Dear Orland Park Friend,
I have lived in Orland Park for 45 years and members of my family settled here over 100 years ago. I have grave concerns about the future of our Village. That is the reason I am sending this letter to you at my expense.
This spring there is an election and the results will have a major impact on our lives. Dan McLaughlin is running for an unprecedented seventh term. He has been our mayor for 24 years and also served as a trustee for 8 years. I served as an Orland Park trustee for 13 of Dan’s 24 years as mayor. My last term ended in 2015. Dan did some good things for our village and I was part of some of those projects. However, I am saddened to say that he has lost his focus and has become greedy. It is time for a change of leadership.
The single issue that upsets me the most is the recent action of our Village Board—a board totally controlled by Dan —that changed the mayor’s position from part time to full time. Orland Park adopted council/manager form of government by referendum in 1983. Since that referendum we have had a full time village manager who is responsible for running the day-to-day activities of the village. Our part time council (board) consisting of the mayor and trustees sets policy adopts a budget and hires the manager.
We don’t need a $150,000 a year full time mayor — it is a waste of money and will lead to operational problems. We had an extremely competent manager by the name of Paul Grimes who was encouraged by Dan “to move on”. He left last June. To date the Village Board has not been able to find a replacement. It should not be a surprise that no well-qualified manager wants to take a job where much of the authority and responsibility has been given to the mayor and the manager will only be a figurehead.
Dan and the trustees have publicly stated that a full time mayor will save the village money by eliminating the need for two new positions. That is just not true. The positions they refer to are mentioned in a management study that the board commissioned several years ago. After the board, including myself, discussed that study, a decision was made not to fund or hire anyone for those positions.
It has been reported that if Dan gets re-elected, serves four years and then retires, he will receive a pension of approximately $100,000 a year (with annual increases). If he lives a normal life span his additional pension payout, due to this raise, will be over 2 million dollars. That would be unfair to taxpayers who contribute tax dollars to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, the entity that would pay this pension.
Dan likes to talk about his “vision” for Orland Park. A downtown area in the triangle at 143rd Street and LaGrange Road and development of the I-80 corridor are a major part of that “vision.” After many years and millions of taxpayer dollars both projects remain partially completed. The triangle has an apartment building, a not-for-profit medical building and an expensive multi-story parking garage. It is a Tax Increment Financing district (TIF), which is underwater. Millions of dollars have been diverted from various village funds to prop up this project.
While Tinley Park continues to develop its I-80 property not much has happened on the property in Orland Park along I-80. There have been many studies and many meetings with landowners but only 2 commercial buildings have been constructed in the prime area between LaGrange Road and Wolf Road since Orland Parkway was built 15 years ago.
Orland Park has resources and amenities that other communities dream about. At the present time our resources are not being utilized well. We need a change at the top and we need it now. Being mayor of Orland Park should not be a lifetime job. 24 years is long enough for anyone. I urge you to vote for Keith Pekau as our next mayor.