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Township Reformers or Powerfully Backed Upstarts?

One of this April's hottest races is taking place in Worth Township. A set of longtime incumbents is battling with political newcomers who are mounting an aggressive campaign.

By Dan Lambert and Lorraine Swanson

Most township races get little notice, but in recent weeks Worth Township residents have been blanketed with mailers touting what appears to be a fresh approach by a new party of reformers in the upcoming April 9 election.

The Worth Township Community First Party’s campaign literature presses all the hot buttons of everything that’s wrong with Illinois government today, including pension reform, term limits and out-of-control salaries footed by the hardworking taxpayer.

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“We believe in term limits and we’re not going to give ourselves a raise because we know taxpayers don’t want it,” Kevin Hughes, whose challenging four-term incumbent John “Jack” Murphy for town supervisor, said. “Taxpayers want to see money being used for the township.”

It's a compelling argument for many voters, but their opponents charge it might be just a bit disingenuous. 

The Old Guard

Three of the current Worth Township board members—Supervisor Murphy, Town Clerk Roger Benson, and Trustee Michael Mahoney—have held office since 1997. The core leadership are running together with fellow board members as the United Party of Worth Township slate.

The election season started with Community First candidates and their supporters attempting to get two of the opposition's candidates—Town Assessor Steve Toscas and Trustee John “Jack” Lind—thrown off the ballot.

Toscas is a Crestwood Village trustee who is running against Lou Presta for mayor. Lind is a Chicago Ridge village trustee.

An objection was filed against both men that argued potential conflicts of interest could arise because both offices would be in the same township.

The electoral board which is made up of current township officials overruled the objection and their fellow slate members Toscas and Lind remain on the April 9 ballot.

The second battle of this electoral war was fought over denied freedom of information act requests filed by a supporter of the challengers. The request sought 102 financial documents dating back to 1996, including budgets, audits and elected township officials' credit card receipts.

Dubbing the first time filer a "repeat filer," the FOIA request was denied by the township. Benson said the an individual request was filed for each separate document, furthermore some of the records requested didn't even exist.

The New Promises

The Community First candidates have promised that if elected, Worth Township homeowners would receive a tax rebate amounting to about $40 per household. The one-time rebate would be paid from the township's $2-million-plus tax surplus. The incumbents argue that any rebate would likely be much smaller. 

"I'm not going to apologize for having a surplus," Benson said.

The United Party says their so called reform-minded opponents are playing some old school political tricks. 

Another talking point repeated by the Community First slate is that township officials' salaries should be frozen. 

In turn, Murphy responds that elected board members haven't given themselves pay raises since 1997 and they have already voted against any pay raises for the next for years. 

Pension concerns are the third major issue for Hughes and his Community First running mates. They argue in campaign literature and during public forums that township officials should not receive pensions and that they vow to not take any pension money. 

In practice, elected township officials are not eligible for a pension until they spend 10 years in office. Even then they stand to to collect a monthly public pension, which is required by law, of about $108 per month.

The Familiar Backers

For the most part, the Community First slate is comprised of political novices who have long records of community service and local involvement. While they might be new to politics, some of their endorsers and advisers are well acquainted with the ins and outs of local elections.

Worth Township Democratic Committeemen John O’Sullivan, who has had an adversarial relationship with the current township board, helped recruit candidates for the Community First slate and has also advised on campaign strategies. 

"We all know who John O'Sullivan answers to," Benson said.

The Community First Party's candidate for township highway commission, Edward Moody, a former Chicago Ridge school board member, has ties to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. In 2010, Moody shows up on Madigan's payroll for "campaign overhead expenses," during which he was paid $7,830.

Hughes says that the slate has not received a single dime from Madigan. 

"This is a grass roots effort it's not like we are being escorted by a Democratic machine," Hughes said. "I've never met Mr. Madigan or any of those people. Yeah, Ed Moody has campaigned for him in the past, but that's about it."

The Endorsers

The Community First Party touts a long list of endorsements in their campaign literature including some that have been exposed to be a bit premature. 

Read: Worth Township Incumbents Claim Opposition Faked Endorsements

Among the endorsements listed is Thomas Villanova, president of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Constructions Trade Council.

In 2011, Villanova fell under a federal criminal probe seeking his pension records when it was alleged he was collecting credits for both a city and union pension, after signing documents that he had waived his union pension with the IBEW, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The council represents 33 trade unions in collective bargaining agreements with the City of Chicago and Cook County. All 33 are listed as endorsers on the Community First Party's walk pieces and mailers, calling for reform and transparency.

In contrast to their calls for term limits of eight years, many of the endorsers listed are very familiar political lifers like County Commissioner John Daley and Secretary of State Jesse White.

While they might have heavyweights as endorsers, most of the campaign cash has come from local fundraisers and the personal contributions of the candidates, according to Hughes and state campaign records.

The Community First Party has also received donations from Michael Alvarez, a commissioner on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation Board and lobbyist for American Traffic Solutions, the red-light and speed-camera company.

"We're democrats, republicans and independents working together," Benson said, describing his own political slate.

If the election doesn't yield a clean sweep for either slate, some of that bi-partisan cooperation may be needed come May.

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Too Public March 29, 2013 at 02:27 PM
What's really needed is the abolition of township government. It's a useless den of tax dollar waste. It's a place to give unemployable weasels jobs.
MIKE March 29, 2013 at 03:25 PM
What a waste of tax payers money a township is. Just a few states still have them. Good old Illinois. All the services could be taken over by other bodys of Goverment. WASTE WASTE WASTE OF OUR MONEY !!!!!!
BigSign BigEgo March 29, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Why not term limits for any other office? Committeeman? County Board Member? Alderman? Because voters decide term limits in elections. I'd like State tax rebate to offset the incompetent IL state rep increase. Who voted for that? Your puppetmaster slavedriver John Osullivan!
townshippatronage March 29, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Abolish township government. Waste of taxpayer money nothing but two groups of political hacks each wanting to control the township so their friends and relatives can get cushy patronage jobs. Typical of government in crook county
BigSign BigEgo March 29, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Osulliavn is all about cushy patronage jobs. He managed to land two County jobs and lost both. Now he wants the township to be his cashcow machine.
Mr. Reality March 29, 2013 at 05:37 PM
In all reality, doing away with Worth Township is a great idea. Other toenships have been abolished, what does it take to abolish Worth Township ?
BigSign BigEgo March 29, 2013 at 07:23 PM
Mr. Reality here's what it will take to abolish Worth Township. Endless investigations and probes by carol marin the better government assoc DANE PLACKO the fbi, MIKE FLANNERY the states atty ANDY SHAW all who will be on John Osullivans azz like white on rice.
OakLawnGuy March 29, 2013 at 07:29 PM
The only disadvantage I see to that is that the services WTWP provides would either need to be assumed by another government branch or abolished. There are quite a few useful services, I'd hate to see them disappear and can't see how a town, the County or the State could pick up the slack.
BigSign BigEgo March 29, 2013 at 07:58 PM
If my wife gets one more threatening call heads will roll.
Angry Taxpayer March 29, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Joe Slibinski :" In a recent conversation with friends about this race I was told by a friend who has a relative who works for the township". Well there you have it, straight from the horses friend's relative's mouth. You can't get more reliable than that. Scouts honor? Honest Injun? Pinky Squared? Cross your heart, stick a needle in your eye? You can't seriously believe these readers are that gullible? Or can you?
Angry Taxpayer March 29, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Honestly, I can't blame you for being angy about that. That's underhanded. You should call the Police and report it, if not just for the peace of mind but for the sake of your family. No one deserves this kind of treatment.
keeping it real March 29, 2013 at 09:14 PM
I don't know why I even read these comments, there are good people with good intuitions on both sides and this has all gotten out of hand. But I am wondering "Big Sign, Big Ego" ..what kind of job do you hold that allows you to blog all day? Hmmm...????As far as O'Sullivan goes - take a look closer. He lost jobs by going against the "machine", namely Stroger and Prekwinkle. Anyone who knows politics knows that. He stood up for change and paid the price. He saw that things needed a change in township government and he did something about it. He's not even running!!! Leave it alone and stick to the issues. If people want a change they will vote for change. If you've got such a big problem with him and Kevin Hughes why don't you say who you are and talk to them personally about it. Otherwise, who can take you seriously? Not me.
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) March 29, 2013 at 09:57 PM
We gave Mr. O'Sullivan the chance to respond and had a very pleasant conversation with him. He said his name isn't on the ballot, but in November when he runs again for Worth Twp Democratic Committeeman it would be a different story. We look forward to talking to him.
BigSign BigEgo March 29, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Doesn't any employer besides mine acknowldfe Good Friday. Must be foreign to you not to be on the public payroll. If they stop harasing my wife I'll be quiet.
rire March 29, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Congratulations to John O'Sullivan in getting his 3rd county job. John, just show up once in a while and try not to get fired again!!!!
Joe Skibinski March 30, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Dear Angry, Actually, yes. Scouts honor.
Brian H March 30, 2013 at 02:06 PM
I like Johnny O. Ive worked on St Baldricks with him for the past couple years He's a good guy who calls it like it is, to a fault perhaps because some people just dont want to hear it and then retaliate. And this is funny There's no way he's making those phone calls. Lol. Maybe your wife should stop answering the phone. lol. Or, Maybe the call is coming from inside the house. Haha..
Angry Taxpayer March 30, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Joe, so you believe thesePatch readers are as gullible as you? In that case, I've got a friend who's Doctor told his cleaning crew that his pizza delivery person thinks that Lord Baden Powell would think the roads in unincorporated Worth Township are so bad that the taxpayers are getting fleeced and that the 15 minutes the current board puts in really shows the disregard they have for us.
Angry Taxpayer March 30, 2013 at 05:32 PM
No, we don't work for Worth Township Jack.
Johnny O'Screwneighbor March 30, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Brian H, John O'Sullivan, just like Mike Carberry, was an appointed, temporary Illinois state rep. On their last day in office they both voted in favor of a 67% state income tax hike. Magically they both were appointed to Cook County jobs after their unelected term ended. If you call that a good guy, I'd hate to see who you think is a bad guy.
Judge for Yourself April 01, 2013 at 12:49 PM
John O’Sullivan, Worth: Kristen McQueary January 5, 2011 - 8:20PM Two lame-duck Southland representatives now are positioned to vote on the state’s biggest income tax hike. Worth Township Democratic Committeeman John O’Sullivan and Mike Carberry, both of Oak Lawn, hold the title of state representative after two seats opened unexpectedly last year. The retirements of Jim Brosnahan and Kevin Joyce prompted what now appears to be a nicely choreographed tango for a tax hike. Because O’Sullivan and Carberry have nothing to lose - both will step down when the legislative session adjourns next week. Illinois workers could face a 67 percent increase in the tax, from 3 percent to 5 percent.
Judge for Yourself April 01, 2013 at 12:51 PM
(Both voted Increase!) And, however O’Sullivan and Carberry vote, voters in the 35th and 36th House districts have no one to hold accountable during the 2012 election cycle. Neither Carberry nor O’Sullivan returned several calls for comment. That’s not leadership. It’s cowardice. http://southtownstar.suntimes.com/news/mcqueary/3173138-452/tax-carberry-income-state-sullivan.html
Big Mac April 01, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Lorraine, Please do your homework. How can you possibly call the Community First Party political novices? Moody has been a top Madigan worker for over 20 years. McMahon is chair of 2 poilitical action committees. Roche and Dietrich were on the Cook County payroll. Roche's brother owns Obama.com and raised hundreds of thousands for him. These are political animals, not novices.
Big Mac April 01, 2013 at 03:50 PM
I forgot about Hanlon. He is a product of the 19th Ward Democrat Machine, having donated thousands to them. He is a professional lobbyist for gambling and liquor interests. Novice? Hardly.
Inspector General Was Right April 01, 2013 at 05:50 PM
Lorraine, Mr. O'Sullivan is controlling every aspect of this so-called campaign for reform. Pleasant conversation? Get back to readers in Nov? Are you kidding? You dont see anything wrong with a man with questionable ethics O'Sullivan heading a slate for reform? He really charmed you didn't he? Why don't you ask him some tough questions and write a really great story about his numerous scandals? Why don't you ask him what he plans on getting out of this? Johnny O as he likes to be called is not an innocent man. Don't voters deserve to know what they are being conned into? Kevin Hughes is no more than a sacrificial lamb. You can't be that blind Lorraine. Respectfully requesting you talk now not in November for the sake of the voters.
Inspector General Was Right April 01, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Your right Big Mac. I grew up in the 19th ward. Hanlons very active in ward politics.
R.W.Voter April 01, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Sometimes you have to look at the inner workings of the campaign, I am not a resident, but in traveling through Worth Township, I notice one of the Community First candidates who is obvously without much mention in their signage, The candidate running for Assessor is only mentioned in a few signs. John Dietrick is the only one who has the credentials for the job on that side of the ticket. Thank you
Just asking April 05, 2013 at 04:53 PM
Why, because he's Mike Madigan's nephew??????
concerned res April 05, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Its funny Burke running for Mayor of merrionette park has claimed bankruptcy twice foreclosed on 2 homes and had every car he ever owned repossessed he is a cook county sheriff that couldnt pass his physical but his political pull got him the job anyways his wife has been arrested for writing fake checks these are the ppl that we let run us his record alone should not allow for him to be a police officer he is so far in debt he wont be able to refuse a bribe cook county at its finest oh yeah just search is name in the dockets u will find all the info on him what a joke
elizabeth McMahon April 05, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Elected in 1997 and still in office. All other issues aside I think is reason enough for all sensible voting citizans of Worth Township to vote out the present slate and elect new , motivated qualified candidates,who are willing to serve. i say Vote for Community First Punch 85 on April 9th'

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