What difference can one or two votes make on any of our local governmental bodies? Plenty.
Back on April 4 and April 14, 2014, we published posts criticizing the Park Ridge Library Board’s endorsement of the Staff’s recommendation to close the Library for 14 Sundays this summer. The vote on that decision was 6 to 3, with Trustees John Benka, Audra Ebling, Margaret Harrison, Dorothy Hynous, John Schmidt and Jerry White voting “yes,” and Trustees Joe Egan, Charlene Foss-Eggemann and Robert Trizna voting “no.”
But at the very first Library Board meeting after Patrick Lamb and Dean Parisi replaced Benka and Schmidt, that summer Sunday closing was reversed by a 7-1 vote (Hynous dissenting, White absent). And the Library reopened for the remaining summer Sundays on July 27.
Similarly, in our October 3, 2013 post we criticized the Library’s “Food for Fines” (“FFF”) program as a misuse of taxpayer dollars (estimated at $7,000 last year, because Library staff kept no record of exactly how much in fines was being forgiven) that also demeaned the voluntarism, generosity and public spiritedness of Library patrons by effectively suggesting they would contribute food to the Kiwanis food drive only if they received a quid pro quo forgiveness of their Library fines.
We also noted that $7,000 isn’t chump change for a Library that chose to close for 14 Sundays this summer in order to save approximately $20,000.
Last year, when the FFF came up for what may have been a first-ever “consensus” vote, the resolution to cancel the program lost by a 4-4 tie: Foss-Eggemann, Hynous, Trizna and White voting “yes”; Benka, Ebling, Harrison and Schmidt voting “no”; and Egan absent.
But this past Tuesday night the FFF program for this year was cancelled by a 7-0 vote (Parisi and White absent) – although the Board indicated that it was happy to have the Library serve as a collection point for food donations from those altruistic patrons whose generosity doesn’t require any quid pro quo fine forgiveness.
Those two votes produced outcomes directly opposite from what the previous Board had decided, arguably because of just two changes in the composition of the Board: Lamb and Parisi in place of Benka and Schmidt. That change in composition even appears to have changed the minds of Ebling and Harrison, who either found religion or just decided to opportunistically jump on the new bandwagon in both instances.
Whatever the reason, however, it’s the result that counts.
Some of you might not like these changes. We’re pretty sure there are some unhappy Kiwanis members out there, including the ones who showed up and spoke in support of the Library’s continuing the FFF program at the January 21, 2014 Board meeting, as reflected in the relevant excerpts of minutes of that meeting.
That’s not too surprising, given all the special interests out there who want to get their hands on taxpayer money – starting with many of our private “charitable” groups that seem to have figured out that it’s a lot easier to raise money by snookering or guilting our local elected and appointed officials into picking the taxpayers’ pockets on those groups’ behalf. That way, those groups can still claim the fundraising credit for themselves without even having to break a sweat, and without having to account to the taxpayers for how those funds are spent.
These two Library issues are just the very tip of a pretty good-sized iceberg, however, and there’s still a lot more work for the Library Board to do. Irrespective of whether or not the Library’s November tax increase referendum passes, giving all Park Ridge taxpayers the biggest bang for their Library buck will require a lot more innovation and fiscal discipline than the Library has consistently demonstrated over the past decade.
But maybe, just maybe, it now has a Board majority that is up for such a challenge.
And that might be because of just two new faces.
Robert J. Trizna
Editor and Publisher
Member, Park Ridge Library Board
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