Park Ridge resident Dennis Sladky has spoken thoughtfully about flooding at several Park Ridge City Council meetings. But his letter to the editor (“Park District’s land grab is greedy,” Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, September 23) reflects a misunderstanding of recent actions by the Park Ridge Park District.
In fairness to Mr. Sladky, however, his misunderstanding seems to have been caused by the inept and heavy-handed way the Park District presented its proposal for letting the City use Northwest Park as part of its flood control program.
The premise of his letter is that the Park District is using its permission for the City to use Northwest Park as a flood water detention to extort the City out of an excessive amount of compensation, including the former public works facility at Greenwood and Oakton, a property reportedly appraised at $1.8 million. Mr. Sladky sees this as a sign the Park District is callously holding approximately 450 Northwest Park area flood-prone residents hostage.
First of all, Mr. Sladky seems to be making a mistake common to many/most residents: thinking that the City’s taxpayers are the same as the Park District’s taxpayers. Although the overlap is substantial, the City’s boundaries are not the same as the Park District’s, meaning that certain City taxpayers are not Park District taxpayers, and vice versa. That’s why the City and the Park District are two separate taxing bodies with two separate governing bodies.
Chalk that up to the absurdity that is Illinois government, with more governmental units – 6,968 – than any other state: over 2,000 more than Pennsylvania, the first runner-up in governmental inefficiency with 4,871. As if we needed 2,000 more ineptly and/or corruptly-managed governmental units.
Absurdity notwithstanding, the City Council and the Park Board are duty-bound to look out for their own provincial interests. Which is why, before the Park District can offer Northwest Park to the City for storm water detention, it owes its taxpayers a duty to lock the City into a binding legal obligation to minimize, and then repair, any damage to that park caused by the storm water.
That kind of guaranty is an appropriate quid pro quo for the Park District’s cooperation with the City’s flood control project for that area.
We suspect Mr. Sladky’s perception of over-reaching by the Park District came from the District’s September 10 letter to the City, in which Park District Exec. Director Gayle Mountcastle appears to link the District’s permission for the City’s use of Northwest Park to the City’s agreement to a variety of other District demands – including the City’s unmet TIF obligations to the District, a new City lease of the Salt Dome at Oakton, the District’s acquisition of the old City garage at Greenwood and Elm, and a variety of Northwest Park amenities like a “trail system for the park” and “tiered concrete retaining walls and stadium-style seating.”
We can find no evidence of the Park Board’s directing Mountcastle to draft up such a list of demands and figuratively nail them to the door of City Hall, Martin Luther-style. So we’ll chalk that up to Mountcastle’s one-dimensional, zero-sum view of the Park District-City relationship.
Any deal to use Northwest Park as a storm water detention area should stand on its own, and not be tied to other deals. The City and its taxpayers need to ensure the Park District and its taxpayers that any damage to Northwest Park from storm water detention will be prevented and/or remediated by the City.
But flood control should not be made dependent on other unrelated matters, such as whether the City can satisfy its Uptown TIF-related obligation to the Park District by selling the Greenwood and Elm former public works garage property for $1 – even if such an Uptown TIF deal may make sense in its own right.
Unfortunately, the Park Board apparently gave Executive Director Mountcastle a free hand to deal with these issues. And, not surprisingly, Mountcastle bungled them with her stupid and seemingly extortionate linkage of unrelated projects to the Northwest Park storm water detention deal.
Wake up, Park Board members…you should know better by now!
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