Pekau’s attacks: A personal letter from Columnist Ray Hanania
By Ray Hanania
I have covered Chicagoland politics since 1975 when I was honorably discharged from active duty service in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. I served 12 years in the Illinois Air National Guard and believed strongly in military service.
I followed in the footsteps of my father, George, and his brother Moses, who both enlisted right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1943.
My dad served in the O.S.S., which later became the C.I.A., fighting against Nazism and decoding their secret transmissions while serving in Europe and the Middle East. My Uncle Moses wanted to serve with my father. But the recruiters convinced him to serve in the U.S. Navy because they wanted him to “help part the seas.” Moses spent four years on a battleship in the North Atlantic during World War II.
Immigrants from the Holy Land in the 1920s, they left their homes in Jerusalem, Palestine and came here to America. They made America their home and priority. They made English their first language. They were proud of their heritage but even more proud to be Americans. For them, America stood for freedom, justice and equality for all willing to work hard for it. My dad insisted I speak English first, not Arabic
My father wanted me to be a Doctor, like several of his cousins. He died before he could see me succeed in this beautiful country of ours. But after I completed my military service, I pursued journalism believing that truth and accurate information is what makes America strong. I believe in the American people, like my father did, and knew that they are smart enough to evaluate the facts and come to their own decisions, when the facts are presented to them fairly.
My mother’s family is from Bethlehem and I always like to joke that Jesus is my cousin. I feel a special commitment to my parents who both died when I was young.
Back in 1975, journalism was much fairer and more objective than it is today. Opinion columnists offered perspective on issues. That is what I continue to do. I’ve won many awards since writing my first news story for the Southwest Messenger Press Newspaper. Later, I joined the former twice-weekly Southtown Economist Newspaper, which became a daily newspaper in 1978. I became its City Hall reporter covering Mayors Richard J. Daley, Michael Bilandic, Jane Byrne, Harold Washington, Eugene Sawyer, and Richard M. Daley.
I joined the Chicago Sun-Times in 1985 when that, too, was a fair and objective newspaper. And I have won many professional journalism awards for my writings exposing political injustice and corruption including 4 Lisagor Awards, the 2009 National Sigma Delta Chi/Society of Professional Journalism Award for news and column writing, and was named the best Ethnic American Columnist in America in November 2006 by the New America News media. I hosted a live radio show on WLS AM from 1979 until 1989 every Saturday and Sunday. I have also written several books.
In 1993, I launched I launched the Villager Newspapers, 12 editions covering many of the Southwest Suburbs because by then it was clear the journalism industry was collapsing under the pressures of rising costs and corporate takeovers. Today, five big corporations own and control the majority of the news media in this country, eliminating diversity of opinion and voices that made this country great. Now, the media wants to tell you what to believe. The media is split with one side defending the Far Left and the other side defending the Far Right. They don’t want to tell you the facts. They just want to tell you what to believe by manipulating facts.
I WRITE MY OPINIONS; I AM NOT ANONYMOUS
I offer my opinions on politics in columns in The Regional Newspaper and on my mainstream news website, SuburbanChicagoland.com, a high-traffic site indexed by Google News.
What did I learn about politics? You will never agree with a politician or elected official 100 percent of the time. Sometimes they do things you don’t like or disagree with. But the good ones always stay focussed on the issues, not on personalities. Some, however, are so vicious and dishonest that they are simply reprehensible, like Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau.
I moved to Orland park at the end of 1985 and immediately fell in love with this community. I have been covering our village ever since, writing each week and sharing my opinions on what I see happening.
I launched my media consulting business and continued to write Opinion Analysis for community and regional newspapers. I rarely write about anyone who is a client. But, if I do, I ALWAYS state that I work for them so that you, the reader, know where I am coming from. It’s called transparency.
I am used to being attacked by mayors, elected officials and their paid minions. They have included big league politicians like Jane Byrne, Harold Washington, Richie Daley, Rahm Emanuel, and Ed Vrdolyak.
But I rarely have come across the level of viciousness that I encountered over the past several years under the rule of Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau.
Many of you may remember, I led the reporting on former Mayor Dan McLaughlin, who after serving so admirably for 22 years as mayor, stumbled to increase his salary by $150,000 a year from $40,000. In reality, almost everything good that is Orland Park today came as a result of McLaughlin’s leadership. He certainly screwed up with that pay and pension hike plan, but you can’t criticize him for the great job he did in building Orland Park.
When I did criticize McLaughlin, he was always a professional. He never stooped so low like Pekau making vicious personal attacks. McLaughlin and I always argued and debated about the issues because we BOTH cared about Orland Park, not ourselves. Criticism is accountability!
When I first met Keith Pekau, I thought he was a decent person. He spoke out against the pay and pension hike, claiming he would not take the pension nor the salary hike. But, Pekau took the $150,000 salary, even though he could have donated or refused it, returning $110,000 to the taxpayers, only taking $40,000.
PEKAU ATTACKS HIS CRITICS PERSONALLY & VICIOUSLY
In a meeting I had with him after his election, he wanted me to use my columns — which he praised highly at the time — to attack “his enemies.” He had a long list of people he didn’t like. I laughed and I think that set him off.
The next week, I published an insignificant little press release about a community event Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady was sponsoring and Pekau unloaded on me, attacking me and accusing me of being biased. I get releases and news from everyone. I publish most on my news website SuburbanChicagoland.com. If they rise to a level of news interest, I write about them in my columns at the prestigious Regional News Newspaper.
In nearly every Pekau eNewsletter, he attacks me and refers to my print newspaper columns as a “blog.” That won’t make me stop exposing his lies, exaggerations or hypocrisies. He is an elected official and he works for US. We, the taxpayers, pay his salary.
Pekau’s personal attack style has harmed Orland Park’s public image. This isn’t about being a Republican or a Democrat, because Pekau is neither. He is an extremist and a tyrant who wants power and control. He exaggerates atatcks against his growing legions of critics. But he disguises and deflects from his own failings as Orland Park’s Village President (Mayor). Criticism is accountability.
PEKAU’S COSTS for PR for the Village
Pekau constantly attacks me for making $4,000 a month to provide media support to the Orland Fire Protection District, a non-political government entity that is one of the best in the country. Pekau doesn’t mention that he pays more than $21,000 a month for his Village PR, which honestly, I could do better with my eyes closed, and for far less.
Pekau pays his PR person $140,267.56. He has two other PR workers who are paid $55,957.00 each.
The total budget expenditure for
Pekau’s PR in 2022 was $252,181.56
or more than $21,000 a month!
The total OFPD budget expenditure
for my work was $48,000.
If Pekau is focused on anything, it is to control and merge the Fire District into his Political Machine, and to cut salaries and cut services. He needs the money.
His minions running for the Fire District — two candidates who have no experience as First Responders at all, but who will do his bidding, Eric Vates and Richard Miller — claim I’ve written “at most, 4-5 press releases within the last 3 years.”
Of course, I have written hundreds of professionally written releases over the years to showcase the professionalism of the hard work and risks that every firefighter/paramedic takes when they respond to fires or other emergencies. The releases are published by both the major and local media.
I knew they were uninformed when they called me a “sports writer.” (I laughed because I know little about sports. My only sport is Politics.)
The yard signs of Pekau’s slate in every contest pollute the village aesthetics, placed in violation of Village code. They are usually on properties of businesses whose owners were given contracts by Pekau, along the curbs (violation) and on public lands (violation).
KEEP POLITICS OUT OF THE FIRE DISTRICT
Vates and Miller are definitely people you should vote against. They can’t get their facts right and will certainly undermine the great achievements of the Fire District, which is one of the best in the nation. The OFPD has a 71 percent Cardiac Save Rate (compared to only 15 percent nationally). The Orland Fire Protection District has great firefighter/paramedics and great leadership. I am proud to work for them and showcase their achievements.
As an Orland Park resident, taxpayer and voter, I support William Bonnar Jr., and Matthew G. Rafferty, two REAL and experienced First Responders. Together, they have more than 75 years of FIRST RESPONDER experience, more than all the experience of the other five candidates combined. (Several of the other candidates are decent people, not mudslingers.)
Bonnar (whose father is considered one of the founders of today’s Fire District) and Rafferty, (who has been on the Fire Commission for 10 years selecting the best candidates to serve Orland Park’s emergency needs) more than all the other candidates are the best and most experienced. That’s what counts if you care about preserving the Fire District’s stellar record and ability to save lives.
Bonnar and Rafferty will ensure the Orland Fire Protection District will ALWAYS remain strong and never fall under the control of politicians (who are behind other candidates).
View the extensive experience Bonnar & Rafferty have as First Responders on their website at OrlandFirstResponders.com. I believe in them. They are dedicated to keeping the Fire District the BEST in the nation. They are NOT POLITICAL, like others.
The Fire District is not an “Old Men’s Club.” Nearly 52 percent of its employees are women. The top departments are headed by women. A woman sits on the Board of Trustees and a woman sits on the Fire Commission. Attacking “old men” hints at discrimination against seniors.
Firefighters, paramedics and the police deserve our undying gratitude for the sacrifices they make to protect our lives and property, not political control or unfair criticism.
STOP PEKAU”S POWER GRAB & SAVE ORLAND PARK
I urge you to vote YES on the Village Managerial Referendum.
Pekau intentionally wrote the Referendum in a way to cause confusion, believing some people might think a “No vote” preserves the current Village Managerial System. It does not.
The referendum reads: “Shall the Village of Orland Park retain the managerial form of municipal government?”
He did that on purpose to mislead you into voting No.
The correct vote to stop his power grab is to VOTE YES.
If you vote no, Pekau will expand his powers. The village will have a manager who can be anyone. Currently, the Village Manager MUST meet the rigid state requirements to have professional leadership skills and knowledge about government management. Under Pekau’s plan, he can hire whomever he wants. regardless of skills. He will give them a contract, too, just like the current village manager system. But instead of having experience or answering to the board, Pekau’s hire will answer to him. Get more info here.
You deserve an alternative to the misleading information in Pekau’s political bully pulpit eNewsletter.
I promise I will ALWAYS tell it like it is, be straight forward, upfront and honest about every issue I address, expressing my opinions based on my decades of journalism and writing experience.
You may agree or you may not. But you will always be able to make up your own minds when you hear all sides, review the real facts, and ignore the irrelevant vicious personal attacks.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. A political analyst and CEO of Urban Strategies Group, Hanania’s opinion columns on mainstream issues are published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group in the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers. His Middle East columns are published in the Arab News. For more information on Ray Hanania visit www.Hanania.com or email him at email@example.com.)
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