Public Watchdog.org

“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.

“Boss” Borrelli Making Sure Taxpayers Get Fooled Again

07.26.16

Last week the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate published an article (“District 64 board president: ‘Significant progress’ on negotiations with teachers,” July 19) consisting almost entirely of unfiltered propaganda from Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 about the interminable contract negotiations between D-64 (a/k/a the taxpayers) and the Park Ridge Education Association (the “PREA”), a/k/a, the teachers union. 

We’ve come to expect our local media serving as unquestioning conduits for whatever half-truths, misinformation and disinformation D-64 and Maine Twp. School District 207 disseminate in their quest to preserve their Teflon coatings. The next time the H-A or the Park Ridge Journal conducts any investigative reporting about either school district will be the first.

But we did get a kick out of the H-A article’s reporting Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli’s proclamation that “significant progress” has occurred in the negotiations, especially given how those negotiations commenced way back on January 19 yet we’re barely a month before the expiration of the existing contract and the start of the new school year without a new contract.

It took the U.S. and North Vietnam around eight months just to agree on the shape of the bargaining table for their negotiations to end the Vietnam War, so by that pathetic benchmark these D-64 and PREA negotiators are crushing it. But by any reasonable standard, they’ve already been lapped at least twice by Team Escargot.

If D-64 and the PREA were making even half an effort, they would have met more than twice a month; and these negotiations would have been wrapped up in a couple of months. That would have given D-64 plenty of time to publish the proposed contract so that it could receive ample taxpayer scrutiny and public comment. Heck, there’s even a miniscule chance it could have been sent back for further negotiations over the more ridiculous provisions.

But among all the things on which the D-64 Board/Administration and the PREA march in lockstep, nothing surpasses their mutual dislike for public scrutiny – especially if that scrutiny reveals how irresponsibly and unaccountably the Board members are discharging their stewardship of the $70 million-plus the taxpayers give them each year.

It’s that mutual distaste for scrutiny which suggests the most likely explanation for such a glacial pace of negotiations, an explanation as nefarious as it is opaque to those on the outside of these secretive, closed-session negotiations: D-64 and the PREA have been colluding to intentionally delay the process in order to create a crisis.

By deliberately stalling the process of getting to “yes” until right before the current contract expires and school resumes, the D-64 Board and the PREA can cynically insist on lickety-split approval of whatever taxpayer-unfriendly deal they’ve cooked up – with no time left on the clock for the contract’s terms to be disclosed to the taxpayers and a meaningful opportunity given those taxpayers to question, comment on, and/or debate those terms prior to the Board’s approval of them.

It’s a strategy as clever as it is dishonest, a charade pretty much guaranteed to deceive and neuter the taxpayers while benefiting the PREA and covering – at least temporarily – the derrieres of the eight members of the D-64 negotiating team.

That way, Borrelli and his fellow bobble-heads won’t have to explain to taxpayers why they agreed to renew the current contract’s anti-transparent, anti-accountability (Article III, Section B(3)) – a provision which doesn’t expressly prohibit open-session negotiations but which uses just enough weasel-words (“Public releases must have prior mutual consent until either the Board or the PREA declares impasse…[after which] public releases or statements may be made without mutual consent provided the other party is given 48 hours’ advance notice.”) to encourage the PREA to file an unfair labor practice charge if D-64 actually tried to inform the taxpayers of the PREA’s demands and negotiating tactics.

It also means Borelli et al. will be tying the hands of the next D-64 contract negotiating team and once again keeping the taxpayers in the dark – just like Borrelli’s predecessor, John Heyde, did four years ago.

And it means the D-64 Board can approve the new contract without even showing it to the taxpayers, like Heyde and his Heydettes did four years ago.

That also means that Borrelli and the bobble-heads can renew the current contract’s “spike” provision that jacks up the salaries of near-retirement teachers by an additional 6% per year to fatten their pensions by tens (hundreds?) of thousands of dollars over their retirement– as Borrelli seemed to suggest in response to a question from resident Peter Karas at the July 18 Board meeting – with the taxpayers being none the wiser until the new contract has been approved and that spike provision has become a fait accompli.

You can watch the Karas-Borrelli colloquy, and Supt. Laurie Heinz inviting Karas to e-mail her or finance guru Luann Kolstad his questions (so that the answers never make it into the public record?), from 6:20 to 14:30 of the meeting video.

You can also watch – from 3:58 to 6:15 of that same video – how Borrelli, Heinz and the rest of that assembled multitude fail to engage taxpayer and education advocate, Joan Sandrik, when she asks them to remove the closed-session bargaining provision from the new contract. Heinz didn’t even invite Sandrik to correspond by e-mail.

That’s the way the D-64 Board operates under “Boss” Borrelli, much the same way it operated under “Boss” Heyde.

Which calls to mind a lyric from The Who’s rock anthem, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”:

“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

Sadly, Borrelli has proved that painfully true.

And that taxpayers are getting fooled again.

To read or post comments, click on title.

TOPR An Object Lesson In Going From Wrong To Right

07.21.16

Back on July 7, 2008 we published a post proclaiming “Time For A Transparent ‘Taste’ “ – which we followed up with “Time For A Transparent ‘Taste’ – Part 2” two days later, and with “After The Taste: The Culture Of Secrecy Continues” several weeks after that.

In those posts we questioned the secrecy related to what was supposed to be some sort of a public-private partnership between the City of Park Ridge and what ultimately was discovered to be a private corporation – Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”) – that appeared to be profiting from its no-bid monopoly of that event and thousands of dollars a year of free City services, which we wrote about in a variety of subsequent posts, including on 07.13.09, 08.24.09, 08.03.10, 08.17.11 and 08.27.12.

Those early posts stirred up a lot of comments, most of which were anonymous and presumably came from Taste Inc. officials, friends and apologists – and maybe from a few of those aldermen who foolishly/negligently/corruptly(?) succumbed to then-mayor Howard Frimark’s self-serving lobbying and gave away the TOPR event back in 2005.

But eventually Frimark’s successor, mayor Dave Schmidt, and a more responsible city council demanded transparency and accountability from Taste Inc., and began charging it for the City services it used.

And guess what?

Despite all the dire warnings and veiled threats from some of the folks running Taste Inc., nothing changed beyond the new transparency and accountability. And beyond the tens of thousands of extra dollars finding their way into City coffers instead of Taste Inc.’s bank account.

This past weekend residents and non-residents alike saw that for themselves as another good time was had by all – despite the notable absence of TOPR founder and stalwart Dean Patras, who passed away weeks before this year’s event after battling cancer.

Patras was a hale fellow well met, a solid citizen who appeared to give far more than he took from this community and from City government. Yet even he seemingly fell under the spell of those who view government, including at its most basic local level, as a soft-touch rich uncle – always ready with a handout – and not like an empty vessel deriving virtually every penny of its “wealth” by squeezing it out of the taxpayers.

It’s a tribute to Patras’ character, therefore, that he and several other Taste Inc. leaders chose to change from part of the problem into part of the solution. And this community, and the TOPR event, became better for the transformation.

Which illustrates once again how government – especially at the local level – really is pretty easy when you choose to be honest and transparent, to pay your own way, and to be personally accountable for your acts and omissions; and to demand the same from your fellow citizens and from your government.

It also helps to cast a keen and suspicious eye on those who prefer secrecy, look for others to pay their way (i.e., “freeloaders”), point fingers everywhere but at themselves, and alibi about how “complicated” and “complex” it all is. After all, they seem to be saying, how can they be expected to do the “right” thing when the “right” thing is so complicated, complex and just plain hard?

They still haven’t learned, and likely don’t want to learn, the simplest yet wisest answer to that age-old question: “How do you eat a whole elephant?”

One bite at a time.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Is “Big Brother” Watching The Corner Of Oakton And Northwest Hwy?

07.13.16

This week’s edition of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate contains an article (“Park Ridge City Council says no to red-light camera removal,” July 11) about the Park Ridge City Council’s decision last month to keep the red light camera at the corner of Northwest Highway and Oakton, which was installed in 2010.

The decision was in response to complaints by several business owners in that area that the red-light camera was hurting their businesses.

Did we miss the memo saying that drivers need to obey stoplights only when police are physically present? Or that stopping is optional if you’re on your way to buy something?

Frankly, we don’t like the Big Brother approach to law enforcement, with cameras seemingly capturing our every move from the moment we leave our houses until we return. And, given the technology that exists and the government’s (NSA, anyone?) penchant for “intelligence-gathering,” maybe even our homes are no longer sanctuaries.

So we subscribe to Ben Franklin’s view that trading liberty for safety makes one deserving of neither.

That being said, we recall the determination being made when that red-light camera was installed that there were frequent traffic violations there; and the red-light camera was chosen as an alternative to having police officers devoting an inordinate amount of time to policing that intersection at the expense of other areas.

According to the H-A article, “the vast majority” of those violations (202 of 289 in June) are for improper right turns on red. We’re not exactly sure why that’s such a chronic problem, but a violation is a violation.

Is the revenue derived from that camera desirable? Absolutely! If June’s total of $16,000 in fines is a typical month’s haul, that’s almost $200,000 a year – or approaching the all-in cost of employing two police officers.

But should revenue be the primary decision-driver? Absolutely not.

If “safety” is the real reason the Police and Council implemented the red-light camera, its success in promoting safety should be the first and foremost consideration for keeping it.

As noted above, there are a variety of reasons for being suspicious of camera-based law enforcement. A principal one is spelled C-H-I-C-A-G-O, that almost-bankrupt banana republic on our southeastern border that seems willing to tax anything that moves…or stands still for too long…in order to feed its century-plus culture of corruption and its current generation(s) of incompetents, crooks and grifters.

Another even more ominous reason is depicted in Orwell’s “1984.”

But to remove the Oakton red-light camera because of complaints that business is being lost from customers ticked off about getting ticketed for blowing a red light in their pursuit of commerce is half-witted, bordering on crack-potted.

The beefers who raised this issue, however, have performed a public service irrespective of how nutty their complaints might sound. They caused the Council and Police Department to revisit the red-light camera issue and its continuing success in fulfilling its avowed purpose. That should be done from time to time with every program and practice.

And the Council got it right by keeping the camera where it is, at least for the time being.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Park Board Wimps Out On Challenge To “Prevailing Wage” Scam

07.07.16

Today’s topic is another way that Illinois fleeces its taxpayers: the “prevailing wage.” 

Once upon a time people sold their labor for what the market would bear. Not surprisingly, that resulted in many inequities sometimes manifested in what were called “slave” wages. But it also spurred the creation of guilds and trade unions that eventually expanded beyond the conventional trades into the labor unions we know today. 

Those unions have been responsible for virtually every benefit working people enjoy today, including the minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, vacation and sick days, etc. In short, unions succeeded in “better[ing] the standards of life for all who work for wages and…seek[ing] decency and justice and dignity for all Americans,” as AFL-CIO president George Meany described it back in the 1950s. 

In the free market, profit-driven real world of the private sector, union demands were moderated by market forces that generally tied increases in wages and/or benefits to increases in productivity and profits. Private-sector unions developed a realistic view of the interdependence of labor and capital, which kept their members’ labor profitable and competitive – at least until globalization re-introduced the concept of slave wages. 

Not so in the monopolistic, profit-free fantasyland of the public sector. There unions and politicians eagerly colluded – the former trading their political support of the latter in return for the latter’s loosening of the public purse-strings whenever it came to the former’s wages and benefits.

All at the taxpayers’ expense, of course.

Which is why the very same George Meany also said that although “[t]he main function of American trade unions is collective bargaining…[i]t is impossible to bargain collectively with the government” because governmental units have no profits in which labor can share. That means every wage or benefit increase comes not out of the value created by that labor (a/k/a, “profits”) but directly – and by the force of our tax laws – out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

Which brings us to the prevailing wage.

In this state of corruption known as Illinois, local governments hiring outside contractors are required by state law to pay those contractors the prevailing wage for such services in the county where the service is to be performed. Thanks to that union/politician collusion, the prevailing wage has been conveniently calculated (by the Democrat-dominated Illinois Department of Labor) to approximate union scale, even though much/most of such labor is done by non-union workers paid significantly less than union scale.

The result: government (a/k/a the taxpayers) ends up paying the highest labor rates instead of the lowest, or instead of even a blended rate of union and non-union wages. Which means tens and often hundreds of thousands of extra taxpayer dollars are unnecessarily spent on individual public projects – often at the expense of better quality materials or additional features in order to meet project budgets.

In the cock-eyed view of the Democrat-dominated Illinois General Assembly, the prevailing wage law ostensibly endeavors to mandate a “level playing field” that ends up reducing, if not eliminating, competition for the lowest bid. Indeed, under prevailing wage, non-union contractors who normally operate with lower overhead/labor costs are forced to artifically inflate their employees’ wages to the same level as their unionized competitors, thus taking away any potential competitive advantage that a non-union shop might have over a union shop.

As usual, the taxpayers are the losers. 

A 2014 study by the Anderson Economic Group, LLC for the Illinois Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors concluded that from 2002 through 2011, Illinois public schools spent approximately $29 billion on construction and repair projects; and that the prevailing wage ended up costing taxpayers an estimated $1.6 billion in extraordinary and unnecessary wages and benefits.

But at the June 16 meeting of the Park Ridge Park District Board, three Commissioners – Rick Biagi, Jim O’Brien and Mel Thillens – tried to do something about that. They just said “no,” arguing against the adoption of the Dept. of Labor’s skewed prevailing wage numbers. And they were joined by Commissioner Dick Brandt in out-voting “progressive” Commissioners Joan Bende, Cindy Grau and Jim Phillips.

That victory, however, was short-lived.

Just as soon as the dust settled on that vote, the District’s long-time attorney, Tom Hoffman, began issuing dire warnings about the potential litigation the District might face from either the Illinois Attorney General – whose daddy, Dark Lord of the Sith “Darth” Madigan, presumably has the prevailing wage law engraved on a stone tablet along with his other nine commandments of graft and corruption – or some of the affected unions.

Despite clearly being torqued-off by the prevailing wage costs, O’Brien promptly backed down, explaining that he didn’t want to cause the District to incur legal fees defending itself against such litigation. And Brandt followed suit, with only Biagi and Thillens holding their ground.

Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.

We are the last folks to suggest that any unit of government expose its taxpayers to frivolous and expensive litigation. But from what we understand about the prevailing wage law, it seems both arbitrary and anti-competitive – an exercise in political pandering that apparently has survived primarily because of the cowardice and/or stupidity of public officials who have been afraid to challenge it.

Perhaps the Park Board will try again next year to challenge the prevailing wage, only a little more aggressively.

Meanwhile, we pose the following question to Commissioners Bende, Brandt, Grau, O’Brien and Phillips:

How many hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars did you waste, WASTE, because of the prevailing wage, on labor costs for the Park District’s $8 million Centennial Water Park and it’s $13 million Prospect Park?

Can you say “penny wise and pound foolish,” Commissioners?

We didn’t think so.

To read or post comments, click on title.

4th Of July, 2016: A Rededication To Courage

07.04.16

Two hundred forty years ago the Founders of this country declared independence for the colonies.

It was not a safe act.

As many of us learned back in grade school civics, John Hancock reportedly signed the Declaration of Independence with so prominent a signature because he wanted King George III to be able to read it without his glasses. What many of us may have forgotten, however, is that Hancock’s signature was a declaration of war and an act of treason punishable by death – which Ben Franklin alluded to in his quote:

“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Those 56 men who signed the Declaration knew that they were putting not only their own lives in danger but, also, the lives of their families. All for the sake of the liberty we’ve enjoyed for 240 years. 

But for how many more? 

What those Founders did took a virtue that seems sorely lacking in government today, especially here in Illinois: courage. 

The role of courage as central to freedom and happiness is a recurring theme throughout history. 

The Greek historian Thucydides observed that: “The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.” Twenty three centuries later, Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis attributed the same philosophy to the Founders, stating that they “believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.” 

To Harry S Truman, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” 

Even America’s most well-known duke, John Wayne, weighed in with: “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” 

Unfortunately, even back in the 1960s President John F. Kennedy warned that “a nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today – and in fact we have forgotten.”

He was right…and prescient.

Today, when it comes to government at every level, courage seems to have been replaced by the three “C”s: conformity, cowardice and compromise.

Conformity, as demonstrated by public officials whose first question when confronted by a problem is a rote request: “What do other units of government do?”

Cowardice, as demonstrated by public officials constantly holding their moist fingers to the wind and seeking informal “consensus” rather than proposing their own fully-formed ideas for an up-down vote.

Compromise, because those officials know that the more sets of fingerprints on a bad idea, the more people there will be to share the deniability and blame.

Conformity, cowardice and compromise are not virtues but vices. And as Texas politician Jim Hightower once said: “Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”

On this day that we honor the monumental courage of the Founders, we should also dedicate ourselves to proving worthy of their courage with courage of our own – and to demanding the same from our public officials, while remembering Thomas Jefferson’s encouraging words: 

“One man with courage is a majority.” 

To read or post comments, click on title.

No Bid? No Problem For Borrelli-Led D-64 Board

06.27.16

Back in early May we published a post about the Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 having entered into what appears to have been a series of NO-BID contracts worth multi-millions of dollars with vendor Arbor Management for hot lunches at Emerson and Lincoln middle schools.

And it appears as if those deals were cut in closed-session meetings that have become par for the course with the “meet the not-so-new boss (Tony Borrelli), same as the old boss (John Heyde)” Board.

So it should come as no surprise that tonight’s Board agenda has as an action item the Board’s vote on approving a new, more expansive NO BID deal with Arbor Management to provide hot lunches to the District’s five elementary schools.

In that May 3 post we noted how the District’s previous under-the-radar, no-bid deals with Arbor suggested the kind of kinkiness that characterized the no-bid deals that got former CPS supt. Barbara Byrd-Bennett indicted. Preventing that kind of kinkiness, albeit on a smaller scaled than Byrd-Bennett’s $23 million kickback scam, is exactly why no-bid contracts are required by public bodies in all but a few limited situations – food vendor contracts not being one of them to our knowledge.

So we found it curious, to say the least, that the “recommendation” memo ostensibly authored by Supt. Laurie Heinz and Financial Czarina Luann Kolstad – “ostensibly” because propaganda minister Bernadette Tramm’s fingerprints are usually all over this kind of disinformation – makes special mention (at page 2, item 3) of “advocacy for the status quo” (i.e., no District-wide hot lunch program) by one school’s “PTO leadership team” where the owner of a PTO lunch vendor is a family of a current student in that school.

That sound you hear is the pot calling the kettle black.

Ironically, the very next item on that page (No. 4) seems to be Heinz’s and Kolstad’s alibi for not going out to bid on these expanded lunch services: Arbor “are [sic] already the food service vendor of record for District 64” and, therefore, “they [sic] would not require a formal bid process.”

We don’t know when or how Arbor became “the food service vendor of record,” or if that is even a lawful designation.

And, frankly, it sounds like the same kind of dishonest hooey Heinz, Kolstad and Borrelli spouted about the Illinois Open Meetings Act back when they were advocating for the creation of two new D-64 Board committees – a “Finance Committee” and a “Building & Sites Committee,” which we wrote about in our 02.17.16 post – on which resident Joan Sandrik blew the whistle, ultimately resulting in that misguided plan being quietly dropped even though Borrelli and his dwarfs were all set to buy into it hook, line and sinker.

So just consider tonight’s vote on the NO BID hot lunch vendor deal as SSDD: Same [Stuff] Different Day. And just like the IOMA-violating committee plan, this NO BID hot lunch deal also comes without any legal opinion that endorses what appears to be an illegal deal that breaches the public trust. Again.

So we can’t wait to see which of Borrelli’s dwarfs join him in this latest abuse of power, and what kind of alibis they will come up with to justify their rubber-stamping of this perversion. Odds-on favorites in that category are Zimmerman, Lee and Johnson, whose heads start bobbling the moment they walk into a Board meeting room and rarely ever stop.

The only real question is whether, in following Borrelli, they sing “Hi ho” or simply “moo.”

To read or post comments, click on title.