To “The People”


In Monday’s posting we wrote about how neighborhood activists are re-claiming our local government by organizing and speaking out on issues of importance to their own neighborhoods and, by extension, to the Park Ridge community as a whole. 

In researching that piece, however, we came across an interesting post from February 2, 2005, by local political blogger and attorney Russ Stewart, who reported the following about then-mayoral candidate Howard Frimark’s efforts to build a slate of aldermanic candidates to run with him:

“I couldn’t find quality people” to run for alderman, moans Frimark, a 62-year-old insurance agent and a first-term Park Ridge alderman. “There’s a lot of apathy in this town.”

Maybe Frimark just wasn’t looking in the right places back then.  Or maybe it’s taken three years of Frimark’s own brand of special interest, wheeling-and-dealing city government to help “The People” realize that the only way they are going to get “good government” is to do something about it themselves.  One thing is certain: over the past six months a lot of quality people have been anything but “apathetic” in organizing and speaking out against what they believe to be the wrong way our city is being run. 

The mayor might even recognize their names if he was actually paying attention when they came to City Council meetings or e-mailed him about their various concerns – like his endorsement of the sweetheart variance deal for his campaign contributors at Executive Office Plaza.  Or his attempted $2.4 million bail-out of campaign contributor Napleton Cadillac.  Or his pandering to the Park Ridge Ministerial Association with his support for bringing a PADS homeless shelter, first to St. Mary’s Episcopal and now to St. Paul of the Cross.  Or his ridiculous Cumberland underpass idea.  And that’s just part of the list.

People like Carla Owen, Paul Meyer, Becky Bork, Phil Donohue, Dan and Sue Knight, Gary Beckner, Mike Casey, Bob and Barb Christopher, Ruby Cruz, Frank Partipilo, “The Cumberland Patriot”, Jill McGuigan, Joan Sandrick, Paul and Lorna Chevlin, Tony and Carleen Riccio, Mary Ahne, Bill and Angela May, Jim Bruno, Missy Langan, Tony and Jennifer Svanascini, Steve Kopka, Jim Whitney, Paula Waters, Kristin Grant, Gene Spanos, Apple Naughton, Jean Dietsch, Jim Marino, Debby Usher, Jennifer Whitelaw, Bob and Sarah Horak, Judy Barclay, Kristin Grant, Leslie Dempsey, Anna Coakley, Mirek and Patti Dobek, Christine Schilling, Pat Livensparger, Margaret Cohen, Frank Colleran, John Cassiday, Kevin Costello and Kathleen Wolf, to name just a few, have shown that they are not apathetic about this community and that they have the courage to say and do things to make it better.

And that’s the way it should be with a system of government like ours, where ordinary citizens have the right to show up and be heard by their elected and appointed public officials.  And when they do so – especially after informing themselves on the issues – they can have an amazingly positive influence on public policy, and on the public officials who are supposed to be representing us. 

As Thomas Jefferson wrote to Richard Price in 1789: “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

So here’s to “The People.”

Neighborhood Activists Re-Claiming Local Government


In an era of rampant voter apathy and the growing sense that special interests run the politicians who, in turn, run our government, today we recognize and thank the increasing number of activist citizens who have banded together primarily in neighborhood groups to educate themselves and get involved in the process of making public policy in our community.

Within just the past year alone several citizens groups have formed to oppose such diverse special interest initiatives as zoning variances for the Executive Office Plaza development, bringing a PADS homeless shelter to Park Ridge, the extension of Cumberland Avenue under the railroad tracks and, most recently, building a CenTrust Bank and/or CVS pharmacy on the old Napleton site. 

In so doing, these activists have begun the process of re-claiming local government from those special interests which have turned it into a tool for concentrating and accumulating power and money in the hands of a select and privileged few – while foisting the costs of that government upon all of us. In return for such a noble effort, however, these public-spirited citizens have been criticized and even condemned by many of our local politicians – both those at City Hall and those in the various churches comprising the Park Ridge Ministerial Association – who see this activism as a clear threat to the power and influence they’ve enjoyed for so long. 

That these “ordinary” citizens have stood their ground against such an onslaught is even more impressive and admirable.  In fact, it is nothing less than extraordinary.

They are acting in the tradition of such grass roots activists as the “Sons of Liberty” who – under the leadership of Samuel Adams – were successful in undermining support for British rule and advancing the cause of American independence among colonists who were, as Sam’s cousin John Adams would later put it: “about one-third Tories (sympathetic to the Crown)…one-third timid, and one-third true blue.”  Sam Adams recognized that the first step in overcoming the apathy and fear infecting many colonists was to cultivate “an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds,” which is exactly what our Park Ridge activists have done for those of us who don’t always pay enough attention to what goes on at City Hall, or at the respective headquarters of School Districts 64 and 207, and/or the Park District.

That is why we encourage and applaud these citizens in their efforts to return our local government to one that is truly of the People, by the People, for the People.  And we hope that they also realize that each of their “neighborhood” interests forms a vital piece of the bigger and broader fabric that is the Park Ridge community as a whole. 

Hooray For Us?


It’s fair to say that Dick Barton is old enough to remember how “back in the day” it was considered bad form to toot your own horn.  The fellow who would walk into a room and begin bragging about himself, his success or his money (e.g., the Rodney Dangerfield character in “Caddyshack”) was considered crass and an embarrassment. 

But that was then, and this is now.  Self-promotion is the order of the day.  If others won’t tell you you’re great, take out an ad and do it yourself.

Which might explain Mr. Barton’s letter in this week’s editions of both local newspapers gushing with praise for the Taste of Park Ridge Committee, which is comprised of Barton buddies and political allies Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and former Maine Township Supervisor Bob “The Dude” Dudycz, the latter of whom is also the vice-president of Taste of Park Ridge NFP, the Illinois not-for-profit corporation that was formed to take over Taste of Park Ridge (the event) in June, 2005, shortly after Frimark took office.

Although Barton is not listed as either an officer or director of Taste (the corporation) or a committee member of Taste (the event), he does appear in the picture [pdf] posted on the Taste website that pops up when you click on the “Meet the Board of Directors and Committee Members” button on the home page – that’s him third from the left, two places to the right of Dudycz and two places to the left of Frimark – so we’re guessing he must have a pretty important “unofficial” position with the organization.

As discussed in two previous posts [Time For A Transparent “Taste” and Time For A Transparent “Taste” – Part 2 ], while we are fans of the Taste and hope it continues as an annual event, we believe that there is far too much secrecy and not nearly enough transparency and accountability in the operation of Taste (the corporation and the event) for an allegedly not-for-profit “community event” of this type.  Of course, Taste (the corporation) could assuage any suspicions or concerns about who’s getting what out of Taste by simply opening up its books to the public and posting all that information on its spiffy website.  Why that hasn’t been done remains a mystery to us.

So if Mr. Barton wants to take pride in a successful street fair, that’s certainly his right.  But we hope our community saves its pride for slightly more significant things, like transparent and accountable city government – and transparent and accountable not for profit corporations staging events for city government.

City Council Advances “Special Use” By PADS


Monday night (July 21) found the Park Ridge City Council chambers packed with Park Ridge residents and other persons concerned about the opening of a PADS homeless shelter in the gym/”Morello Parish Life Center” of St. Paul of the Cross School.  The crowd filled the corridor outside the chambers and spilled out onto the steps and landing of City Hall.  At least three Chicago television stations had camera crews on hand.

Over forty audience members spoke to the issue.  The camera crews and a good portion of the crowd were gone by the time that the City Council finally voted, unanimously, to refer the homeless shelter issue to the Planning & Zoning Commission for consideration and a public hearing as to whether a text amendment to the zoning ordinance should be adopted that would expressly recognize a “homeless shelter” as a “special use” requiring a Special Use Permit to operate within the City limits.

In reaching that conclusion, the Council had to face down a staged display of solidarity by 10 or so “representatives” of the Park Ridge Ministerial Association (“PRMA”), three of whom were from St. Paul: Pastor Fr. Carl Morello, Ass’t Pastor Fr. Rob Schultz and Ministry Dir. Adrienne Timm.  They were joined by an attorney from the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, who reprised the PRMA argument that the City shouldn’t attempt to regulate a “religious ministry” – which, by their interpretation, is anything they say it is.

Several of the audience comments deserve special mention here.

PADS supporter Diana Schmidt-Garvey, a member of the St. Paul Pastoral Council that Fr. Morello reportedly has packed with friends and “Yes” people the way Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark has tried to pack the City’s boards and commissions, recounted her sadness at how, years ago, the police of one community would drive the homeless to a neighboring community just to get rid of them.  It appears that she hasn’t quite picked up on the fact that moving the homeless from one community to another is a key feature of the PADS model

Susan Czolgosz suggested that a lot of support for PADS would be discovered by surveying 100 Park Ridge residents, while Library Board member John Benka bragged about how the Library’s “statistically significant” survey of 400 residents disclosed no opposition to a PADS shelter; and former alderman John Humm (is his wife Susan Humm, the vice-president of the St. Paul Parish Council?) didn’t even need a survey to opine that “most of Park Ridge” doesn’t want “more government” – which he defined as the City requiring the St. Paul PADS shelter to obtain a special use permit. 

To those folks we say: If you and the City Council want to turn the PADS shelter decision into a nose count of how many Park Ridge residents support it, then the only honest thing to do is put the question on the November ballot as an advisory referendum and let’s count real numbers, not second-rate substitutes from bogus surveys or idle speculation.

Dan Lasowski (sp?), who identified himself as having served on the St. Paul long-range planning committee, attempted to blunt the concerns of parents who object to a PADS shelter in their children’s school by claiming that the St. Paul gym isn’t really a “gym” – and, therefore, not part of the school – because it’s a “parish life center.”  He offered no explanation, however, for the varnished wooden floor marked with a center jump circle and free throw lanes, the six backboards with rims, or the two scoreboards in that non-gym.

And then there was Tom Brandt, who insisted that the homeless in the PADS system “aren’t criminals, they aren’t crackheads, they’re just down on their luck.”  That being the case, we wonder why Mr. Brandt and the other PADS supporters – including the PRMA God Squad – aren’t volunteering in droves to take those down-on-their-luck individuals into their own homes and shower them with good Christian love rather than warehouse them in the St. Paul non-gym.

But let’s not forget Mayor Frimark, whose contributions to the discussion were his stern warnings against applause and booing, his totally erroneous contention that “up until two weeks ago all the [court] cases were against us” concerning the ability for municipalities to enforce zoning ordinances against religious organizations, and his public admission to those present (including the Archdiocese’s attorney) that he’s afraid of the City being sued. 

Fortunately, the entire Council grew a spine on this one, however temporarily, to disregard Frimark’s fears and stand up for their constituents because those constituents have been willing to publicly stand up for themselves. 

It’s about time, on all counts.

A Special Use For PADS?


We received a reminder from a member of the Concerned St. Paul of the Cross Parents group that tonight’s Park Ridge City Council meeting (7:30pm at City Hall) has an agenda item dealing with treating a homeless shelter as a “special use” under the City’s zoning ordinance.

The City Council “Cover Memo”[pdf] to that item states that St. Paul of the Cross “has indicated that should the City require a special use for a homeless shelter [at St. Paul], they will go through the process.”  But the City still has to require it; and, even then, St. Paul has made no firm commitment to comply.  Which looks to us like just more of the same gamesmanship by St. Paul pastor Fr. Carl Morello and his Park Ridge Ministerial Association [“PRMA”] cronies, most likely aided by their consiglieri, prominent Park Ridge attorney Jack “Mr. Insider” Owens.

With Owens on the case and with Park Ridge Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark shamelessly courting the favor of the PRMA members, opponents of the PADS shelter at St. Paul (or anywhere else in Park Ridge, for that matter) have reason to remain concerned, wary and attentive – not only so the City won’t give St. Paul and PADS (which should be required to be a co-applicant, based on the planned use of its organizational and screening services at the St. Paul shelter) a pass on the special use permit, but also so that St. Paul and PADS are required to meet all of the conditions needed for such a permit rather than be allowed to slide by with a Chicago-style wink-and-nod. 

This same Concerned St. Paul Parent also provided us with a page from yesterday’s St. Paul bulletin containing the customary weekly editorial from Fr. Morello, called Fr. Carl’s Corner”[pdf].  True to form, Morello refuses to look in the mirror and, instead, points the finger of blame at others for “causing division among members of this community.”  He even provides a gratuitous alibi for himself and his PRMA cronies: “It was not my intent, or that of any of the ministers in the [PRMA], to cause any divisiveness.”

Spoken like a typical politician.  But, then again, Morello and his PRMA cronies have been acting like typical politicians from the very beginning of this PADS fiasco…at least during those times when they haven’t been acting like outright dictators.

Morello’s propaganda piece also reveals to his congregation – and to the Park Ridge community as a whole – that this PADS shelter decision was a lot more the product of Morello’s and the other PRMA members’ egos than it was of any congregation-wide, or community-wide, consensus building: “I personally had hoped that by taking the lead on P.A.D.S. and working together with the Ministerial Association of Park Ridge, we might even reach a higher spiritual goal.”

That kind of “I, me” attitude has been the problem with this PADS deal all along.  It’s called hubris – “exaggerated pride or self-confidence,” according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary – and it’s not an attractive or desirable quality in human beings generally, much less in priests and ministers who are supposed to be modeling humility and the other virtues for the rest of us to emulate.  That’s the same attitude that kept the PADS homeless shelter process hidden from most of the rank and file church members and community members for almost two years. 

Once again, we want to thank the Concerned St. Paul Parents “organization” for taking the baton from the St. Mary’s NIMBYs and forcing the City to look out for the interests of the community that Fr. Morello and the PRMA have been so willing to disregard.  You are showing once again that “The People” can make a difference, for the better, in local government IF they pay attention and if they have the courage to hold the politicians – both those at 505 Butler Place and those wearing the special collars – accountable for what’s happening in our community. 

The Library Survey: A Dog Waiting For A Pony


To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: “Here they go again.”

As reported in yesterday’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, a recent telephone survey conducted by the Public Opinion Laboratory at Northern Illinois University – one of the pollsters of choice for governmental bodies (especially public libraries) looking to construct “friendly” results – shows that “over two-thirds of respondents…expressed support for expansion of the library building at 20 S. Prospect Ave.” (“Survey says: Support is for bigger library,” July 17)

“Over two-thirds” of the 404 total respondents is approximately 270, allegedly drawn at random from a community of over 37,000 residents, including around 24,000 registered voters.  At a cost of $12,000, that’s almost $30 per response for what may not even be a “statistically significant” sampling, judging by the fact that we don’t hear anybody connected with it publicly bragging that it is.  So our initial reaction is that it wasn’t worth what we paid for it.

That seems even more true when one considers how “cooked” the results might be, judging from the slanted introductory statement read to the respondents before any questions were asked:

“The Park Ridge Library is currently at capacity. In order for the library to add new materials or services, it must eliminate other materials or services or it must expand the library facility. The Library Board of Trustees wants to learn what options residents favor or oppose regarding an expansion on existing library property to accommodate new materials and services.”

Talk about loading the question with buzzwords and phrases designed to strike fear in the hearts of the citizenry.  We’re surprised they didn’t just come right out and say: “We’re going to start firing people and throwing out your favorite materials tomorrow!”

But the real evidence of the deception at the core of this latest Library tactic is not what was said in that introductory statement but what was left out: The cost.  The Library Board and Staff, along with their accomplices at the Public Opinion Laboratory, didn’t need anything getting in the way of the “I want it” mentality they were trying to foster in the respondents,  including what may be the single most important factor affecting the spending decisions we make in real life. 

And if history is our guide, this $12,000 survey is just Step 1 in what will be at least a 3-step process to get a Library construction project going.  These “favorable” survey results can now be leveraged into the Library Board’s/Staff’s spending another $50,000 on Step 2, a “space needs” study, which in turn can give them the impetus to spend another big chunk of our taxes on architects/engineers to come up with some designs. 

Once they get to that point, don’t expect them to let the voters weigh in on whether to spend however many millions of dollars this new grand plan will cost.  They’re a lot more comfortable orchestrating a “yes” from 270 of 404 survey respondents than having to hear a “no” from 8,948 of 14,734 voters, as happened in 2002 when over 3,500 voters put the issue of a new library on the ballot through a citizens’ initiative after the Library Board/Staff and the City Council refused to do it themselves.

That’s why, despite already wasting $12,000 on a cooked survey and planning to waste another $50,000 on a “space needs” study that will recommend – “Surprise!” – a bigger library, Library Board vice-president Shlomo Crandus publicly dissembles with a proclamation that: “We don’t have expansion plans right now.”  We wonder if he said that with a wink, a nod, or with his fingers crossed behind his back.

With our country and our community reeling from skyrocketing energy prices, leaping inflation, a plummeting dollar, falling home prices and growing unemployment, spending $60,000-plus on something they claim they aren’t planning to do “right now” is as fiscally irresponsible as it is insulting to the taxpayers who are paying for it.  So we’re happy to give “credit” for this incipient fiasco where credit is due: The Library’s Executive Director, Janet Van de Carr, and the following Library Board members:

John Schmidt (President)
Shlomo Crandus (Vice President)
Margaret Harrison (Secretary)
Dorothy Hynous (Treasurer)
Eileen O’Neill-Burke
John Benka
Kathleen de Grasse
Patricia Lofthouse
Richard T. Van Metre 

And let’s not forget the man behind the curtain who appointed or re-appointed all of these Library Board members: Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, who has voiced his support for a new or bigger Library on several occasions. 

We see your dog, Mr. Mayor, but where are you hiding your pony?

Going PADS-Less


Last Friday we suggested another alternative to locating a PADS homeless shelter at St. Paul of the Cross: Locating it at the Park Ridge Senior Center, where there are no children and where the hours of operation are more compatible with the PADS operation. 

PADS supporters Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and one of his more generous campaign contributors, local attorney Jack “Mr. Insider” Owens, are both reportedly Senior Center members, so we’re pretty sure they could convince their fellow members to put a PADS shelter there.  Plus fellow PADS supporter Dick Barton is the Park Ridge Park District Board president, so the three of them should be able to work some intergovernmental cooperation magic with the Senior Center, a Park District facility, if they really want to.

There’s a Park Board meeting this Thursday (July 17) at 7:30 p.m. at Park District headquarters (the Maine Leisure Center, 2701 Sibley).  If anybody wants to sound out Mr. Barton and the Park Board members about whether the Park District would support the Senior Center as an alternative to St. Paul of the Cross for a PADS shelter, that would be a good time to do it. 

Meanwhile, we received the following 12-point proposal from one of the Concerned St. Paul parents, and it appears to have even more merit than the Senior Center – because it takes the Palatine-based PADS corporation (PADS to HOPE, Inc.) out of the equation and puts local resources totally under local control to focus on our local homeless:

1. We DO NOT INVOLVE the PADS people at all. Their screening is not satisfactory and their program has been dangerous in other towns. Their system only offers one night of undignified help and invites in homeless from other towns. PADS will increase the homeless population in Park Ridge. They are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

2. The Park Ridge Police Department would locate and identify the PARK RIDGE HOMELESS (which likely number 6-10 individuals). The PARK RIDGE HOMELESS are then fingerprinted to ensure that none of these individuals are a danger to us or our children.

3. Every church in PRMA would shelter one homeless person per night. This idea eliminates a large group assembling around a church before and after they are sheltered.

4. The homeless would be sheltered in the rectory or another location in the church, but not in an area used by children.

5. Volunteers (and there are many) would be scheduled to come to each location, actually meet the homeless person, and bring a warm meal. Many volunteers and their families may want to spend time with the guest, have dinner with them, and engage them in meaningful conversation. (Rather than just “supervise” them as PADS volunteers do.) This would be a great way to teach children about how to care for others.

6. An additional volunteer can take the persons clothing home to be washed and returned fresh and clean (something else that is lacking in the current plan.)

7. With this system, the homeless can also spend time with one of our priests and discuss our faith (something that is actually prohibited by PADS policy).

8. Unlike the PADS idea, the homeless would not be forced to share a bathroom with 10-20 other homeless people, or wait in line for a toilet.

9. A comfortable fold out bed can be purchased for the guest to sleep on, in a dignified location, rather than on a hard mat or cot on the floor of a gym.

10. The guest could have access to a shower, a television set, and caring people. The PADS system would require the homeless to wash themselves in a sink in the boys bathroom.

11. In the morning, the guest would have breakfast and leave – showered, wearing clean clothes, and feeling that they just spent time with good Christian people who truly care about them. Their experience would be far more meaningful and dignified than any PADS shelter could offer.

12. Finally, as the guest leaves, he would be told which church to go to that night. That would ensure that only one person shows up at each location. It also ensures that we take care of the Park Ridge homeless, and not people from Chicago and other suburbs.

Additionally, this program addresses the issue 7 days a week. PADS only addresses it for one day. This program spreads the homeless out at numerous churches, rather than a large number at one location.

Frankly, this proposal sounds a whole lot more “Christian” than the one-night-per-week, feel-good-with-minimal-inconvenience PADS version that the Park Ridge Ministerial Association leaped to embrace for reasons we still can’t quite understand, unless all those “Christians” running the PRMA really were looking only for a no muss, no fuss turn-key operation that required the least possible commitment and accountability – a Christianity “Lite” version more concerned with expanding the PADS franchise to a new community then with actually solving our local homeless problem.

And better yet, the Concerned Parent proposal would be more likely to maintain the local homeless people’s ties to this community, thereby increasing the chances of their escaping homelessness at rates that exceed the meager results that PADS has been producing from its “if it’s Tuesday, this must be Schaumburg” musical-communities model.

Plus it looks to us like the Senior Center proposal and the Concerned Parent proposal could be pursued on parallel tracks simultaneously.  That’s good, because either of them appears to be a substantial improvement over the current St. Paul PADS plan.  

Well done, Concerned St. Paul Parent!  And another good idea produced by the NIMBY mentality.

Senior Center Could Provide PADS Solution


As is becoming known both by word of mouth and newspaper reports, the attempt by St. Paul of the Cross pastor Fr. Carl Morello and the Park Ridge Ministerial Association to bring a PADS homeless shelter to St. Paul’s school is dividing the members of that parish.  We think a better solution is available.  

That’s why, in a previous post, Better Than PADS And Affordable, Too (6/9/08), we offered one alternative to locating a PADS to Hope, Inc. “franchise” in a school or church building, where it poses a risk to children: Rent rooms for the homeless at one of the local motels each Sunday night.  The cost to each of the 12 member churches of the Park Ridge Ministerial Association for rooms at a motel like the Days Inn on Touhy Avenue in Niles could be as little as $1,500 per PADS “season.”

But that’s not the only solution.  There’s another one that involves a public building that the taxpayers are already subsidizing to the tune of approximately $200,000 a year: The Park Ridge Senior Center, at 100 South Western Avenue. 

The Senior Center has a multi-purpose room that can easily hold the same amount of homeless “guests” that are contemplated for St. Paul of the Cross, along with bathroom facilities and a kitchen.  It’s got its own adjacent parking for “guests” who will be driving there.  It’s also surrounded by park land and a good half block away from both Washington Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools.

And unlike St. Paul of the Cross, where the Sunday night PADS session would displace that school’s customary slate of Sunday night school sports activities and bump up against its Monday morning 7:00 a.m. extended-day student program, the Senior Center hours are much more accommodating.  The Center closes at 5:00 p.m. Sunday and doesn’t re-open on Monday morning until 9:00 a.m.

What will it take to get this deal done?  Obviously, it will need the endorsement of the Park Ridge Ministerial Association, whose next display of common sense and community sensitivity on this issue will be its first.  And it will need the approval of PADS, which has built its corporate franchise and brand on putting homeless shelters in churches and schools. 

But those should be only minor impediments for the PADS proponents throughout the community, especially considering that two of the more prominent local PADS supporters are Park Ridge Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and Park District president Dick Barton, under whose jurisdiction the Senior Center falls.  Not only are Frimark and Barton friends, but Frimark is also reportedly a Senior Center member – so he should be able to marshal the support of his fellow Center’s members for what he considers a very worthy cause.

Of course, the PADS shelter will still need a special use permit from the City, but putting the shelter at a public building will at leaset eliminate that pesky “separation of Church and State” issue that PADS and the PRMA keep whining about.  And getting a special use permit should be right up the alley of another Senior Center member and PADS supporter, local attorney Jack “Mr. Insider” Owens, who has been counseling Fr. Morello in bringing the PADS to St. Paul. 

If a PADS shelter in Park Ridge really is as good an idea as its supporters insist it is, we can’t imagine the triumvirate of Frimark, Barton and Owens failing to make this deal happen if they really put their minds to it. 


Time For A Transparent “Taste” – Part 2


Monday’s post about the Taste of Park Ridge, run by Taste of Park Ridge NFP, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, provoked so many questions and comments that we thought the topic deserved a second discussion – which we will devote primarily to questions raised by previous comments:

Question 1: Did the Chamber of Commerce willingly give up “the Taste” (event) in 2005; and, if so, why (lack of profit, too much work, lack of volunteers)?

Question 2: Who elects/selects the officers of Taste of Park Ridge NFP (especially if, as commentator and former 5th Ward Ald. Joe Baldi insists, it has no shareholders)?

Question 3: Why isn’t the Taste of Park Ridge NFP identified on the “Taste” website as the owner/operator of Taste (the event)?  Is it a secret?

Question 4: Since Taste (the corporation) effectively is receiving a monopoly from the City to run a festival that closes off one of our main business streets and receives ample assistance from the City and the Park District, why doesn’t it publicize its financials on its website as a show of good faith and in gratitude for its government-sanctioned monopoly?

Question 5: Because there is so much emphasis on “volunteers” for the Taste (the event), do any of the Taste corporation’s officers or directors, or any of the committee members, receive any compensation for their services, or any contracts to provide event-related services (insurance, security, fencing, etc.)?

Question 6: Why did Taste (the corporation) contribute $1,000 to Friends of Bob Dudzyc on September 10, 2007?  What other “contributions”/”donations” has Taste (the corporation) made since 2005?

Question 7: How many “scholarships” has Taste (the corporation) given out, in what amounts were they, were they all awarded in connection with essay contests (like the 2007 one), who have been the winners/recipients, and where can we read the winning essay(s)?

Question 8: Why is there no mention of the essay contest, winners or general information on the Taste website, especially since (as Joe Baldi helpfully pointed out) the March 22, 2007 Herald-Advocate article reporting the contest contained the direction: “For general information on the event, visit or call (847) 297-2510, Ext. 237)?

Question 9: Who has provided the insurance for Taste (the event and the corporation) from 2005 to the present?

Question 10: Who are all the vendors and how much are each of them paid?

Now, we’re sure these questions and the comments that follow are going to upset some people.  That’s not our purpose, but it is an acceptable collateral benefit if it gets more of our resident “sheep” to start looking out for those who want to shear them.  

Because a “Culture of Corruption” can’t exist without a “Culture of Secrecy.”

Time For A Transparent “Taste”


Like many Park Ridge residents, we look forward to the “Taste of Park Ridge” each summer.  Since its inception several years ago, it has added a welcome festive air to our community every summer. 

But recently a reader expressed surprise to have learned that “the Taste” is being run by a private not-for-profit corporation: Taste of Park Ridge NFP, which (according to the Illinois Secretary of State) was incorporated June 22, 2005. 

Interestingly enough, we could find no mention of any corporate status on the Taste’s website (, although such a status is suggested by the website’s listing of officers and directors [pdf]: Dave Iglow, president; Bob Dudycz, vice-president; Jim Bruno, treasurer; Albert Galus, secretary; and directors Dean Patras, Sandy Svizzero and Barb Tyksisnki. 

Also identified on the Taste’s website is a Taste “committee” [pdf], of which Dudycz is “chairman” and which includes corporate officers/directors Iglow, Bruno, Galus, Patras, Svizzero and Tyksinski, along with Carol Brown of the Park Ridge Police Dept., Mayor Howard Frimark, M. David Johnson of BDS Software, Park Ridge Economic Development Director Kim Uhlig, and John Warnimont of Activision Electric. 

One question raised by these corporate and committee structures that isn’t answered on the Taste website is a fundamental one: “Why was a private corporation formed to run an event that began (to the best of our recollection and research) as a venture run by the Chamber of Commerce with the City’s assistance?” 

That a private corporation would be formed to run an event like this is even more curious given that – as reported in last week’s Park Ridge Journal – Taste vice-president and committee chairman Bob Dudycz noted that: “Virtually all of the labor to run this event is by volunteers and community organizations,” such as the Park Ridge Police Department, the Park Ridge Fire Department, the Park Ridge Public Works Department, the City of Park Ridge Administrative Staff, the Park Ridge Library, the Park Ridge Park District, the Park Ridge Youth Campus, the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, and the Knights of Columbus. 

Another Dudycz comment reported in the Journal that got our attention is: “In past years, the Taste of Park Ridge board has contributed funds for college scholarships, and donated to local events and other worthy causes.”  Despite scouring the Taste website and Googling the Taste and the Taste corporation in various ways, we could find nothing about the identity of those scholarship recipients, the amounts awarded, the application process, the qualifications required for consideration, or exactly who makes the award decisions.  The same goes for the “local events” and the “other worthy causes” who allegedly benefitted from the Taste corporation’s largess.

While we are aware of no evidence that anything untoward is going on with the Taste, we can’t help but wonder why the people who appear to be in charge of it have kept so much of what they are doing secret – especially when so much of what they are doing is admittedly being accomplished primarily through the “volunteerism” of employees of the taxpayer-financed City and Park District governments, as well as of the taxpayers themselves.  The Taste corporation has its own website, so there is no excuse for not making all of this information readily available to the people who make the Taste a success year after year. 

We’ve repeatedly criticized the City and the other local governmental bodies for fostering the “Culture of Secrecy” with their closed session meetings, confidential memos and their spin-meisters masquerading as “public information officers.”  We think the same criticism should apply to the “Culture of Secrecy” being practiced by the Taste corporation, which is effectively acting as a quasi-public entity that derives the vast majority of its revenues and goodwill from its monopoly of what may be our largest civic event.

If there’s nothing to hide, people, then why all the secrecy? Since you already toot your own horn (deservedly so) in connection with the Taste event itself, why not tell the community the details about all these other things that you claim to do?

How about starting with letting all those Park Ridge families who help enrich the Taste corporation’s coffers each summer know exactly how their students can go about getting one of those scholarships? 

Update 7/10/08:

We regret that we failed to discover what appears to be the single reference to “Taste of Park Ridge NFP” – the corporation that took over the Taste event in 2005 – as easily as some of the Taste’s (corporation’s) apologists who finally directed us there yesterday. 

We made the silly mistake of expecting to find the Taste (corporation) identified on the “Home” page of the Taste (event) website when, instead, we should have realized that we needed to go to the “Canopies on Courtland” tab, then select the “contract” link, then read through the 19 references to “Taste of Park Ridge” or “Taste of Park Ridge Committee” in the “Application and Sponsorship Contract” [pdf] until we finally got to that single reference to “Taste of Park Ridge NFP” in the very last paragraph, under the “Indemnification” heading.  We can’t imagine why we didn’t think of looking there first! 

Which actually illustrates our point about the “Culture of Secrecy.”  If the average citizen needs even that much luck and/or effort to find such basic information about exactly who/what runs our community’s most prominent annual event, then somebody’s trying to hide it – just as the Taste (corporation or event) chose not to advertise its $1,000 contribution to Taste (corporation) vice-president and Taste (event) chairman Bob Dudyzc’s campaign fund, either.  Wonder why?

But we sure hope that Joe Baldi and those other Taste (corporation) apologists help us out by providing the answers to our other questions posed in yesterday’s “Time For A Transparent Taste – Part 2” – or at least tell us in which other obscure places on the Taste website we might find them.