If you’re interested in the City’s efforts to control and remediate its flooding problems – or if you’re interested in how the City might be taking on tens of millions of dollars of long-term bonded debt – then show up tomorrow morning (Saturday, March 8) at City Hall (505 Butler Place) at 9:00 a.m. for a special meeting of the Park Ridge City Council to discuss the continuing saga of flood control.
For years we have argued for the City’s undertaking a plan for remediating both the sewer back-up and the overland flooding that plagues much/most of our community. One reason we supported then-ald. Dave Schmidt in his mayoral campaign against then-mayor Howard Frimark in 2009 was Schmidt’s promise to meaningfully address this problem while Frimark fiddled with the Uptown TIF, the façade improvement program, and other giveaways of our public tax dollars to private entities.
And Schmidt has done just that.
He created the City’s Flood Control Task Force, which expended substantial effort in collecting data and providing a lot of valuable input from both an expert’s and resident’s perspective. And Schmidt spearheaded the City Council’s hiring of Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. to provide a comprehensive analysis of Park Ridge flooding problems.
Unfortunately, kind of like the saying about how God answers all prayers but sometimes the answer is “no,” the Burke study and follow-up analysis produced a number of remediation projects – but with some major sticker-shock: $2.3 million for flood relief to just 23 homes in the Mayfield Estates neighborhood in the 2nd Ward, near Maine East; and another $16.6 million for the Northwest Park neighborhood, also in the 2nd Ward.
That’s basically $19 million and counting – because we all know how the costs of these kinds of projects tend to grow like Topsy – to provide flood relief to only two neighborhoods, leaving the rest of the City standing at the altar, ankle-to-knee deep in groundwater and/or sewage back-up. Throw in the third main flood relief target area west of the Park Ridge Country Club, at another $80 million, and we’re looking at $100 million of long-term bonded debt that still leaves most of the City to fend for itself.
In our January 17 post, we suggested that the fairest way to undertake the staggering costs of these projects – which, if successful, could add tens of thousands of dollars to the value of those homes in the remediated neighborhoods – would be by a combination of City funds and a special assessment for the benefitted homes through the creation of Special Service Areas (“SSA”s). Alternatively, we suggested a City-wide referendum.
Since then, the City has begun to look into both of those options, as can be seen from the SSA Memorandum and the Referendum Memorandum for tomorrow’s meeting. These two options apparently have infuriated the folks in those neighborhoods who have been working for months to portray themselves as “victims” (of whom, precisely?) in the hopes of guilting our City officials into mortgaging the City’s future primarily for these victims’ private economic benefit.
Leading the charge for what amounts to a major Second Ward windfall is Ald. Nick Milissis (2nd), who has done an excellent job of firing up his “base” with e-mails and Facebook posts like his most recent one from Wednesday:
WE ARE SECOND WARD CITIZENS NOT SECOND CLASS CITIZENS.
Reading the packet for the Special Council Meeting to take place this Saturday March 8, 2014 it is apparent from the material included that some of our elected officials want to treat the residents of the Second Ward as if though they are a lower class subgroup of this city. The staff has been directed to produce memos that introduce concepts such as Special Service Areas and Advisory Referenda. NEVER I repeat NEVER has an area in the city been subject to this proposed discrimination and derogatory treatment. The City has never put a flood relief project to referendum nor has it ever passed on the costs directly to the victims of the flooding. Yet this is exactly what some aldermen will propose this Saturday. Instead of pitting areas of the city and residents against each other the council should be treating these projects as what they are; a continuation and a piece of an overall flood management plan for the entire city of Park Ridge. Let’s stop with the diversions and let’s assume our responsibility as a city for the health and safety of our citizens.
Frankly, we like the idea of aldermen advocating vigorously for their constituents. And we also like the idea of other aldermen and citizens – like ourselves – vigorously challenging that advocacy, especially when it smacks of private greed and class and/or regional warfare.
So we will take this opportunity to remind Ald. Milissis that NEVER, we repeat NEVER, has such a limited area of the City demanded the kind of expenditures and long-term bonded indebtedness Milissis is demanding for his constituents – other than the Uptown TIF.
How’s that one working for us, Alderman?
And NEVER, we repeat NEVER, has the City committed the kind of expenditures and long-term bonded indebtedness Milissis is demanding for his constituents – other than the aforementioned Uptown TIF.
Let’s be painfully honest, Alderman: what you are tele-marketing as a mere “continuation and a piece of an overall flood management plan for the entire city of Park Ridge” will basically hogtie and hamstring the City in addressing other pieces of overall flood management for the rest of the City’s neighborhoods and residents for the foreseeable future. What you’re proposing is nothing less than making sure your constituents win the race to empty what’s left in the public trough.
And let’s be even more painfully honest, Alderman: You don’t want a referendum because you know you can’t sell such a fundamentally dishonest, unfair and profligate initiative to the rest of this community. And you don’t want SSA’s because many/most(?) of your most vocal constituents are shameless freeloaders who are counting on there being enough spineless aldermen to cave in to these demands and pay the entire cost – totaling as much as $100,000 per household – of their flood control.
As we’ve seen with the financially disastrous Uptown TIF, once the bonds are issued and the money is spent, there’s no do-over. Once that debt service commitment is made, everything else must take a backseat to it – including the City’s ability to maintain its current level of services and to react to future challenges – unless the City jacks up its taxes substantially or watches its bond rating plummet.
Meanwhile, those residents directly reaping the benefit of all that debt and debt service can watch their property values rise dramatically as their homes lose the “we flood” designation. And when those new taxes get too high and/or our bond rating drops, they can pack up and sell their properties – and pocket the enhanced profits provided by their fellow taxpayers’ financing.
Do you really want to talk about “pitting areas of the city and residents against each other,” Alderman?
To read or post comments, click on title.