homes the village purchased nearly 25 years ago, and one property the former mayor owned as an investor, the village isn’t asking questions about Pekau’s own business interests.
That’s because the issue Pekau is trying to raise isn’t about principle or protecting the taxpayers. It is about politics, pure and simple.
Ever since he was able to take over the board two years ago casting a “tie-breaking vote” on the split board, Pekau has eliminated the independent committees and consolidated them so he can control everything that comes up. Nothing about him. But everything about people he hates.
When Trustee Dan Calandriello proposed helping small businesses in the community back in April 2020, Pekau went berserk accusing Calandriello of “grandstanding.” But several weeks later, Pekau introduced the exact same proposal to help local businesses so he could claim the idea for himself.
It was embarrassing for Pekau to oppose Calandriello’s call to support small businesses. So he had to change the narrative by making it look like he cares about small businesses.
Believe me. Most businesses will say whatever the powers want them to say because they know that if they don’t the village might cause them trouble.
When a trustee wore a face mask at a board meeting, one of his minions attacked her ridiculing the face masks and suggesting that she instead wear “duck tape.”
Pekau torpedoed another proposal to require people who visit businesses to wear face masks, a recommendation endorsed by the CDC and every responsible public official in the country. Despite the PR spin from Pekau, the number of COVID-19 cases have continued to surge in Orland Park. They will go down but they could have gone down sooner if we had smarter leadership.
Pekau is an embarrassment for Orland Park. If anyone is using the village for their own personal reasons, his conduct on the board last week shows that it is him more than anyone else.
The difference between Pekau and McLaughlin is stark. When McLaughlin was mayor, I wrote columns supporting him and I wrote columns criticizing him. Even when I criticized him, McLaughlin always maintained a level of professionalism responding to the columns and always making himself accessible.
He was respectful of his responsibility to be held accountable to the taxpayers and Op-Ed column criticism was not only permissible but welcome, he once told me.
A politician who can take criticism and then respond to the criticism is a politician who knows what they are doing is right. A politician like Pekau who angrily responds to criticism does so because there is truth to the criticism and he wants to detract from it.
Accepting criticism is the most important responsibility of an elected official at any level. Accepting criticism from the public and addressing it openly and honestly as McLaughlin did when he was personally attacked last week by Pekau, a true sign of character.
Unlike Pekau, McLaughlin never tried to get his critics fired or tried to hurt their families. McLaughlin never stooped to the gutter level of politics that has come to represent the so-called “People Over Politics” political party – an oxymoron that would be better renamed “Politics Over People” party.
Voters have a clear choice April 6. They can reject this fool who is running Orland Park to the ground and restore some sense of pride, humility and experience to the office by electing Dan McLaughlin.
Or, they can let Pekau continue to wreak havoc, and embarrass every Orland Park resident with his foolish, failed and punitive bullying leadership.
Orland Park deserves better.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)