Public Watchdog.org

Dumb And Dumber

01.30.08

Those citizens who have been going to City Council meetings for years have some experience with bizarre and ridiculous behavior by our elected and appointed public officials.  But even the most jaded of the Council Watchers are reporting that Monday night’s meeting may have set new lows in our version of the Republic form of government.

For those who haven’t yet heard, the Council effectively handed more than $2 Million of your tax dollars to Bill Napleton and his car dealerships in what was nothing less than theater of the absurd – featuring two of Mayor Howard Frimark’s simplest alderpuppets: Ald. Don Bach (3rd Ward) and Ald. Tom Carey (6th Ward).  And their respective skits, while very different in theme, illustrate just how much Park Ridge has fallen under Frimark’s greasy thumb.

Let’s start with Carey, who reportedly gave the impression that he was unsuccessfully auditioning for the television show “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?” when he appeared to become totally baffled with simple addition and subtraction in connection with an amendment to the Napleton resolution that increased the amount of the City’s sales-tax sharing – first by $20,000, then by $40,000.  He seemed too stumped to even articulate what was bewildering him, despite the prompting from his lord and master, Mayor Howard, who must have been wondering: “I paid $3,100 [pdf] for this guy?” 

The fog still had not lifted over Carey’s head when it was his turn to vote, and he momentarily lost his powers of speech – although some members of the audience now insist that Frimark was drinking water at that time.  When Carey regained his voice (or Frimark swallowed?), he voted “present” – ensuring a 3-3 tie (Schmidt, DiPietro and Wsol voting “No”, Bach, Allegretti and Ryan voting “Yes”) and giving Mayor Frimark the right to cast the tie-breaking “Yes” vote in favor of his $1,000 campaign contributor.

But amazingly enough, Carey’s brain-cramp pales in comparison with the outright buffoonery of  Ald. Bach, who prefaced his vote by excoriating Bill Napleton (gracing the Council with his presence to ensure that the “done deal” really got done) for not only disrespecting the Council but also insulting the goodwill of the people of Park Ridge by holding them up for the $2.4 Million of environmental clean-up money and sales-tax sharing.  Bach noted that he had purchased his current Cadillac from Napleton but that when it came time to buy his next one, he would be going elsewhere.

But then he turned around and voted “Yes,” explaining that he had talked to “about 30 people” in his ward who were all in favor of the Napleton windfall – the implication being that Bach didn’t like the deal but was just mindlessly doing what his constituents told him to do.  Because we can’t yet prove that Bach was lying about those 30 people, we can only surmise that he had to question upwards of 100 residents to get 30 affirmatives, or that he first told those 30 people that without these concessions Napleton would leave Park Ridge, causing the end of the world as we know it.

Apparently Ald. Bach is unfamiliar with the following quote from Edmund Burke (the British statesman, Don, not the Chicago alderman) about the obligations of the people’s representatives:

    Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
Speech to the Electors of Bristol [November 3, 1774]

The net effect of Bach’s betrayal of his constituents is that Napleton may have lost one $40,000 sale but gained $2.4 Million.  In other words, Bach won’t give Napleton $40 grand of his own money, but he gladly gave Napleton a whopping $2.4 Million of our money

But while Carey and Bach may have been dumb and dumber, the person who really sold Park Ridge taxpayers down the river on this deal is our wily but ethically-challenged Mayor, who not only was involved in the negotiation of the Napleton deal with one of his elite $1,000-and-up contributors, but also cast the deciding vote for that deal.  Not lost on the audience was Frimark’s repeated references to $100,000 of sales tax proceeds as “Napleton’s money,” even before the deal was approved.

Of course, Frimark’s alibi is that his status as a beneficiary of Napleton’s largesse is a matter of public record, and indeed it is.  But as with most things Frimark, this deal smells.  In our opinion, a completely ethical official in his shoes would have done the honorable thing and recused himself from both negotiating and voting on such a matter.  After all, at some point Carey would have found a calculator to help him with the addition and subtraction and then cast his vote as instructed. 

But Mayor Frimark clearly sees himself as the William Beavers of Park Ridge: The “hog with the big nuts.”  And so long as he’s surrounded by enough little piglets doing their best to keep him happy, our town will remain “for sale” – and not even to the highest bidder, but to those with connections to the mayor.

4 comments so far

And Dumberer…

Yes, dumberer. That would be Howard who must be dumberer than Carey and Bach to think that his unseemly actions won’t be fodder for whomever runs for Mayor against him next time around. Assuming he’s not in jail by that time.

BTW, PW, a very good recap of the events of Monday night. Clearly reconciles with all I have heard or read. It will be interesting to see if the HA or the Journal will come even close to matching the coverage you (or PRU) have provided. Kudos.

Isn’t this the same kind of stuff that went on in Operation Silver Shovel scandals over a decade ago? Why is Frimark even participating in this issue when he took such a substantial campaign contribution from Napleton?

Sounds a lot like pay-to-play to me.

I was at the meeting Monday night and I don’t know how Ald. Bach has the nerve to walk down our streets after what he did. Is he just that stupid, or is he just that corrupt?



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