Public Watchdog.org

Salons, Sushi And Banks, Oh My!

11.30.16

Not all that many years ago the most consistent comment about Park Ridge, especially its Uptown business district, was criticism of the lack of commercial and retail tenants to occupy the vacant storefronts.

Not anymore. Today’s laments now run toward the kinds of businessses: too many salons, sushi restaurants and banks. And those laments are not totally unjustified.

According to an article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“New hair salon proposed for Uptown Park Ridge,” Nov. 25), 16 addresses in the Uptown area are listed as the sites of hair salons or barber shops. We don’t know if that includes the ubiquitous nail salons, but you get the picture.

We also count 4 sushi restaurants in Uptown, not including the grab-and-go sushi available at Whole Foods and Jewel on Uptown’s periphery.

And by our count Park Ridge is home to 13 banks, with the prospect of yet another one going in next to the new Walgreen’s at South Park’s Talcott Terrace shopping center – a prospect that has already met with criticism by residents who have a variety of preferential businesses but no interest in putting their own money where their mouths are.

Then there also are some business owners who don’t like the idea of competition. Or at least not when that competition moves in next door, or even down the block. Those businesses would like our City government to step in and protect them from competition by every way imaginable, including by denying the new competitors business licenses.

But as the interim director of community preservation and development noted: “Competition should not be a consideration” in business licensing decisions.

One of the tenets of capitalism, credited to Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, is “creative destruction” – where new ideas, products and services are constantly rising from the ashes of the old. A classic example is the buggy whip, the manufacturers of which went out of business as horse-and-buggy transportation was replaced by automobiles. More recently, we have seen video stores – which employed approximately 175,000 people a decade ago – extinguished by Redbox, Netflix and streaming video.

The folks who don’t want another bank in South Park, or another salon in the 100 block of Vine Avenue, or another sushi restaurant in Uptown, have every right to object. But those objections should not trump the initiative of entrepreneurs willing to risk their time, money and effort in a new business – whether it be a bank, salon or sushi parlor; and whether it be next door or down the street from a competitor.

From the sound of their comments, some Park Ridge residents (and non-resident Park Ridge business owners?) would prefer that the City engage in a little Soviet-style central planning. You know, the kind where the government puts its public thumb on the scale either by refusing to license competitors or by giving economic “incentives” (i.e., bribes) to certain preferred businesses.

A decade or so ago, a clown-car city council with an uber-clown mayor at the wheel did just that: It wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars giving a few preferred Uptown building owners money for “façade improvements” that produced no measurable ROI (Return On Investment) for the City. And then those same alderdopes fattened the wallets of the Uptown redeveloper by irresponsibly borrowing (i.e., issuing non-referendum General Obligation bonds) tens of millions of dollars which they then irresponsibly “invested” in the Uptown project (also without a referendum) that guaranteed them no additional control of the project and no ROI.

The debt from that non-performing “investment” crushed the City’s finances from 2008 through 2014, and remains a multi-million dollar drain on the revenues the City collects from its taxpayers.

Fortunately, the clowns were swept out of office by Mayor Schmidt and his supporters who believed in letting the free market do its thing. So when the developer working with Whole Foods (Lance Chody, also owner of Garrett’s Popcorn) demanded that the City provide almost $3 million of sales tax revenue-sharing as an “incentive” (a/k/a, a bribe) to do the deal, Mayor Dave and that council wisely called his bluff with spot-on reasoning: If WF needs a multi-million dollar bribe to locate in Park Ridge, they should look elsewhere.

Two weeks later the developer and/or WF folded, leaving Park Ridge and its taxpayers $3 million richer. And since then, WF has been joined by Mariano’s, FFC Fitness, Holt’s, Harp & Fiddle, Shakou and other small businesses willing to take the risk of marketplace competition.

It should come as no surprise that the entrepreneur looking to open the hair salon on Vine is Frank Ernesto, who currently has two businesses on Main Street – Gumba Joe’s and F. J. Ernesto’s – and was a long-time fixture in South Park as the proprietor of Sonny’s restaurant. Here’s a guy who, having made a long term commitment to our business community, suddenly is being vilified for taking the risk of starting yet another business…in an area where his competition is already established.

We need more of that spirit, not less.

As for those who still keep drinking that “Why can’t we get national retailers?” Kool-Aid, a little history lesson is in order.

When that clown-car council was in hot pursuit of Uptown Redevelopment we were told that, if we built that new retail space, the likes of upscale Crate & Barrel, Ann Taylor, The Gap and Barnes & Noble would come. But even before that space was finished, all we had were down-sized Chico’s, Joseph A. Banks and Trader Joe’s. And big-time retailer interest was so low that 15,000 square feet of planned retail space was redesigned into more condos.

Four years ago a mayoral candidate talked about attracting the likes of Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor, Forever 21 and GameStop. None of them came knocking, either.

Now a reported potential mayoral candidate, apparently slugging down the same Kool-Aid, is talking about Pottery Barn.

The bottom line is that these “national retailers” know what markets they want, where they want to be, and why. They decide on Park Ridge, not the other way around. And until they decide they want to be here because here’s where they can make good money, there’s virtually nothing the City can do about it.

Unless you consider offering multi-million dollar bribes a “marketing strategy.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

Hail To The Champions!

11.26.16

As readers of this blog know, one of our favorite quotes is that of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.”

Tonight that lesson was demonstrated, in spades, by the Maine South Hawks football team, which capped a most unusual season – for Maine South, at least – with the ultimate achievement: The state Class 8A championship.

The Hawks’ hard-fought, uber-exciting 27-17 victory over the Loyola Academy Ramblers avenged their early-season 44-43 loss to the Ramblers with what was a “team” victory in the truest sense of the word.

To paraphrase a line from the Wes Mantooth character in the movie “Anchorman”: “Today we spell ‘redemption’… H-A-W-K-S.”

To the players, coaches and everyone associated with the team: Bravo!

You’ve done Park Ridge proud. Again.

To read or post comments, click on title.

State Of Illinois And Dist. 207 Playing “Ready Or Not” With Students And Taxes

11.18.16

We tend to pay less attention to Maine Twp. High School District 207 than to its partner in educational crime, Park Ridge-Niles School District 64. But an article in this week’s Park Ridge Journal with the headline “Measuring ‘College Readiness’ No Easy Task In Dist. 207” (11.10.16) provides some unwelcome data that, unfortunately, highlights concerns we’ve been expressing for years.

Once the reader wades through various examples of the State of Illinois’ educational chaos, one significant point becomes clear: Illinois can’t seem to implement any type of uniform testing standards that enable discriminating parents (and education critics) to make meaningful comparisons of school districts, or of individual schools from different districts.

How bloody convenient…for an educational system that has spent decades pandering to the Illinois Education Association by shielding teachers and administrators alike from any meaningful accountability for the ongoing underachievement of their students.

According to the Journal article, the state average of high school juniors (11th graders) ready for the “next level” (Senior year? College?) is 39.2%. Maine South students’ readiness is 43.3%, while Maine East’s is 36.9% and Maine West’s is 35.7%. In other words, less than half of Maine South’s juniors are ready for either senior year or college; and East’s and West’s actually are below the state average.

Should taxpayers who pay approximately one-third of their RE taxes to D-207 find those readiness levels acceptable, especially considering that a District 207 education is reportedly among the most costly in the state at over $17,000/pupil/year?

Only if you like paying filet mignon prices for butt steak.

It’s understandable, however, that those taxpayers paying $5,000 of RE taxes to D-207 for $17,000 (or $34,000, or $51,000, depending on the number of students) of Maine South education might be a bit more sanguine about it than those taxpayers without students getting those benefits, or those taxpayers paying between $12,000 and $16,000 of after-tax dollars to send their kid to St. Ignatius, Loyola, or Resurrection – while also paying their $5,000 to D-207.

Of course, adding those private/parochial students to Maine South’s enrollment would drive D-207’s costs, and the taxpayers’ bills even higher. But that’s a topic for another discussion.

The article also references a “freshman on track” measurement, allegedly gauging student performance after one year in high school. The reported statewide average for that benchmark is a surprising 82.4%, with Maine South freshmen registering a 95% average, Maine East 94%, and Maine West 89.1%.

But let’s stop and think about that for a minute.

Assuming any of these numbers are even marginally credible – an assumption made at your own risk – it would appear that students statewide go from an 82.4% “on track” average at the freshman level down to a 39.2% average for “next level” readiness by spring of their junior year. And at D-207’s flagship school, Maine South, the “on track” to “next level” readiness plummets a stunning 50% – from 95% to 43.3%!

That free fall is occurring despite whatever advantages might come with an enrollment that is 86% white, a mere 8% low income, a tiny 1 % of English learners (formerly ESL/English as a Second Language), albeit with 13% reportedly having some type of “disability.”

Perhaps because of these semi-disastrous scores, it was decreed from on high (Springfield?) that, for 2016 evaluation purposes, any student scoring 21 or above on the ACT is “college ready” – although not necessarily ready for the “next level”? – and the state norm based on this standard was 45% of all seniors. By this alternate one-year measure, Maine South scored a 77%.

Huzzah! Or with props to the late great Leonard Cohen: “Hallelujah!”

So pay no attention to the 23% of Maine South students who don’t meet this latest, and lowest, standard of readiness. Or the 56.7% of them who aren’t ready for the “next level.”

Given the Illinois public education establishment’s fun-with-numbers approach to measuring achievement, we suspect those folks in Springfield will be coming up with yet another set of benchmarks – and generating new false hopes – any day now.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Election Day 2016: Just Say “No!” To Madigan, Democrats

11.08.16

We do our best to avoid government and politics outside the friendly confines of Park Ridge, if for no reason other than partisan state politics makes us even more nauseous than thinking and writing about Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.

But today is election day and we feel obligated to say something about our local races.

Michael Madigan first took his seat in the Illinois House of Representatives in 1971. Richard Nixon was president. The governor was a one-term Republican named Richard B. Ogilvie, who sponsored this state’s first income tax. And Illinois was among the top 15 most prosperous states in the Union.

Over the next 45 years, while Ogilvie and his RINO successors – “Big Jim” Thompson (1977-1991), “Slim Jim” Edgar (1991-1999) and George “No. 16627-424” Ryan (1999-2003) – eagerly jumped into bed with Madigan to form and perpetuate the “Illinois Combine” that has raped Illinois’ economy and stolen its soul, Madigan remained the single constant.

Elected Speaker in 1983, Madigan has held that position ever since, except for two years (1995-1997) when the Democrats lost their House majority. Meanwhile, he has grown enormously wealthy through a law practice that specializes in getting huge property tax breaks for big business, shifting the tax burden from them onto the rest of us.

During his 31 years as Speaker and the single most powerful official in Illinois, our state has plummeted from its Top 15 ranking to battling California for 49th place.

Yet the sheeple of Illinois have kept Madigan in the Speaker’s chair by consistently electing his Democrat stooges like state representative Marty Moylan to preserve Madigan’s House majority. And they also have enabled Madigan to extend his control to the Illinois Senate through his sock puppet, Senate president John Cullerton, by electing and appointing Democrat stooges like state senator Laura Murphy.

Regular readers of this blog know that one of our favorite quotes, attributed to Albert Einstein, is the definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If Illinois is ever to climb out of its sinkhole 45 years in the making, someday its voters need to stop empowering the one man arguably most responsible for digging that hole.

Today’s that day.

Just say “No!” to Madigan by just saying “No!” to his Democrats.

To read and/or post comments, click on title.

Weasels Usually Blame Their Lawyers

11.05.16

Our previous post dealt with some of the lies told to us by our alleged elected “representatives” on the School Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64. Today we are focusing on just one of them, uttered by no less than Board president Tony “Not really the Boss” (because Supt. Heinz really runs the show) Borrelli.

Borrelli said this about the consequences had the Board published the new PREA contract to the taxpayers before the Board approved it: “The District would most definitely be on the wrong side of any adjudication to [sic] either a ULP or grievance of these issues with resulting fines, fees and penalties incurred.”

“Liar, liar, pants on fire” doesn’t begin to capture the outright dishonesty of that comment, which Borrelli attributed to advice from the District’s attorneys – because weasels usually blame their lawyers.

Not surprisingly, Borrelli offered no written opinion those attorneys so taxpayers could know, in the first instance, whether Borrelli is even telling the truth about that advice; and, if so, letting that opinion be subjected to taxpayer scrutiny.

That’s because Borrelli and the rest of his lemming Board members are blatantly anti-transparency and equally anti-accountability. They scurry off into closed sessions more frequently than any other local governmental body, with the possible exception of the Maine Township High School District 207 Board – whose members share D-64’s obsession with hiding the truth from its taxpayers. So the D-64 Board’s hiding behind the alleged advice of counsel is the most convenient, and most cowardly, way to justify such a lack of transparency.

As best as we can tell, Borrelli’s alibi is either an outright lie or bad legal advice – starting with the actual language of the 2012 PREA contract under which the most recent negotiations were conducted which reads as follows:

  1. Progress Reports.   General progress reports may be issued during negotiations to the Association or Board. Public releases must have prior mutual consent until either the Board or the PREA declares impasse or submits to mediation. After a declaration of impasse, public releases or statements may be made without mutual consent provided the other party is given 48 hours’ advance notice. Subsequent releases or statements do not require either party to provide notice to the other party. Final offers must be made pursuant to the requirements of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.

Nothing in that provision even addresses when a tentative agreement, such as the one Borrelli announced on August 22 as having been reached by the District and the PREA, can or cannot be published. And we could find nothing In the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act (the “IERLA,” 115 ILCS 5) – the statute that governs school district employee disputes – which prohibits a school district or an individual school board member from publishing a tentative agreement before it is ratified by the PREA or approved by the Board.

So Borrelli’s alibi appears to be a lie even at its most basic threshold level.

But there’s more.

Even if any of the feckless members of the D-64 Board were to have suddenly grown a spine and mustered the honesty and integrity necessary to publish the tentative agreement to the taxpayers back in August or early September, the consequences to the District would appear to be…nothing!

Contrary to Borrelli’s dire-but-idle warnings of “fines, fees and penalties” clearly intended to squelch any dissent, nothing would have happened unless and until the PREA filed a ULP or grievance against the District. And if the PREA did so, that would confirm what we already suspect: that the PREA and its member teachers were terrified of the taxpayers finding out the sweetheart terms of the new contract before it becomes a done deal.

So what?

Under 115 ILCS 5/15, all the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board can do in response to a ULP filing is to hold a hearing and, if warranted, enter a cease and desist (“C&D”) order basically saying: “Don’t do that again.”

Ouch!

And while the IELR Board can award “an appropriate sanction” which “may include an order to pay the other party or parties’ reasonable expenses including costs and reasonable attorney’s fees,” that sanction appears to be available only if D-64 makes allegations or denials “without reasonable cause and found to be untrue or has engaged in frivolous litigation for the purpose of delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation….” 115 ILCS 5/15.

In other words, there could have been no “fines, fees and penalties” assessed against D-64 (a/k/a the taxpayers) unless the District acted frivolously and/or irresponsibly.

Although frivolous and irresponsible is this Board’s standard M.O., hopefully its attorneys would prevent this Board’s members from either lying or bumbling into sanctionable conduct. And we suspect the foregoing analysis is pretty close to what the District’s attorneys would have furnished Borrelli and the lemmings – assuming they had actually asked the attorneys for a written legal opinion. But we’re betting no such opinion was even requested.

Because Borrelli and the other lemmings on the Board knew exactly what they wanted to do with this new PREA contract and how they wanted to do it. And the last thing they wanted was anybody – not the District’s attorneys and most certainly not its taxpayers – advising otherwise.

Arrogant cowards holding elective office never do.

And weasels usually blame their lawyers.

To read and/or post comments, click on title.

At D-64, Secrecy And Lies Once Again Trump Transparency

10.31.16

In last Monday’s post we compared the D-64 Board’s contempt for the District’s taxpayers to that of political carcinomas, Mike Madigan, Rahm Emanuel and Richie Daley, for their taxpayers.

We also contrasted the Board’s contempt for its taxpayers with its overt favoritism for three special interests: the PREA-represented teachers; the teacher-turned-bureaucrat administrators; and parents of D-64 students who pay $5,000, more or less, of RE taxes to D-64 each year in exchange for $15,000, $30,000, or even $45,000 of D-64 education per year – which is such a bargain that many of them don’t particularly care if the education isn’t what it used to be, or doesn’t compare favorably to many of Park Ridge’s upper-tier “peer” communities.

The Board’s contempt-and-favoritism dichotomy has encouraged a form of “freeloader” mentality, the goal of which is to take far more out of the system in benefits than they pay in RE taxes, even if it means sticking their neighbors with the lion’s share of the resulting shortfall. And if they can run up their benefits high enough that there is virtually no chance of them ever getting back to even by years of paying RE taxes once their kids are out of school, so much the better.

Call it the D-64 variation on the quote attributed to Malcolm Forbes about winning by dying with the most toys. “He who moves out of Park Ridge with the largest debt to local government wins.”

But today we want to focus on a few of the lies told by D-64 representatives as political CYA for the new, secretly-negotiated PREA contract.

And what better way to start than with a few bon mots from Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss” Borrelli (SPOILER ALERT: The “Boss” is actually Supt. Laurie Heinz, which is why you don’t hear Borrelli speaking whenever Heinz is sipping a beverage).

Whenever Borrelli speaks at any length, however, you can bet he’s reading off a script written for him by Heinz and/or the District’s propaganda minister, Bernadette Tramm. If you doubt it, watch the 09.26.16 Board meeting video, starting at the 51:20 mark and continuing to the 1:02:10 mark, and you’ll see and hear Borrelli look and sound like an actor doing his first run-through of a new script at an initial table-reading.

Which is pretty much what it was.

One of our favorite lies is Borrelli’s (actually Heinz’s/Tramm’s) characterizing the new contract as having been “laboriously negotiated” since December 2015. This bit of propaganda must have so excited Heinz and Tramm that they had Borrelli reiterate it by noting, moments later, that the negotiations were “indeed laborious.”

That’s one of the most basic lessons of Sleazy Politics 101: drag a process out as long as you can (preferably until people stop paying attention) and then point to the length of time as proof of how daunting the task was. In this case, Borrelli and Heinz/Tramm must have been confident that their rube constituents and a disinterested local press wouldn’t figure out by looking at the contract – when it finally was published – that what took them 9 months to negotiate could and should have been accomplished in 9 weeks.

Take a look at the blue-lined comparison of the 2012 contract’s “secrecy” provision with the new one. Even the Israelis and the Palestinians could have hammered that out in an hour, tops. And the same could be said for many more of those differences between the 2012 and the new contract.

We also perversely enjoyed Borrelli’s (Heinz’s/Tramm’s) proclamation of how “unique to the District” is the new concept of tying teacher raises to the CPI-U index – which includes the cost of food, gasoline, electricity, apparel, new and used cars, rent, televisions, all school and college tuition, booze, tobacco products, water/sewer services, public transportation, medical care, Internet access, etc.

Not surprisingly, Borrelli (and Heinz/Tramm) didn’t mention how many of the taxpayers paying for the teachers’ raises will themselves be getting raises just because the price of sirloin and arugula, Shell regular, ComEd power, Dockers slacks, a Ford Focus, rent, a Sony 60-inch plasma, Miami of Ohio tuition, Hennessy VSOP cognac, Macanudo cigars, their sewer bill, their METRA ticket, their Illinois Bone & Joint bill,  their Xfinity bill, etc. goes up?

That doesn’t matter to them. But they did make sure that Borrelli went on the record to tell the PREA just how “grateful” the Board is “that this concept was accepted by the PREA.”

Huzzah!

Another of our favorites is Borrelli’s (Heinz’s/Tramm’s) lie about how the taxpayers would not be able to understand the details of the new contract with the “proper background” – while ignoring the fact that it was the Board and the PREA who deprived the taxpayers of any “proper background” by agreeing to hold their negotiations in secret.

But perhaps the most dishonest and unforgiveable lie is Borrelli’s (Heinz’s/Tramm’s) insistence that, if the Board had published the contract for public comment before it was approved, the District would be opening itself up to unfair labor practice (“ULP”) charges, fines and penalties. To quote Borrelli (from the 1:00:15 to 1:00:58 mark of the video):

“The District would most definitely be on the wrong side of any adjudication to [sic] either a ULP or grievance of these issues and would result in fines, fees and penalties incurred.”

Who says so? The District’s lawyers, according to Borrelli.

How do we know? Because Borrelli says so.

Is there any written attorneys’ opinion corroborating Borrelli? Not that we can find.

Why not? We’re betting because this Board didn’t want such an opinion and, therefore, didn’t ask for one.

Why? Because the PREA doesn’t want open negotiations sessions where the taxpayers could hear the PREA’s outrageous demands – not just its financial demands but its insistence on no accountability of the teachers for their own performance and that of their students. And because Borrelli et al. are terrified that real transparency would reveal just how readily and thoroughly they rolled over for the teachers and the administrators.

Which is why they made no attempt to challenge the current contract’s alleged secrecy language and, worse yet, they adopted the same basic secrecy provisions in the new contract – which we predicted back in our 06.21.16 post and again in our 07.26.16 post. So four years from now those negotiations will also be Star Chamber proceedings, compliments of Heinz via Borrelli and his lemmings

We’ll discuss the legality of all this in our next post.

To read and/or post comments, click on title.

New D-64 Contract, And Secrecy, A Page From The Madigan/Emanuel Playbook

10.24.16

Four weeks ago tonight the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 School Board did exactly what we knew all along it would do: it approved a new four-year contract with the Park Ridge Education Association (“PREA”), a/k/a the teachers union, that will lock the taxpayers into over $200 million of teacher expense over the next four years, without even letting those taxpayers see the document and comment on its terms.

That’s what craven politicians with utter contempt for their constituents do – which is why Mike Madigan has made a career of doing it down in Springfield, Rahm Emanuel does it in Chicago, and Richie Daley did it before him. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why the finances of both Illinois and Chicago are in shambles.

Craven politicians also don’t believe they owe their constituents honesty, transparency and accountability.

That’s why they try, usually with much success, to bamboozle their generally inattentive and downright stupid constituents with waves of propaganda intended to obscure actions designed to benefit those special interests whom the politicians can count on for political contributions, boots on the ground at election time, and the assorted favor or two when nobody’s looking.

So, one big reason why the current D-64 Board members don’t give a flying firetruck about the average taxpayers is basic math.

Three of the current Board members – Vicki “Who? What? Where? Huh?” Lee, Dathan “Just say ‘No!’ to Common Core” Paterno and Scott “I’m with stupid” Zimmerman – were elected by a total of 9,887 (31.13%) of the District’s 30,772 registered voters who showed up to vote in April 2013. The top vote-getter, the incumbent Zimmerman, receiving a shade more than 5,000 votes. That’s less than 17% of the total registered voters.

That modest turnout, however, still trounced the pathetic 4,588 (14.84%) of the District’s 30,924 registered voters who showed up in April 2015 to re-elect Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and elect Mark “Help!” Eggemann, Bob “I look like a school board member, don’t I?” Johnson and Tom “Can you believe I’m a lawyer?” Sotos – with non-incumbent Eggemann leading that field with just under 2,800 votes, or barely 9% of the total registered voters.

Do the math.

Roughly 500 PREA members and D-64 administrators live and pay RE taxes here – NOT including Supt. Laurie Heinz, who carpetbags her $250,000+ per year salary and benefits out to a more distant northwest suburb where RE taxes are almost certainly lower than here. That’s basically 500 votes pretty much guaranteed for any candidate who promises to grab his/her ankles to keep those teachers and administrators happy.

Then add just one vote from each family of the almost 4,500 D-64 students who might, at the high end, be paying $5,000/year in RE taxes to D-64 for $30,000 of D-64 education for their two kids – compared to the $9,842/year tuition for two kids at St. Paul of the Cross, or the $6,930/year for two at St. Andrew’s Lutheran – and you can see why those parent-voters have little incentive to elect fiscally-responsible Board members who will stand up to the PREA’s demands and thereby risk a strike that would cause those parent-voters the inconvenience and cost of securing non-D-64 daycare for the strike’s duration.

That’s why, like Madigan and his General Assembly minions, or Rahm and his alderdopes, any D-64 Board member with designs on re-election knows that pandering to, and appeasing, public-sector unions like the PREA and bureaucrats like the D-64 administrators will also placate the parent-voters. And that basically ensures their re-election, as well as a fan club likely to endure beyond their Board terms.

With re-election and a fan club secured, who needs honesty, transparency and accountability?

We’ll talk more about this D-64 Board’s perversions of representative democracy (a/k/a the republican – small “r” – form of government) in our next post.

To read or post comments, click on title.

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.

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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.

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