Public Watchdog.org

A Little Yang, A Little Yin, A Left Hook To The Taxpayers’ Chin

09.23.16

It has been almost two years since we first started writing – in our posts of 11.28.14 and 12.23.14 – about Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s efforts to catch and cull non-resident “parasite” students.

So we were pleased to read a recent Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“12 students removed from District 64 for non-residency; background checks expanded,” 09.16.16) reporting that 12 students were removed from D-64 schools last year because it was discovered that they didn’t live in the District full-time. At a rough cost of $14,000 per student, that’s almost $170,000 a year in savings.

Upon seeing that article we went to the District’s website and found the Residency Update report that the District’s investigator is currently working on 9 more cases.

The H-A story, but not the District’s report, states that D-64 Chief School Business Official Luann Kolstad pegged the cost of the residency investigations and one formal hearing at $77,464, which seems a bit stiff. It’s also hard to understand because…SURPRISE!…the non-transparent District apparently offered the H-A reporter no explanation. And, presumably, the H-A reporter didn’t think to ask for one.

But saving the taxpayers a net $90,000+ seems to make it a worthwhile exercise and expense.

So we’re offering D-64 a rousing “Huzzah!” for getting something right.

But because yin can’t seem to exist without yang, we can’t help but note that the published agenda for this Monday night’s D-64 Board meeting includes something very wrong: “Ratification of PREA/Board Agreement.”

No Board packet has been posted on the District’s website, so we don’t know whether the opaque Board and Administration might actually deign to include the new contract among the rest of the meeting materials. But we highly doubt it.

After telling the taxpayers to pound sand for the past few weeks, it’s unlikely that Supt. Laurie Heinz would let “Boss” Borrelli and the rest of the Board lemmings do anything transparent, even something as worthless as an 11th-hour publication of the contract.

But if you don’t care about the Falcons v. the Saints on Monday night football, and are willing to risk missing the first few minutes of the Clinton v. Trump circus, swing by the Roosevelt School gym and bear witness to non-representative, Star Chamber local government at pretty much its absolute worst.

You are likely to hear Heinz, Borrelli and/or the lemmings brag about how wonderful they are, how wonderful the PREA folks are, and how wonderful the new contract is – including new spending that will make that $90,000+ savings from residency checks seem like chump change.

Then you can return home to the relative honesty and sincerity of Hill and Don.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Let’s Go To The Videotape!

09.19.16

There is a famous East Coast sportscaster, Warner Wolf, who would punctuate his television reporting of game results with his catchphrase “Let’s go to the videotape” so that viewers could see the play he was describing.

If you want to see the difference between people who belong on the School Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and the folks we’ve actually put there, take a scant 24 minutes of your time to “go to the videotape of last Monday night’s D-64 Board meeting – starting at the 1:03:20 mark.

At the risk of gilding a perfectly good lily we will tell you that, in less than 15 of those 24 minutes, resident Jayne Reardon and resident Joan Sandrik articulated more sound public policy and more critical thinking, respectively, than has emerged from the folks sitting at the big table so far this year. And maybe stretching into last year as well.

There also was a third speaker, Ms. Reardon’s husband Mike (a Library trustee), who had to play truth squad for Board president Tony “Who’s the Boss” Borrelli’s first-ever “Citizens’ Corner” sideshow because Borrelli apparently couldn’t even quote Reardon accurately from the previous meeting.

Ms. Reardon – the executive director of the Illinois Supreme Court’s commission on professionalism – led off by making Board member Tom Sotos her beyotch when the latter foolishly tried to spar with her over the Board’s lack of transparency and its cowardly abuse of FOIA in continuing to hide the terms of the tentative contract with the PREA from the taxpayers until after the Board locks those same taxpayers into what is likely to be a 4-year, $200 million-plus deal that the “Boss,” Sotos and their fellow lemmings will rubber-stamp any day now.

We’ve already placed a $1 bet on that new contract requiring that the next contract negotiation 4 years hence require closed-sessions, just like the current one negotiated in 2012 by Board negotiators John Heyde and Pat Fioretto saddled the current Board this time around.

Simple Sotos actually asked Ms. Reardon whether, if the contract would be published in advance of a Board vote on it, he might actually have to listen to all the taxpayers who have comments about it; and if he chooses to listen to those taxpayers, whether he would be expected to let those opinions dictate his vote on the contract.

Seriously, he actually asked her that.

Borrelli jumped in and tried to stanch Sotos’ bleeding-from-the-ears after Sotos asked Ms. Reardon: “What does [publishing the contract] have to do with transparency?”

Seriously, he actually asked that, too.

Translation: “What does being transparent have to do with transparency?”

It’s apparently all Greek to Sotos – literally and figuratively – as can be seen from a string of posts on the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate Facebook page which include a colloquy between Sotos and the editor of this blog that features a legal analysis (highlighted in yellow) of why there would appear to be no legal consequences from the Board’s or any individual Board member’s publication of the tentative PREA contract.

Batting second was Sandrik, who has become a semi-regular at those meetings, thereby displaying both an unusually high threshold of pain and the public-spiritedness to speak truth to abuse of power.

[SPOILER ALERT: Watch how Board member Vicki Lee – who has yet to prove she’s anything but a rubber-stamp for more spending with less transparency and accountability – puts her clasped hands to her forehead and appears to slip into a trance about eight seconds after Sandrik gets to the podium; and then returns to what passes for consciousness just as Sandrik concludes her remarks. It’s precious.]

Monday night Sandrik noted that while no D-64 schools were among Chicago Magazine’s recent Top 20, the more important fact was that 15 of those Top 20 schools reportedly have lower educational costs than D-64.

Sandrik also took proper umbrage at “Boss” Borrelli’s and Simple Sotos’ suggestions that Park Ridge taxpayers like herself might not be smart enough to understand the contract language because we didn’t see and hear what went on during the negotiations – you know, those negotiations which Heyde and Fioretto, four years ago, chose to hide from us by the terms of that 2012 contract; and which the terms of the new contract are likely to hide from us in 2020, by which time the “Boss” and most/all of the current lemmings (and perhaps Supt. Heinz, finance czarina Luann Kolstad and propaganda minister Bernadette Tramm as well) will have pulled an Elvis and left the building.

We’ve read all 61 pages of the current contract and we’re betting Sandrik has, too. And any literate adult with either a college degree or a good high school education should have no problem understanding its most significant terms and conditions.

Once Sandrik concluded, the “Boss” took the floor to launch the maiden voyage of his “Citizens’ Corner” with a robotic reading from a script that we’d bet good money was written for him by Tramm – presumably with some editing from his ventriloquist, Heinz, who has yet to be observed drinking water while the “Boss” is talking.

We could provide a play-by-play and commentary of that effort, but we’re stopping here because nothing besides those 24 minutes of that meeting video can do them justice.

So watch, listen, and learn for yourself why Mark Twain famously said: “God created the Idiot for practice: then he invented the School Board.”

And thereby insulted the Idiot.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Taxpayers: Prepare To Be Screwed The “D-64 Way” Monday Night (Updated)

09.10.16

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass has often written about the secretive, unaccountable and corrupt manner in which Chicago city government, in all its various forms, does business as usual. Kass has branded it the “Chicago Way” – which, when spoken correctly, requires approximately the same distasteful inflection as “child molester.”

Roughly two weeks ago the Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School Dist. 64 announced that it had reached a tentative agreement-in-principle with the Park Ridge Education Association (the “PREA”) that was being presented to the PREA membership for ratification. Once it was ratified by PREA membership, the D-64 Board would vote to approve it.

But according to a Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“’Tentative’ contract reached for District 64 teachers, board president says,” 08.23.16), School Board approval of that agreement would occur without the District’s taxpayers getting a chance to see, read, and comment on it in advance of the vote.

That kind of opacity and outright contempt for the taxpayers is what has become institutionalized as the “D-64 Way.”

In case you don’t quite appreciate the absurdity and arrogance of the D-64 Board’s operating in this fashion, permit us to lay it out for you.

The PREA negotiating team reached the tentative agreement-in-principle that its members (the D-64 teachers) – presumably after being given an opportunity to read the agreement – get to vote on. And for all we know, they’ve already done so.

On the other hand, the D-64 negotiating team led by Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and his ventriloquist, Supt. Laurie Heinz, reached that same tentative agreement-in-principle at the same time. But unlike the D-64 teachers, the District’s constituent taxpayers who will be bound to pay for that contract over the next four years aren’t even going to get to see, much less read, it before the D-64 Board votes to bind those constituent taxpayers for the next four years.

Does that sound honest, transparent and accountable? Or even sane? No, but that’s the D-64 Way.

We can find nothing in the current contract (which controlled the negotiations that produced the new contract) or in state law that requires the terms of the new tentative agreement-in-principle to be kept secret from the taxpayers once it has been released for PREA teacher ratification. Even “Boss” Borrelli admitted as much in that H-A article, noting only that the District’s “practice” supported keeping the terms of the new contract secret from the taxpayers.

That’s Borrelli’s story – most likely written for him by the District’s propaganda minister, Bernadette Tramm – and he’s sticking to it. Because that’s the D-64 Way.

But the real reason for keeping the new contract a secret from the taxpayers is that publishing it in advance of any Board vote on it substantially increases the likelihood that suspicious and/or irate taxpayers might show up at that D-64 Board meeting and ask some tough questions about the contract, and about the “Boss” and his Board that cut that deal.

Tough questions are considered “no bueno” by the “Boss,” his ventriloquist, and their lemmings on the Board…because answering tough questions and the hard-edged comments that often accompany them is not the D-64 Way.

So with the agenda for this Monday night’s “special” Board meeting stating that there will be yet another closed-session starting at 6:00 p.m. during which “collective negotiating matters between the District and its employees or their representatives…“ will be discussed, we can’t help but suspect that such a discussion might be the prelude to a vote to approve the new contract once the Board emerges from that closed session.

Especially with the PREA Governing Board conveniently scheduled to meet from 4:00 t0 6:00 p.m. that same afternoon, presumably to formally authorize the results of the ratification vote that already should have taken place.

If you think that the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) notice requirements for such meetings prevents such a vote, think again.

IOMA requires the posting of a meeting agenda 48 hours in advance of the meeting. The D-64 Board, therefore, has already met that requirement. And even though the agenda doesn’t expressly provide for a contract vote, the Board could still come out of closed session and vote to approve the contract. That’s because Section 2.02(a) of IOMA is written with sufficient ambiguity that enemies of transparency and accountability – i.e., a majority of the D-64 Board members – can claim that a contract approval vote is “germane to a subject on the agenda”: the collective bargaining item on the closed-session portion of that agenda.

Making up quasi-legal, or legal but dishonest, ways to fleece the taxpayers while keeping them in the dark is the D-64 Way.

And don’t think for a New York minute that the malefactors on that Board won’t do it, even if one or more (but not a majority) of them makes a grand-but-dishonest (or dishonest-but-grand?) gesture of voting against that contract – like Borrelli did four years ago – purely as political opportunism. Such theatrics are easy when they know in advance, from the earlier closed-session discussion, that their vote is meaningless because the contract already has Board majority support.

So don’t be surprised if that’s the way it goes down Monday night, with the “Boss,” the lemmings and Heinz praising the unseen contract as a masterpiece of collective bargaining, farsightedness and fairness to everybody.

Even if those of us paying the bill have no choice but to take their word for it.

Because that’s the D-64 Way.

UPDATE (09.12.16): Now that the Board packet for tonight’s (09.12.16) meeting has been published we note that the “Upcoming Meetings and Topics” section shows that “Ratification of PREA/Board Agreement” is scheduled for the September 26 meeting at Roosevelt School.

So we’ll take that at face value. For now.

Meanwhile, at least a few citizens appear to have taken it upon themselves to have FOIAed the District for the contract, term sheets, and other documents. Not surprisingly, they’ve been stonewalled with the excuse that the language of the PREA tentative agreement is “still being reviewed and edited by the PREA negotiating team and the District’s legal counsel before it can be finalized for approval and signatures” and, therefore, the agreement is exempt from FOIA disclosure under exception 7(1)(p).

We’ve also heard that some teachers have copies of the tentative agreement, but we don’t know whether those are rank-and-file PREA member-teachers or members of the PREA negotiating team.

But the bottom line here remains the same: As Borrelli acknowledged to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, no legal restriction prevents the District’s disclosure of the tentative agreement-in-principle, on the District’s past practice. And the FOIA exception to disclosure invoked by the District in rejecting taxpayers’ requests for copies of the contract is a voluntary one, not a mandatory one. Which means D-64 could produce that agreement if it wanted to.

It just doesn’t want to…because “Boss” Borrelli and his lemmings don’t want the scrutiny, the questions and the comments those contract terms would likely generate, at least not until AFTER the Board approves that contract and there’s nothing the taxpayers can do about it.

Whether it’s stupidity, corruption, or something else, the taxpayers of this community deserve better.

To read or post comments, click on title.

When A New Fire Engine Is More Than Just A New Fire Engine

09.07.16

Several weeks ago we took a few shots at the Park Ridge Fire Dept. and Chief Sorensen in our post: “Fire Chief’s Salary Beef Too Little, Too Late” (06.16.16)

As we wrote back then, we believed Chief S was better than that particular performance would indicate. So we’re happy to read a Sept. 1 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate about how he and the department’s executive officer Paul Lisowski were able to secure a FEMA grant that will provide $500,000 toward the replacement of the department’s 21 year-old fire engine that had become a maintenance problem due to the almost 130,000 miles it has logged.

The cost to Park Ridge: $50,000.

That warrants a big “Huzzah!” to Chief S, EO Lisowski, and whoever else made this possible.

Fortunately, that $500,000 grant comes with another dividend that should not be overlooked: the trenchant observation by Chief S that his department’s inability to get the new engine other than by this grant was the result of the City’s financial condition.

For those folks who just can’t seem to figure out public-sector economics, the idea that the City does not have the available cash to spring for a new fire engine might be scoff-worthy. They tend to see government, in its every form and iteration, as some kind of uber-wealthy uncle always able to pick up the dinner tab and still indiscriminately dole out virtually unlimited funds.

But the City’s inability to easily buy new fire trucks – at a cool half mil a pop – is just one of the many consequences of almost two decades of foolish spending, idiotic borrowing, irresponsible under-taxing, and sweetheart deals under former mayors Wietecha, Marous and Frimark, aided and abetted by at least one manipulative and outright dishonest city manager, enabled by a gaggle of complicit alder-dunces.

Those mistakes are still tying the hands and purse-strings of the current mayor and Council, and will continue to do so for years to come. But beginning in 2009 with the administration of the late mayor Dave Schmidt, the adoption of more transparent and accountable taxing, budgeting and spending policies and practices started to turn things around. And that turnaround has continued under the stewardship of Acting Mayor Marty Maloney and the current Council,

Unfortunately, that steady course of improvement over the past 7 years is not yet sufficiently institutionalized to the point where it can’t be blown up with just a few injudicious and expensive ideas and/or decisions, especially if they involve large amounts of long-term bonded debt. Should you need an object lesson to understand this concept, look no further than the City’s foolish issuance of tens of millions of dollars of 20-plus year General Obligation bonds a decade ago, used effectively to subsidize the private Uptown Redevelopment project pushed through without even giving the taxpayers a chance to express their opinion via a referendum.

Equally problematic is what appears to be an increasing number of newer residents who talk and act like every one of our units of local government is sitting on its own gold mine staffed by a contingent of elves who simply dig up a few more shiny nuggets anytime teachers and administrators want raises, parents want hot lunches, and kids want Chromebooks.

Yes, Kathy Meade, f/k/a “Kathy Panattoni Meade,” that means you.

On September 1 Ms. Meade posted the H-A story about the fire engine grant on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page, and then commented about this being “a phenomenal opportunity to get a brand new state-of-the-art engine for the price of an entry-level Lexus.

Such childlike naïvete (or freeloader-ism, take your pick) completely ignores the tens of millions of dollars Park Ridge taxpayers send to Washington (i.e., FEMA) and Springfield each year with only a tiny fraction of that treasure being returned through things like FEMA fire engine grants – while federal and state politicians use the rest of our tax dollars to fund other communities’ fire trucks, police cruisers, community centers, libraries and schools even though some/many of those communities are no more economically-distressed than Park Ridge.

Maybe even less.

So when all is said and done, we didn’t get a new fire engine for the price of an entry-level Lexus: We got a new fire engine for the price of several Lexus dealerships.

Meanwhile, we’re now into the fourth decade of corrupt Madigan Democrat rule, aided and abetted by complicit and/or corrupt RINO governors Thompson, Edgar and No. 16627-424, that has turned state government into one big shell game, except with several dozen shells to most effectively bamboozle the clueless taxpayers. That’s how Madigan, Cullerton, et al. can keep on robbing Peter to pay Paul – and Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, Jude, Thaddeus, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John, Paul, Cosmas and Damian – without looking at the business end of the federal indictments they so richly deserve.

Simply by throwing communities like Park Ridge an occasional bone. Or fire engine.

Don’t get us wrong: a fire truck from FEMA beats a sharp stick in the eye any day. And you can be darn sure that if we didn’t get it, Rockford…or Fargo ND…or Athens GA…or Bakersfield CA…would. That’s the kind of merry-go-round spending that keeps the freeloaders hooked like crackheads, and our governments growing like Topsy.

So another round of applause for Chief S and EO Lisowski for getting us that shiny new fire engine for the price of a Lexus.

Entry-level.

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Labor Day 2016: Time For Us To Stop Going Gently

09.05.16

As another Labor Day signals the unofficial end to the summer and, this year, the unofficial beginning to the November election season, we want to remind our readers of all the wonderful things that private-sector labor unions have brought about for ALL workers in this country, including:

  • The minimum wage;
  • The 8-hour work day;
  • Overtime pay;
  • Holiday pay;
  • The 40-hour work week/work-free weekends;
  • Social Security;
  • Paid (and unpaid) sick leave;
  • Paid vacations;
  • Paid work breaks, including lunch;
  • Child labor laws;
  • Pensions, including 401(k)s;
  • Unemployment insurance;
  • Workplace safety;
  • Employee and family health insurance;
  • Collective bargaining rights;
  • Anti-discrimination laws; and
  • Whistleblower protection laws.

Not surprisingly, NONE of the foregoing was brought about by public-sector unions – those late-blooming organizations that have colluded and conspired with crooked Illinois politicians (redundancy intended) to give us:

  • Automatic, non-merit based raises unrelated to performance;
  • Underfunded constitutionally-guaranteed defined-benefit pensions;
  • Every holiday off;
  • 185-day work years (for, e.g., D-64 teachers);
  • No accountability for under-performance or outright failure; and
  • Virtual impossibility of being significantly disciplined or fired.

When it comes to the private sector, labor and capital have been able to strike an uneasy – albeit not always equal – balance of supply and demand, increasingly distorted by the unfair competitive effects of globalization.

In the public sector here in Illinois, however, unionized labor has come to dominate capital (i.e., tax dollars) specifically because of public-sector labor’s unique immunity to both the laws of supply and demand and the unfair competition of globalization.

So as we have done in the past, we praise the private-sector trade unionism that created a middle class and gave us the highest standard of living in the world. And we caution against public-sector faux-unionism that, in approximately 30 years of collusion with our corrupt Democratic politicians and their RINO co-conspirators, has driven Illinois to the economic and social bottom of the 50 states of the Union.

And we encourage our fellow citizens to not go gently into that dark night our corrupt politicians and their co-conspirators have created; and from which they have prospered.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Is It Time For A Parking Deck In Uptown?

08.31.16

Today we’re going to give that clown car more commonly known as the Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 an undeserved break from the barbecuing they’ve earned with: (a) their deceitful and secretive closed-session deliberations about raises for D-64 administrators; and, (b)worse yet, their deceitful and brazen refusal to post the new teachers’ contract well in advance of its being voted on.

We’ll get back to them soon enough.

Today’s topic is why the City of Park Ridge needs, or at least should have, a parking deck in Uptown that can hold in excess of 100 vehicles. And why it should be built on the land currently serving as a City parking lot on Summit at Euclid.

Is parking a terrible problem in Uptown?

Not really, except for those folks who believe they are entitled to a spot within 20 feet of their destination and then whine about how bad the parking is when they don’t get one.

Nevertheless, being proactive in this situation is better than being reactive, especially where the success of our newest and older restaurants, as well as the other businesses in that area, will increasingly depend on building a larger and larger customer base by luring non-residents who will want reasonably convenient parking.

Is a parking deck optimal? No. Many people will drive around for 5 or 10 minutes looking for surface parking rather than park in a deck, much less in an underground garage.

But it’s not too difficult to conceive of a time when we really won’t have enough surface spaces to satisfy what we hope will be a growing demand. So a deck that can park at least 100 cars would be a welcome addition.

And what better place to put it than on property already off the tax rolls because it’s already owned by the City? A four-story deck at the corner of Summit and Ridge – with a three story building sitting to the west and a 5/6-story building across Euclid to the east – would not be an overwhelming presence.

How to do it?

We would prefer to see a private developer purchase the land from the City so that it goes back on the tax rolls like it was before the City acquired it about a decade ago. Let it resume generating property taxes, at the higher commercial rate, so long as a covenant is imposed on the land that requires it to be a parking deck – at least until some future City Council decides to remove that covenant in pursuit of a higher and better use.

If that doesn’t work, the City might consider incentivizing a developer to front the design and construction costs by offering a multi-year ground lease where the developer pays some nominal “rent” and perhaps shares parking revenues with the City.

The third alternative is for the City to fund, build and operate the deck. But we’ve often said that if the private sector doesn’t think something is worth investing in, it probably isn’t worth the taxpayers’ investment, either.

If there truly is a “need” for more parking in Uptown, a private developer is far more capable of determining that need and its value than a bunch of government bureaucrats. Or a bunch of elected officials who know nothing about the parking business. Or some hired-gun consultant who will produce whatever kind of analysis the bureaucrats or politicians who hired him want.

Whether this is an idea whose time has come, or not, remains to be seen.

But the best way to find out is to put that City lot on the market and see what kind of interest it draws.

Tick tock, City.

To read or post comments, click on title.

“Boss” Borrelli And D-64 Board Says “[Blank] You” To Taxpayers On New Teachers’ Contract

08.25.16

Some day we hope to be able to write something positive about the Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.

Today is not that day.

For those of you who haven’t paid attention to the clown car masquerading as representative government at D-64, this past Monday night the members of the Board of Education marched out of another of their regular and customary closed-session meetings behind president Tony “Who’s The Boss” Borrelli and collectively gave a giant middle finger to the District’s taxpayers.

First, the Board unanimously voted to give raises to all the administrators for whom Supt. Laurie Heinz requested them. While 1% raises based on little more than an increase in the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”) are stupid and irresponsible, the reported $48,763 cost is barely a rounding error to the District’s $70 million-plus budget. By D-64’s profligate standards, that’s almost frugal.

And according to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article about that meeting (“Raises approved for 19 District 64 administrators,” August 23), it came with a refreshingly honest admission from Ms. Heinz:

“Our [administrators] don’t have a union; they don’t have tenure. They have me to advocate for them. So that is what I’m here to do today.”

We’re sure glad she cleared that up because, for those of you keeping score, we now know that the administrators have Heinz advocating for them; and the teachers have their union, the Park Ridge Education Association (“PREA”), advocating for them. Those advocates have done quite well for their constituents, judging by the high-pay-without-performance they enjoy.

We taxpayers, however, are left with the likes of “Boss” Borrelli, vice-president Scott Zimmerman, Dathan Paterno, Vicki Lee, Bob Johnson, Tom Sotos and Mark Eggemann as our “advocates.”

With apologies to both President Obama and ISIS, these school board members are the real “junior varsity.”

The H-A reports that Heinz initially wanted a 1.9% pay boost for her administrators, plus something called a “market adjustment performance bonus.” That 1.9%, however, was just for optics – a wink-and-nod number contrived in one of those weekly closed-session meetings to give the Board some faux bragging rights about how tough it was in beating that 1.9% down to 1% that might fool the rubes.

The set-up for that Kabuki occurred back on August 8 when the “Boss” and Scotty Zimm first called for CPI-based raises – even though the national CPI had risen only 0.8% over last year and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged the Chicago area’s CPI as having actually fallen by 0.1% over the past 12 months.

If the “Boss” and Zimm were on the legit, that would have meant no CPI-based raises.

But of course they weren’t.

So when residents Steve Schildwachter and Mike Reardon challenged the Board on such raises without clearly documented performance justifications, the Board spent almost 15 minutes ripping them with a variety of self-serving, undocumented ipse dixit remarks about the Board’s and Administration’s many accomplishments – all of which you can watch on the meeting video, starting at the 1:57:00 mark and running through the 2:15:00 mark.

We might blow some holes in those Board remarks in a future post, but for now we’ll stop and shift our focus from the undercard to Monday night’s main event: “Boss” Borrelli’s announcement that there’s a new 4-year contract with the PREA.

Don’t expect to hear about its terms or actually read its text anytime soon, when it might actually matter – like before the Board approves it.

According to another August 23 H-A article (“’Tentative’ contract reached for District 64 teachers, board president says”) the “Boss” stated that the contract will not be released to the public (a/k/a, the taxpayers) until after it is approved by both the PREA and the School Board, which is expected to occur next month.

According to Borrelli, the reason for that isn’t any legal requirement but merely the District’s longstanding practice of not informing the taxpayers about teacher contracts before each such contract becomes a fait accompli.

The “Boss” thinks the taxpayers he claims to represent can’t fully appreciate the new contract, negotiated over a seven-month period in secretive closed sessions, without first having an understanding of “all the issues involved,” “the full background of it,” and “the full gist of it” – all the insights which he, his Board and the PREA prevented the taxpayers from acquiring by holding all those negotiations in closed session.

If pressed, Borrelli will insist that those closed sessions aren’t his fault, that the requirement was put into the last contract that he voted against.

But the way to tell whether Borrelli is full of Bolognese on this point – and trying to hide the new contract’s terms so that the taxpayers can’t see what a bad deal it is before it’s approved – is whether there’s a similar closed-session negotiation requirement in this new contract that will bind and gag the future board that negotiates the next contract in 2020.

By then, Borrelli will likely have left the Board and disclaimed any ownership of the high-priced mediocrity (relative to comparable districts, not to the state average and schools in Franklin Park, Calumet City or Effingham) that he and his clown-car passengers have foisted on the District’s taxpayers and students. And by then we expect Heinz to have leveraged her entry-level superintendent position here into a better gig elsewhere, presumably closer to her Vernon Hills home.

That’s why we’re willing to bet the “Boss” one crisp new $1 bill that this latest contract contains another cone-of-silence negotiations provision, along with the same old, same old automatic annual step and lane raises that reward teachers merely for continuing to show up and take some grad courses that may or may not have any measurable effect on their job performance.

Of course, that’s just speculation because the “Boss” and his Oui-Street Board don’t even try to conceal their contempt for the intelligence and public spiritedness of their constituents – especially the more than two-thirds of Park Ridge households who pay more than two-thirds of D-64s taxes but don’t even have a kid in D-64 schools – by doing something as simple and honest as publishing the new contract NOW.

Which is why they so brazenly give us a Rahm Emanuel salute:

Rahm Emanuel's finger

Except with a full complement of middle-finger joints.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Irresponsible Administrator Raises At D-64 Set The Table For More Teacher Raises

08.20.16

An article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate illustrates most of what is wrong with Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, as run by School Board president Tony “Who’s the Boss?” Borrelli, his sycophantic board members, and Supt. Laurie Heinz.

The article (“Raises for District 64 superintendent, 21 administrators to go before school board,” August 16) reports that Heinz and 21 other administrators will be given raises, including “market adjustments” for those earning less than “what competitive districts pay” – “competitive districts” allegedly being what Heinz calls the “North Cook 40” (“NC40”) and claims to consist of 40 elementary and high school districts in the north/northwest suburbs of Chicago.

We say “allegedly” because the H-A article identified only Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Kenilworth, Northbrook and Wilmette as NC40 districts.  We couldn’t find any reference to the NC40 on the D-64 website, nor could we find it through a Google search. So for all we know, the NC40 is just a figment of Heinz’s imagination.

Not surprisingly, thosse raises and “market adjustments” weren’t earned by measurably better performance either from those administrators or from the schools/students they administer. After all, this is District 64 – where they keep telling us individual performance can’t even be measured, much less rewarded.

According to the H-A article, “Boss” Borrelli justified the “market adjustments” by claiming they are “critical to keep [sic] us on par with our competitors” – without providing one iota of data about how many administrators D-64 has lost to “competitors” because of salaries over the past 5-10 years.  And that’s coming from the same guy who seems unconcerned about getting student performance and rankings “on par with our competitors.”

Board member Scott Zimmerman – who has played “Robin” to Boss Borrelli’s “Batman” every bit as eagerly as he did for John Heyde during Heyde’s “Batman” years – chipped in with the observation that tying raises to the Consumer Price Index is “fair” because, that way, “people are keeping pace with the economy.”

When The Zimmer says “people,” however, he doesn’t mean the taxpayers. He can’t be bothered to think about the many taxpayers who don’t get raises unrelated to their performance or designed to protect them from inflation. In all their years on the Board, neither Zimm nor the Boss have given a rat’s derriere about whether the taxpayers’ incomes are “fair,” or keeping pace with inflation, or leaving them able to pay the raises Heinz and finance czarina Luann Kolstad decide upon, and that the Boss and Zimm keep rubber-stamping.

The Boss’ and Zimm’s only concern is keeping D-64 employment as lucrative, unaccountable and risk-free as possible. Which is why Heinz can shamelessly get away with spouting such nonsense as: “If money were no object, the sky would be the limit in terms of what I would want to offer this group of hard-working professionals” – despite no meaningful performance results, of course.

Chalk that up to Heinz’s being able to spend Other People’s Money (“OPM”) while pawning off activity as achievement, especially her own for which she is paid substantially more than the $205,020 “base salary” which  Kolstad disingenuously slipped past a naïve reporter.

But highlighting yet more fiscal irresponsibility by D-64 management isn’t the real point of this post.

Instead we want to point out the School Board’s latest affront to transparency and accountability, as described in that H-A article. In that regard we direct your attention to the fourth paragraph of that article, which states that these raises “will first be discussed with the school board during a closed meeting” – is there any other kind that matters at D-64? – “on August 22 before a public discussion takes place.” The former clandestine event is scheduled to kick off at 6:00 p.m. with the Kabuki for public consumption starting at 7:30 p.m. after a 7:00 p.m. tour of Washington School, presumably to display the prototype of the not-really-secured vestibule that will almost certainly be added to all the other District schools in the not-too-distant future for several million dollars.

Which means the most predictable scenario is Boss Borrelli leading his lemmings out of their Star Chamber to the sound of “Hallelujahs!” for Heinz and those 21 other administrators as the prelude to the 7:30 p.m. presentment of the two resolutions first published in the Board packet for the August 8 meeting, but presumably with the blanks filled in.

That will leave any taxpayers showing up to bear witness to such folly with no practical ability to analyze the resolutions’ ink-still-wet numbers or formulate meaningful questions and complaints about them before the Board engages in that passes for “debate” and then votes to approve those resolutions. At least that’s what Monday night’s agenda is suggesting.

Ignorant and unprepared is exactly the way Borrelli and Heinz prefer their constituents, especially those constituents who might actually pose a threat to Borrelli’s and Heinz’s hegemony.

Once this administrator salary scam is signed, sealed and delivered it will be time to trot out the next scam: the brand new teachers’ contract.

Just keep an eye on the chimney of 164 South Prospect for the first sign of white smoke.

To read or post comments, click on title

“Freeloaders” Help Make D-64 Education Unsustainable For Other Taxpayers

08.10.16

A common adage from a bygone era – before anyone could make themselves a “victim” just by claiming to be one – was: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

How quaint.

Nowadays, however, while truth remains a legal defense to defamation (libel and slander), truth has no similar power to defend against accusations of political incorrectness – or of being “judgmental” and saying things that are “disrespectful” and “hurtful” – no matter how unreasonable the accusation, and no matter how gossamer-thin and  fragile the accuser’s professed sensibilities.

Hence the whining and faux-outrage about our referring to certain Park Ridge residents as “freeloaders” and certain non-residents as “parasites.”

For readers not up on that vernacular, we use “freeloaders” as shorthand for a description that would otherwise require the 16 words the Merriam-Webster online uses to describe such people: “a person who is supported by or seeks support from another without making an adequate return.” Merriam-Webster lists the arguably more pejorative “bloodsucker,” “leech,“ “moocher” and “sponger” as synonyms. And although it also lists “parasite” as a synonym, we reserve that for non-resident freeloaders who can’t even claim to be paying Park Ridge RE taxes to justify their freeloading.

Not surprisingly, those descriptions offend the freeloaders and the parasites – much bright light offends cockroaches.

Like the fabled emperor who didn’t take kindly to being ridiculed by an honest young lad for walking around buck nekkid after coming to expect his subjects’ foolish awe at his glorious, albeit imaginary, raimant, freeloaders don’t take kindly to being identified as serial appropriators and abusers of Other People’s Money (“OPM”), especially when it’s coming not from far-off Washington but from their neighbors.

But our calling out freeloaders and parasites is not just a gratuitous slap at them and their ilk, or a quest for economy of verbiage. Identifying them and the problems they cause goes to the sustainability and future of Park Ridge as we know it.

How can Park Ridge remain a stable and desirable upper-middle/lower-upper class community when a significant number of residents actually seem to pride themselves on consistently taking out far more in services than they put in via taxes…and then brazenly insist on even more, especially from the schools?

They want free Chromebooks. They want no fees for anything. They want low-cost hot lunches. They want free full-day kindergarten. And that’s just for starters.

As every non-comatose resident should know, Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 spends roughly $14,000 (and rising, naturally) per pupil per year, all in. As best as we can tell from available data, however, the median Park Ridge residence is worth around $365,000 and annually pays less than $9,000 in RE taxes, of which less than $3,000 goes to D-64.

Do the math.

A young family in a median-value home putting just one child through D-64 schools for a typical 9 years (K-8) will receive $126,000 – not factoring in unknown variables like increased school costs, tax increases, inflation, etc. – of “free” education during that same 9-year period. Meanwhile, during those same 9 years that family will pay a mere $27,000 in taxes to D-64.

That’s leaves a $99,000 shortfall that will take an additional 33 years of taxpaying – in addition to those 9 educational years – for that family to equalize.

Add a second kid to the mix and that family is now taking out $252,000 of “free” education while still paying only that same $27,000 in RE taxes to D-64 – pushing the shortfall up to $225,000 and pushing the payback period out to 75 years!

Which means those Park Ridge freeloaders who like to brag on Facebook and elsewhere about how they’ll be moving out of Park Ridge the moment their kids graduate – like locusts moving on after they’ve stripped the fields and consumed everything worth consuming – will NEVER come remotely close to making up any significant part of their kids’ educational cost deficit.

And, worse yet, when that family which still “owes” $99,000 or $252,000 is excess education debt sells its Park Ridge home, it likely will be to another young family that will run up its own comparable deficits before similarly moving on. Leaving those massive debts to be covered entirely by OPM.

Which will drive up the cost for everyone NOT receiving $14,000 – or $28,000 or $42,000 – of “free” education for their $3-4-5,000 of RE taxes paid to D-64. And that will make Park Ridge economically undesirable, if not outright hostile, to all those folks providing the OPM.

Anticipating the carping this post will inspire, we wish to make clear that we share the view of author John Green that the benefit of paying taxes for public schools without actually having kids in them is that it reduces the likelihood of living with a bunch of stupid people. That doesn’t require or justify, however, paying top-shelf prices for a second-shelf product.

Keep that in mind as our overmatched D-64 School Board continues to scheme, in secretive closed session “negotiations,” with the PREA about how to put more tax money in the teachers’ pockets while demanding no more (and no better quality) work that raises the educational rankings to the levels of the Glenviews, Northbrooks and similar higher-end communities who are able to offer better-ranked schools and greater educational value at a similar cost to Park Ridge.

And then ask yourself, your friends and your neighbors this simple question:

How can this madcap tax, borrow and spend carousel that is almost totally dependent on OPM be sustainable?

To read or post comments, click on title.

Is Teaching In D-64 Schools The Best Job In Park Ridge?

08.02.16

As we await the white smoke from the chimney of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 HQ signaling a new contract between the District and the teachers’ union known as the Park Ridge Education Association (“PREA”), we’ve been trying to keep our finger on the pulse of any public discussions about teachers’ pay and benefits since the contract negotiations are being conducted in secret.

So when we heard that the “Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group” Facebook page had a July 19 post about the same Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article we wrote about in our July 26 post, we had to check it out. And what we found was a plea of “Please don’t screw over our teachers. Please don’t screw over our teachers.”

We printed off the entire discussion as of July 30 at 5:20 p.m., all 18 pages of it, which you can read by clicking here. We encourage you to do so, if only to better understand the entitlement mentality that encourages soaring school costs and property taxes while ignoring stagnant-to-sliding performance.

The author of that FB post is someone who, judging from her many posts and comments, views moving to Park Ridge (in her case, from Chicago where her husband reportedly is a CPS teacher) and paying property taxes (reportedly among the lowest in Park Ridge) as entitling her and her family to every conceivable government service and facility…at no additional charge, of course.

Think of it as a kind of Willy Wonka golden ticket, or an all-inclusive Caribbean cruise (“Keep that cracked crab and champagne coming!”)

Despite authoring that FB post and contributing 30 or so comments to its string, however, she never articulates what exactly she means to not “screw over” the teachers. So we did some research and made a discovery that rivals the little boy’s observation about the emperor’s new clothes: were the D-64 Board to suddenly grow a collective spine and draw the line on sweetening the teachers’ employment terms by keeping in place the exact same terms of the current contract for another four years, teaching in D-64 schools would still be one of the best – if not THE best – jobs in all of Park Ridge.

How can that be? Let us count the ways.

1. This past school year D-64 teachers were required to work just 185 days out of a possible 260 work days (52 weeks x 5 days). That’s only 37 work weeks, leaving those teachers with 15 weeks of holidays and vacation. In almost every other occupation, that would be considered “part-time.”

2. Those work days can be cut back even further by paid sick and personal days: 10 sick and 3 personal per year for teachers with 1-2 years seniority; 12 sick and 3 personal during years 3-4; and 15 sick and 3 personal thereafter. So a fifth year teacher could get away with working only 167 days, giving them a whopping 18.5 weeks of holidays/vacation. Now that’s really “part time.”

3. According to the 2015-16 salary schedule for that 185 day/37-week maximum work year, salaries started at $48,582 for a rookie with only a BA degree. A 5th-year teacher with just a BA received $55,844. And a teacher with 20 years of service and just a BA got $81,526. For employees in the real world who are lucky enough to get 4 weeks off, those numbers would annualize out to $63,025, $72,443 and $105,759, respectively.

4. And how about those constitutionally-guaranteed TRS pensions? Start with a minimum of 75% of the average of the teacher’s four highest consecutive annual salaries during their last 10 years of teaching. And let’s not forget the current contract’s two annual 6%/year pre-retirement “salary spikes” that can artificially jack up those pensions even higher. So retiring even at that lowly $81,526 salary after 35 years – which can occur as early as age 57 – would yield a $61,000/year pension, which is almost $20,000/year more than the maximum Social Security benefit private sector employees get only if they hold off collecting until age 70.

5. Teachers also get better health care benefits than most of their private sector counterparts, even those who don’t have to rely on Obamacare.

Those are just a few of the simple metrics that neither the PREA nor the D-64 Board want the taxpayers to focus on, or even know about. Which is why you’ve never read them in D-64 meeting minutes or in quotes by School Board president Tony “Who’s the Boss?” Borrelli, or by any other Board members, or by the D-64 administrators, in our local newspapers.

Besides those metrics, however, are a number of intangibles that contribute substantially to making D-64 teaching jobs perhaps the best jobs in town, including:

  • not having to scramble to arrange child care for all those days off school because teacher/parents have those same days off;
  • not having to worry about being fired for incompetence or lack of results, because getting fired for those reasons (“cause” in private-sector parlance) is only slightly more likely than being struck by lightning…in the bathtub while eating jalapeno poppers and drinking Diet Dr. Pepper;
  • the non-existent chance of the job being outsourced to Mexico or Malaysia, or even to Iowa or Indiana; and
  • working in a clean, well-lighted place where the most serious job-related injury may well be a paper cut that even OSHA isn’t worried about.

Assuming one wants to teach – and even if one doesn’t – how much better a deal can one get?

Of course there are PREA teachers and their apologists who whine about how tough and stressful teaching K-8 Park Ridge kids can be. But with between 15 and 18.5 weeks of holiday/vacation time each year (not including weekends), there’s plenty of time to de-stress. Heck, our Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan get less time off than that, and they’re being bombed and shot at!

Not surprisingly, those same teachers and apologists turn apoplectic when confronted with these facts – especially when they are demanding (through their PREA negotiators) even more money, benefit enhancements, and better working conditions at the taxpayers’ expense.

Who is supposed to be looking out for the taxpayers? Why, the D-64 School Board, of course. Our elected representatives who are so proud of the job they’re doing that they do as much of it as possible – including negotiating with the PREA – in those secretive closed sessions sheltered from public scrutiny.

But if you want some insight into that Board’s taxpayer-last group-think, look no further than the colloquies of Board Member Tom Sotos in that “please don’t screw over our teachers” FB string.

Sotos starts out as Mr. Politician, trying to play both sides against the middle by claiming that “whatever happens…will be in the best interest of both the teachers…and the tax payers” while giving his assuriance that the outcome will be “[a] contract that shows our appreciation to our teachers, yet respects the taxpayers who pay the bills.” He even goes all Donald J. Trump on us: “I assure you that in the end we will come out of this GREAT.”

We suspect he meant “YUGE.”

But then, under some pointed questioning, he shows his true (dark blue?) colors.

When it comes to the teachers’ part-time schedule, Sotos doesn’t want to hear about it: “I don’t think it is fair to bring in months worked as an argument in teachers [sic] salaries”; and “[t]hose teachers should never be questioned about hours worked or Summer’s offer [sic]. Ever.”

Why?

According to Sotos: “Most Teachers [sic] put in their time and do their job and in the end it comes out to the equivalent of a full day/full years [sic] worth of work.”

If you believe that, Tommy Boy has some swampland in Florida you might be interested in.

And when it comes to measuring performance and demanding accountability from teachers for the results of their work, Sotos is their lap dog: “[M]eri based pay is altogether different from what I implied I my statement”; and “It’s not fair to teachers to compare them to another profession.”

There you have it, folks, from a Board member who insists he’s looking out for the taxpayers but who sought and accepted the support of the PREA after one of its preferred candidates was thrown off the April 2015 ballot.

Part-time work with full-time pay, spring break and summers off, a gold-plated pension, and no risk or accountability whatsoever.

Sleep soundly tonight, D-64 taxpayers – Sotos is standing guard outside your henhouse.

So you can’t see your chickens getting plucked inside.

To read or post comments, click on title.