It is the reason that first responders are held in high esteem in Oak Lawn. When people deal with the Firefighters, paramedics, or police officers they know that they are receiving highly trained and competent responses to their emergencies.
It has been that way for decades in Oak Lawn. But they didn’t provide the services alone. It was done with terrific team work. That team work starts with Village Administrations that are willing to make public safety a priority rather than just a campaign slogan.
Shortly after winning election, Mayor Sandra Bury and the majority of Trustees voted to outsource the backbone of public safety in Oak Lawn. They fired 20 union 911 Dispatching employees and contracted with a private company to provide the services.
The complaints have been overwhelming about the quality of service with police officers, despite a “gag order” being instituted by the Police Chief and fire personnel have documented hundreds of problems. We’ve also reported on complaints from citizens.
The response from the administration?
Well, first they denied there were any complaints. Police Chief Michael Murray even issued a memo that made it seem like he had no idea what was happening in the department. Eventually, the village “found” the complaints.
So the next step was to minimize those problems with Trustee Alex Olejniczak laughingly calling those complaints “concerns”. Trustee Terry Vorderer is even worse since he is still publicly stating that nobody has ever complained to him. Perhaps he’s been sleeping for the last year at board meetings.
Last week the dynamic administration that campaigned on transparency and public safety held an “open house” led by and paid for by Norcomm, the company holding the lucrative no bid contract. What came out of that meeting was shocking because it misrepresented the past, the present and the future.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen claimed that it was the past village board that initiated the requests for proposals that resulted in the contract. That seems like political spin from an officer who is supposed to be, but never seems to be, above politics.
The past board agreed with Deetjen’s recommendation to use the RFP process as a tool to gauge the value of privatization and force the union to make concessions. Despite Sandra Bury’s comments to the contrary, the union members agreed to concessions even though it had a contract.
Deetjen then recommended to the current board to award the contract despite the concessions. As Deetjen is fond of saying, “those are the facts ladies and gentlemen.”
That’s right, you can’t re-write history.
That didn’t stop Bury from hawking the story successfully to another media outlet, which ate up the story like finger sandwiches. It is the same publication that reported that residents in another town were “supportive” of a Village’s decision to cut 1/3 of its police force. The video on Channels 5, 7 and 9 News told a story of widespread discontent with the idea.
Sandra Bury was determined to get her story out on blogs and in some cases in the media. Part of that story included ridiculous statements about the salaries of 911 dispatchers while conveniently forgetting that some compensation was inflated by the village’s refusal to hire enough dispatchers in favor of paying overtime. It is the same idea they’ve used with the firefighters.
Mike Tillman of Norcomm went even further in disparaging the fired dispatchers saying that they weren’t qualified. It’s strange to be talking about qualifications because you never saw all these complaints when the old dispatchers were providing the link between residents and first responders.
At no time did Deetjen, Bury or anyone else operating the open house tell the public how they were going to improve the services for the public. Instead, they pretended that problems don’t exist.
That attitude puts the public in danger and places every firefighter and police officer in danger.