Orland Park election takes the high road over Chicago

Orland Park politics has often been the center of disputes and political wars, but this election is marked by a soft internal split that has been devoid of name-calling, and that’s good.

By Ray Hanania

, former White House Chief of Staff

Mayor Rahm Emanuel & former White House Chief of Staff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Politics is a mixed bag of serenity, conflict, battles and name calling. Just look at the rolled-up-sleeve boxing match between Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. With the exception of one moment where Emanuel correctly called out WTTW Chicago Tonight Anchor Phil Ponce when Ponce pushed Garcia too hard on Garcia’s son’s past history of street gang involvement.

Aside from that one moment, where Ponce looked more like the loser than either of the candidates, the Garcia-Emanuel battle has been one mudslinging slam after another. The TV commercials are filled with nasty attacks and name calling, some of which doesn’t seem accurate at all.

There isn’t a lot of positive messaging in the Chicago Mayoral race, although Emanuel, who has millions more to spend on TV commercials than Garcia, has one series of “Rahm Love” TV ads with a red heart and a lot of soft and cuddly messages.

The fact is, Emanuel is set to win re-election, although he has been raked across the coals for his bullying style, which he suggested he plans to change in one early commercial after his surprise failure to win the necessary 50 percent of the vote in the February 24 open primary election.

Despite some differences I have with Mayor Emanuel, I think he is the better candidate over Garcia. And when he pushed back against Ponce’s really inappropriate questions of Garcia, he looked principled. It just may be possible that Emanuel has changed and will change some of his past mistakes.


The big loser in the Chicago Mayoral Election is
WTTW Channel 11 Anchor Phil Ponce


Mayor McLaughlin

Mayor McLaughlin

So it’s with relief that voters in Orland Park, the most influential municipality between Chicago and Joliet, get to relax a bit and enjoy the ability to really look at their choices in the April 7 elections in their suburb.

There is a scuffle because three of the incumbents are running for trustee spots with a fourth candidate who is not a trustee, while one Orland Park Trustee is running on his own.

The four candidates are running under the banner of the First Orland Party and includes incumbents Patricia Gira, Carole Ruzich and Daniel Calandriello, and trustee hopeful Michael Carroll.

I’ve know Calandriello since he was a young boy and neighbor and it has been great to watch him grow up into a successful attorney and public official. Calandriello exemplifies everything we mean when we say we want new blood, fresh ideas and young people to get involved to help make Orland Park even better than it already is.

Trustee Calandriello

I had a chance to meet Ruzich during a local restaurant event celebrating American Arab heritage month. (Not every elected official wanted to come out to the event because unfortunately there is still a lot of negativity towards American Arabs, even though we’ve done so much to support this country, including serving in the military.)

Ruzich is very pleasant and smart, and I enjoyed speaking with her about the great things that have been taking place in Orland Park over the past few years. And good things are happening.

Ruzich came with Calandriello, McLaughlin and Gira, who has a long history of public service. Sometimes Gira and I have been on the same side, and sometimes we haven’t. But Gira was polite when we met and it was nice to chitchat and not argue at all.

I haven’t met Carroll, but I heard he’s done a great job at School District 135 as a board member elected in 2013. He’s part of the team led by Joe La Margo who, as Board President elected in 2011, has made School District 135 one of the best school districts in the Chicagoland suburbs.


It’s important that Orland Park voters turnout
on Tuesday April 7. The schools and village need
great leadership.


La Margo is leading a slate in the election also including former District 135 trustee who lost re-election but was later re-appointed in 2013, Greg Okon Jr., and newcomer Angie Sexton. Okon, a former Orland Park police commander, was re-tapped by La Margo because of his extensive police experience and his work currently as director of Public Safety for Palos Hospital.

Pictured from left to right: Standing: Greg Okon, member, Tina Zekich, member, Michael Maratea, member and Laura Berry, member. Front Row: Michael Carroll, Vice-President, Joe La Margo, President, and Sandra Kulak, Secretary

As in the Orland Park Trustee race, there is a split there too. Incumbent Trustee Tina Zenkich is not backed by the La Margo group and is the outsider in the race.

Long time Orland Trustee and former Orland Park Mayor Ed Schussler is running for re-election, this time as an outsider. In the past, he has campaigned closely with Gira and I’ve had my ins and outs with him also. His literature asserts he has been an independent voice on the board. That will up to the voters to decide.

Schussler also showed up at the American Arab heritage event, as did Mayor Dan McLaughlin, who is endorsing Ruzich, Gira, Carroll and Calandriello, who all attended also.

McLaughlin is not endorsing Schussler this time for re-election because, apparently the mayor thought Schussler wasn’t going to run for re-election.

LaMargo, Okon, Sexton yard sign

LaMargo, Okon, Sexton yard sign

I like Mayor McLaughlin a lot, so I’ll guess that it was an honest belief. Schussler insisted he planned to run.

In both of these important races, the candidates have focused on positive messages and have avoided bashing each other. If there has been a negative mailer from either side, I haven’t seen it. Hopefully there won’t be one.

McLaughlin sent out a great mailer this week pointing out how he and the Orland Park board have pushed hard to improve LaGrange Road which is a major road that is used not only by Orland Park residents but by many outsiders who drive in here to spend their money. Last week, I was able to enjoy some of that outsider spending when McLaughlin’s administration refunded $150 for my family’s share of the sales tax rebate, paid for from funds coming from outside shoppers. The village refunded $35 million in sales taxes this year.

LaGrange Road has been a mess for a long time, but it is badly in need of improvement and McLaughlin is getting it done. We need it. So the inconvenience will be gone soon and we’ll see a huge improvement once it is done. And it will be. Construction is never easy but it is necessary.

McLaughlin is supporting Ruzich, Gira, Carroll and Calandriello in the Orland Park Trustee races.

LaMargo is leading the slate with Okon and Sexton in District 135 Trustee races.

Whatever happens, Orland Park will continue to be a better place to live.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania Chicago political beats and Chicago City Hall at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published the The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine.

Hanania's Chicagoland columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald, the Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is www.TheMediaOasis.com. Email him at: [email protected]
Ray Hanania

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