City Government By Delegation And Avoidance


Since becoming an alderman in May 2007, dependable Mayor Frimark Alderpuppet Robert Ryan (5th Ward) has distinguished himself several ways. 

The most notable, though not the most auspicious, is by having the worst attendance record of any City Council member, although in fairness to Ryan his attendance has improved since he was cited for his many MIAs by the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate in both an article and an editorial in its June 19th edition (”City Council attendance rates vary in Park Ridge” and “Who’s missing city meetings?”).  

More troubling than Ryan’s no-shows, however, are the things he says and does when he actually shows up – like his votes for sweetheart deals for Frimark campaign contributors Bruce Adreani/Norwood Builders and Bill Napleton, or his outspoken advocacy of delegating aldermanic duties to non-elected citizen “experts.”

As reported in this week’s Herald-Advocate (“Ald. Ryan seeks citizen experts to serve on council committees,” Nov. 27), Ryan basically wants to delegate those aldermanic duties that require heavy lifting to non-elected citizens who appear to possess “expertise” on various matters related to City business.  For example, he cited resident accountants and financial professionals as “experts” who could figure out City finances “in a far more competent manner than [the City Council members].”

We don’t deny that other residents – in fact, a lot of other residents – might be more competent than Ryan or other Council members when it comes to City finances, judging by how Ryan and the rest of the Council rubber-stamped former City Mgr. Tim Schuenke’s efforts (aided by Finance Director Diane Lambesis?) to produce a balanced budget by what now appears to have been the fabrication of larger revenue numbers to fill the budget gaps.  And as can be seen from the report [pdf] distributed at Tuesday night’s Finance & Budget Committee meeting, the City is already admitting that it “[w]ill not realize budgeted revenues” in at least four of its accounts.  

Joining Ryan in his call for delegating aldermanic responsibility is fellow Alderpuppet Jim “Chicken Little” Allegretti (4th Ward), who may be best known for reflexively chirping “we’re gonna get sued” any time there’s a discussion of his latest pet project, the big new police station.  Allegretti is quoted in the Herald-Advocate article as admitting that he is “often perplexed” about police station discussions because he’s not a builder or an architect.

Judging by his comments and his votes, Allegretti is perplexed by more City government issues than just the police station.  But it should be obvious to anybody with at least a high double-digit I.Q. and a modicum of common sense and good judgment that while the current cop shop is less than optimal, we neither need nor can we afford the big new facility recommended by the hired-gun “experts” who were retained by the City solely for the purpose of making such a recommendation.

Fortunately, both 1st Ward Ald. Dave Schmidt and 7th Ward Ald. Frank Wsol have voiced objections to Ryan’s proposal, with Wsol correctly pointing out that aldermen are elected to study the facts and make the decisions that Ryan and Allegretti are trying to off-load.  Wsol also questioned whether aldermen might improperly defer to the advice they receive from these “experts” and vote however the experts suggest.

If Ryan and Allegretti can’t understand what’s going on with City government, however, they should be voicing concern about the competence of a City Staff whose members are being paid – in many cases, quite handsomely – to do the day-to-day business of the City and who, as part of their duties, should be ready, willing and able to communicate what they’re doing and how they’re doing it in ways that a competent and diligent alderman can understand. 

And while we have nothing against citizens’ committees, commissions and task forces, we are more than a little concerned when we can find nothing about the backgrounds and qualifications of the appointees to these bodies posted on the City’s website.  That suggests that their most significant qualification for appointment might be their connection to the Mayor who does the appointing.

But if Ryan and Allegretti want other Park Ridge residents to do their jobs for them, they can always resign and let one of those residents step up to the task. 

Get A Clue!


Today we offer three vignettes for this week’s Park Ridge Journal that illustrate the kind of cluelessness that causes local governments to make bad decisions which end up costing the taxpayers bundles of cash and/or a lot of wasted effort.

The New O’Hare Runway: Let’s start with our fearless leader, Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, who – as quoted in today’s Park Ridge Journal (“Heads Up,” November 26) – proclaims that “[w]e’re getting killed” on the south end of Park Ridge with airplane noise from the new northern east-west runway at O’Hare.  So Frimark and Third Ward Alderpuppet Don Bach headed over to a meeting of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (“ONCC”) to complain. 

But where has Frimark been for the past four years while this new runway was being planned and built?  Why wasn’t he showing up at ONCC meetings then, or calling Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky then, or contacting the FAA then, or even talking to his diminutive Chicago counterpart, Richie Daley, about the problems the new runway would cause for Park Ridge?

Like with so many other City matters, Frimark couldn’t be bothered with such trivial pursuits.  He was too busy cutting the size of the City Council, getting a majority of his alderpuppets elected, cutting sweetheart deals for buddies like Norwood Builders and Bill Napleton, and trying to build a big new police station that we can’t afford.  

Which is why Frimark, after being asleep at the wheel for the past four years, now finds himself with the Hobson’s Choice of trying to help the residents on the south end of town by returning more flights to runway 22 Right, the noise from which has plagued those Park Ridge residents on the north end of town.  And which also explains why a clueless Frimark may be setting up his own little civil war.

District 64 Bond Refunding: Elementary School Dist. 64 is refunding Emerson construction bonds from 1997 in order to reduce the interest rate for the remaining term of the bonds.  As reported in the Journal article (“Dist. 64 Bond Refunding May Save Taxpayers A Buck”), the annual savings to the average taxpayer from this refunding will be $1.00 per year.

We’re happy about anything that will save the taxpayers money, even a little bit.  But given the District’s inept financial management over the past decade, we think the taxpayers deserve a little more candor and respect than what was offered by School Board president and long-time board member Sue Runyon: “This seems meaningless, but it represents our commitment to manage our spending and give back to our taxpayers whenever we can.”

No, Sue, you can’t manage your spending, which is why the District spent most of the past six years trying to stay out of the Illinois State Board of Education’s financial dog house; and why, since it passed the tax increase referendum last year, has cluelessly gone back to its free-spending ways while failing to distinguish itself academically when compared to many other districts, including some that spend less per pupil. 

And for those of us who have seen the Dist. 64 portion of our tax bills soar by hundreds of dollars, that $1 refund sure seems like chump change – and we’re the chumps.

Col. Mustard In The Restaurant With The Big Screen TV: A contributor to the Journal’s “Speak Out” column laments how “no one comes to Park Ridge to spend money” because the City is “restricting businesses from succeeding.”  According to this speaker, the lack of “TVs, pool tables or the like” is why “so many restaurants go out of business here so quickly.”

We always thought what kept restaurants in business was good food and good service in an attractive setting at a fair price.  That formula seems to have worked quite well, thank you, for places like Zia’s, Don Juan’s and Nonno Pino’s right next door in Edison Park.

We do agree, however, with the writer’s contention that “[o]ur property taxes are out of hand, our streets are not repaired, and our fees and permit costs are ridiculous.”  But we think the answer is less wasteful spending and better overall financial management by the City, not the addition of TVs, pool tables and arcade games to mediocre restaurants.

Time For Another Episode Of “The F & B Show”


As regular readers of this blog know, the City of Park Ridge recently reported a $1.7 million deficit in last year’s budget and the prospect of an equivalent deficit – or worse – in this year’s budget.  Not exactly the kind of news you want to hear in the middle of a recession and with “For Sale” signs continuing to pop up all over town like mushrooms, is it?

So if you’re concerned about how City finances and your tax dollars are being managed (or mismanaged), you might want to stroll over to City Hall tomorrow night (Tuesday, November 25, 7:00 p.m.) and catch the City Council’s Finance & Budget Committee meeting.

As best as can be discerned from the Agenda [pdf] and the Background Memorandum [pdf] for that meeting, one of the topics will be a review of the City’s financial results – including the Uptown Tax Increment Finance (“TIF”) district – for the first six months of FY 2008-09.  And one of the TIF topics that will be discussed is the relocation of Coldwell Banker Residential Realty from its current location next to the former Hollywood Video store on Touhy over to one of the recently-completed Target Area II buildings between Northwest Hwy. and Touhy, just west of Prospect. 

From the applicable Agenda Cover Memorandum [pdf], it appears that Coldwell Banker is going into one of the “retail” spaces fronting on Northwest Hwy., which means that yet another of those “retail” spaces in Target Area II won’t be generating any sales tax, although PRC will pay the City $18,168 annually as a form of subsidy because it couldn’t put retail into there.  That’s better than a sharp stick in the eye, but it sure doesn’t add to the “mix” of stores that were supposed to create that “vibrant” Uptown retail dynamic all of our public officials were blubbering about when this project was being sold to the taxpayers as a property tax savior.

Which is why we would like to see Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, Alderpuppet Rich DiPietro (2nd Ward) and all those former aldercritters – like Rex Parker, Sue Bell, Mark Anderson, Dawn Disher, Mike Marous, Mary Wynn Ryan, etc. – who insisted that Park Ridge would become a magnet for retail if only we built enough new retail space, show up Tuesday night to explain exactly what they were smoking when the spouted what now appears to be nonsense.  The same goes for Uptown Advisory Task Force chair Ellen Upton and the rest of her task force members who started the Uptown Redevelopment “Retail” drum beat. 

But we’re not going to bet the ranch on that happening.  Public officials who make bad decisions tend to cut and run at the earliest opportunity and not look back, so it is unlikely that any former officials would return to the scene of the crime and accept accountability for their handiwork.

On a related note, another highlight of tomorrow night’s meeting will be a discussion of the fact that the Uptown TIF Fund now owes the City’s “General Fund” $3.8 million to repay the money the TIF district has had to borrow because the TIF district is not generating enough revenues to pay its own way.  We can’t wait to hear that explanation, although we’re betting it will sound a lot like “it’s too early” in the life of the TIF to expect positive cash flow, but that it will “soon start turning a profit.”

That’s the standard TIF story, and you can expect all the TIF proponents to stick with it.

And talking about funds and fund balances, there should also be a discussion of the fact that four of the City’s operating funds – Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, Municipal Waste, Emergency 911 and Alley Paving – are “overdrawn” by almost $3 million.  We’ve always considered governmental “fund accounting” to be like a shell game, but with a lot more than the standard three shells.  So while we’re not sure what exactly is the practical effect of a fund being “overdrawn,” we have to assume that it can’t be good. 

All in all, it makes for the prospect of some interesting moments during tomorrow night’s meeting, especially with a mayor and city council that keeps on talking and acting like we can easily afford to spend in the neighborhood of $20 million for a new police station but somehow can’t afford relief sewers to reduce the flooding, or to pave our streets to reduce the potholes.

With The F&B Show, there’s always entertainment; and it usually involves both smoke and mirrors.  

$20,000 A Small Price To Pay…For What?


Third Ward Alderpuppet Don Bach went on record in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Was planning session worth the cost of hiring facilitator?” Nov. 20) as believing that spending $19,500 for last weekend’s “strategic planning” sessions was “a good expense of $20,000.” 

We trust our faithful readers and other observant Park Ridge citizens will remember Bach as the same diligent steward of the public purse who, back in January, ripped Bill Napleton for disrespecting the City Council and insulting the people of Park Ridge by demanding $2.4 million of our tax dollars to keep his dealerships in Park Ridge.  Bach told Napleton that he wouldn’t buy another Cadillac from him – before voting to give Napleton all the money he asked for!

So when Bach says that “[u]nless you sit a group down like this with a facilitator who has a goal in mind and a time table in mind, this 12-point plan we came up with could have taken a year,” we take it with a whole fistful of salt.  And when we consider the work product they came up with, we wonder whether Ald. Bach and his cohorts might be interested in taking some prime Florida swamp land off our hands.

C’mon, Don, did the City really have to spend $20,000 of our tax dollars for you folks to come up with “build a police station,” “keep streets and sidewalks in good repair,” and “develop and implement a plan for improving rush hour traffic flow”?  And do you actually want to publicly admit that you and the rest of City government needed a $20,000 “facilitator” to help you figure out that you need to “prioritize capital projects based on available revenue”?

If so, then maybe we’ve got a bad case of the inmates running the asylum.  Or the blind leading the blinder.

We also don’t see $20,000 of value in: “Aim for building one or two relief sewers each year, if funding permits, to further reduce chances of flooding.” [Emphasis added]  At that rate, we won’t start getting flooding under control until…let’s see now…maybe around the time that the $16.5 million in new cop shop bonds gets paid off in…hmmm…2029? 

With the City already staring at a $1.7 million budget hole from last year and maybe even a bigger one this year, however, all you folks up in Mayfield Estates and in those other areas of town that regularly flood might want to consider outfitting your basements with pool and patio furniture – or invest in some scuba gear.

But at least you’ll have a big new police station to look at.

Frimark, DiPietro To Voters: “Pound Sand!”


At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Ald. (and newly-announced mayoral candidate) Dave Schmidt (1st Ward) disclosed that at the December 1, 2008, meeting he will propose a resolution seeking the Council’s approval of putting the following issue to an advisory referendum of Park Ridge voters at the April 7, 2009 election:

Should the City of Park Ridge replace its current police facility with a new, larger structure at a cost of at least $16 million plus additional, but currently unknown, costs for land acquisition and bond interest?

By passing such a resolution, the City Council could give the voters their say on this issue, but without binding the Council to follow the voters’ advice.  In other words, the Council could find out what thousands of Park Ridge voters think about such an expensive public works project, yet the aldermen would remain free to accept or reject that advice.  What’s not to like?

Plenty, if you’re Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and his Alderpuppets.  Which is why it didn’t take Frimark and Alderpuppet Rich DiPietro (2nd Ward) long to start badmouthing the idea.

Frimark, who has spent the last two years secretly wheeling and dealing for the City to buy private property for a new cop shop – most recently the shuttered auto dealership of his buddy and campaign contributor Bill Napleton – pronounced the Alderpuppet party line on such a referendum with his comments to the Park Ridge Journal: “I’m not big on these advisory referendums…[because]…[t]he aldermen were elected to make these decisions.”

Similar comments came from DiPietro, who parroted Frimark in insisting that the aldermen are elected to make these decisions but then blustered: “[A]nd the people have the right to elect someone else if they don’t like the decisions.”

Spoken like someone who doesn’t have to run for re-election until 2011; and who, it’s rumored, won’t even be running then but will hand his seat over to one of two Frimark favorites – Nick Milissis (current Park Board commissioner whom Frimark has appointed to the City’s Civil Service and Fair Housing Commissions) or Rich Brendza (former one-term Dist. 64 board member).

We have checked all of the information we could find on the April 2007 aldermanic elections, and we were unable to discover even one candidate for alderman (including all seven members of the current Council) who campaigned on a platform of borrowing and/or spending at least $16 million (not including interest) on a new police station.  The same goes for Frimark’s 2005 mayoral campaign.  So nobody truly elected them to make this decision at all, especially without consulting the voters via referendum.

Don’t expect any of the other full-time Alderpuppets to cut their strings to Puppeteer Frimark on this one, however, including semi-independant Ald. Frank Wsol (7th Ward), who gladly drank the new cop shop Kool-Aid when he was facing a tough re-election challenge from Frimark puppet (and former cop) Bob Kristie in April 2007 and now can’t turn back.

But the real dishonesty on this matter can be attributed to Frimark, naturally, who insists that a multi-million cop shop will be “tax-neutral for citizens” because the 20-plus year cop shop bonds will simply replace the 10-year Public Works Building bonds, thereby keeping the city paying roughly the same annual debt service until around 2029.

Frimark conveniently (or deceitfully?) ignores the fact that 20-year bonds increase the total interest cost to the taxpayers by millions over what they paid on the Public Works Building’s 10-year bonds; and extending that level of debt service for another 20 years will also tie the hands of future City Councils as to what they can spend on what are truly infrastructure needs, like relief sewers, street paving, etc.  Even more fundamentally, if this were purely a tax matter, wouldn’t the taxpayers be entitled to a tax reduction once the existing Public Works bonds are retired and the debt service abates? 

But “Let’s Make A Deal” and Richie D really think the taxpayers of Park Ridge are dumb enough to buy the big lie – that losing a potential tax reduction is “tax-neutral.” And that’s also why they are so smug and comfortable telling the taxpaying voters who might want a say on such a long-term spending boondoggle, effectively, to: “Pound sand!”

If This Was Either “Planning” Or “Strategic,” We’re In Big Trouble


Only four “ordinary” Park Ridge citizens reportedly attended any part of Park Ridge city government’s “strategic planning” extravaganza this past weekend at the Park Ridge Public Library.  But from the sound of things, the best the taxpaying residents of this community can hope for is that it was merely a waste of time and $19,500.

That’s because the “strategic” ideas coming out of the two planning sessions were pretty much just re-hashes of the “same old same old” we’ve been hearing for years.  That’s the good news.  But some of those re-hashed same olds – the ones that are going to cost us the most money and/or bury us in even more debt, of course – might have received a shot of steroids from the group-think process, making them even more dangerous than before.

Let’s start with the big new police station that Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark has been trying to build so that he can have the taxpayers throw a few million dollars at one or another of his buddies or campaign contributors who wants to dump one of their Park Ridge properties but can’t find a ready, willing and able buyer.  Say somebody like…oh…umm…hmmm…Bill Napleton?  

If we were to believe the opinions of the elected and appointed officials, along with the higher-level bureaucrats in attendance, not only do we need to spend at least $16.5 million (not including the land costs and 20+ years of bond interest) on a new cop shop, but a majority of our residents support such a project – or would support it if only they understood just how necessary it is. 

Our resident “Chicken Little,” Frimark Alderpuppet Jim Allegretti (4th Ward), reportedly went so far with his “the sky is falling” predictions that he actually suggested that (1) criminals arrested by our police might start staging slip-and-fall “accidents” on the steps into the current station just so they could file personal injury lawsuits – with the help of a network of slick P.I. attorneys who would target the Park Ridge police station as a kind of slip-and-fall “honey hole.”; and (2) our female police officers will start filing discrimination suits because of all the years of having inadequate and unequal locker room facilities.   

Gee, Jimbo, couldn’t we solve those two “legal” problems (assuming there’s even a lick of merit to either of them) for a lot less than $16.5 million? 

Not only did the big new cop shop get a ringing endorsement, but a new or expanded Library also wormed its way onto the “to do” list – although Alderpuppet Robert Ryan (5th Ward) did opine that the 2002 library referendum made clear that the citizens don’t want to see the Library moved to some other place in town, as some of the other “strategic” thinkers in the group were advocating.

Other random “strategic” ideas that came out of the brainstorming portion of the sessions included: building monument-style “gateways” to mark the entries to Park Ridge; buying up homes along the Higgins corridor and land-banking them to aid commercial developers; taking the lead on the “homeless problem”; reducing the public’s comment time at Council meetings so the meetings get done faster; doing a comprehensive sewer study to figure out what areas were flooded and what can be done to correct it; giving more economic incentives to businesses to locate here or expand their operations; more façade improvements in South Park and around the Dee Road METRA station; and better “selling” of residents on various projects and plans.

As one of the “ordinary” citizens in attendance observed, if these sessions had been televised or videorecorded and shown to the public, he’d like to have the torches and ropes concession for the citizens who would march on City Hall. 

We suspect that’s a bit extreme, although we do find it interesting that the City Council chose not to record those proceedings so that there would be a verbatim record of everything that was said, how it was said, and who said it. 

But apparently our public officials didn’t want any evidence that couldn’t be sanitized for the protection of the delicate sensibilities of us average citizens.  So those of you who want to find out more details will need to wait for Jennifer Johnson’s account in this week’s Herald-Advocate, or wait for the “official” report that the highly-paid “facilitator” indicated would be forthcoming – hopefully as part of the $19,500 price.

Oh, by the way: Despite the talk about all the great things on which the City might spend bundles of money, the actual cost of things was virtually ignored. And, not surprisingly, nobody reportedly had any solid ideas for generating the revenue needed to pay for them, other than….wait for it…property taxes.  

But you knew that, didn’t you?

Need “Strategic Planning”? Try Some Common Sense, And Wasting Less Money


If you have a twisted sense of humor, a strong stomach, and some time to waste tonight and tomorrow, you might consider wandering over to the Park Ridge Public Library and watching what’s being billed as the Park Ridge City Council’s “strategic planning session.”  At the very least, you can see how $19,500 of your tax dollars are being spent.

As reported in yesterday’s Herald-Advocate (“City schedules strategic planning,” Nov. 13), the City is bringing in Robert Oberwise of Executive Partners [pdf] to “facilitate” this circus minimus, which will run from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. tonight, and resume tomorrow from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  While you will be allowed to spectate, you won’t be allowed to commentate.  But it might not take long before you’ll want to expectorate. 

The reason for this exercise?  The official party line comes from Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark himself, whose sales pitch is: “The goal really is to get the council and staff moving in the same direction, so we’re all on the same page.”

What exactly does that mean, Mr. Mayor?  Are you saying that the Council and staff have been going in different directions, or been on different pages?  If so, can you give us some specific examples – or are you just blowing smoke at us again?

The first clue that this is going to be an exercise in futility comes from City Mgr. Jim Hock, who is staring down the barrel of over $3 million in cumulative budget deficits inherited from his predecessor, Tim (“Good Riddance”) Schuenke.  Hock says he is looking “to hear from the mayor and aldermen what their most important concerns are” before he suggests any budget cuts.

Sorry, Mr. Hock, but you’re the professional city manager making in the vicinity of $200,000 a year to serve as the City’s CEO, so it’s time you started acting like one.  You’re the guy who should be proposing those cuts that your years of municipal managerial experience tell you need to be made – and then let the mayor and the aldermen react to them.  The method you are suggesting may cover your tail politically, but only because it invites politics into what should be economic decisions. 

And with the whole regional business community predicting even more dire economic straits in the near future (according to Mayor “Li’l Richie” Daley), we shouldn’t have to blow almost twenty grand for strategic planning…if our city officials have even a modicum of common sense and good judgment.

First of all, they need to stop talking about building a new $20 million-plus police station that will saddle us taxpayers with 20 years or more of relatively non-productive debt and debt service.  And they also need to tell those folks on the Library Board to stop wasting any more of their time and our money on silly half-baked surveys designed to gin up support for an addition to, or replacement of, that building.  It’s way past time that these public officials got over their edifice complexes and started doing a better job of managing the facilities they’ve been given.

But if all Mayor Let’s Make A Deal and his Alderpuppets want is their names on a bronze plaque, we would much prefer that they abandon all these foolish building schemes and, instead, buy a plaque that reads:

“Dedicated to our fiscally-responsible public officials who, unlike the bureaucratic lemmings who populate the local governments of most other communities, had the foresight, the wisdom, the courage and the discipline to refrain from wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on grand but unnecessary structures.”

And to put our money where our mouth is, PublicWatchdog will gladly pay for that kind of a plaque.

But we’re not going to hold our breath waiting for City Hall to call us on our offer, because we realize there are more “benefits” – wink, wink – to the construction of a new cop shop or a new library than just a plaque on the wall, “benefits” that often escape the attention of the average taxpayer. 

After all, Park Ridge does sit right next to Richie Daley’s Chicago, and snugly within the boundaries of Crook County.

The Anatomy Of Fiscal Irresponsibility – Part 1


We recently had an inquiry from a Park Ridge taxpayer concerning the current “streetscaping” project on Summit Avenue, just South of the Library.  The general tenor of the question was: “With a horrible economy and the City’s million dollar budget deficit, why is the City spending all that money on something so unnecessary?”Good question.

But first things first.  The budget deficit for 2007-08 is reported to be $1.7 million, not merely $1 million.  And City Mgr. Jim Hock is predicting a similar deficit for the current 2008-09 budget year.  That’s a total of $3.4 million of red ink that our City Council let former City Mgr. Tim Schuenke bamboozle it into when it accepted his inflated revenue projections, and which it has to find a way to cover.  Let’s see now: will City Hall raise our taxes some more, add to our municipal debt, simply cut corners on essential but already-neglected infrastructure repairs…or all three?

So why is the City spending a bundle of our hard-earned money on streetscaping? 

In the first instance, because it was recommended by our own collection of bureaucrats known as City “Staff,” as can be seen from the August 18, 2008, Agenda Cover Memo [pdf] to the City Council by Acting Director of Community Preservation and Development, Carrie Davis. 

Ms. Davis has mastered the bureaucratic art of making grand pronouncements without any facts to support them.  In this case, she concludes that this streetscaping project “will improve sight lines and safety” – “safety” being the magic word because it’s a sure-fire way of provoking an unthinking, knee-jerkingly favorable reaction – without one shred of explanation about how this project will improve “safety.”  Not only that, but in her very next paragraph she makes the seemingly contradictory statement that “[t]he goal of this project is to continue the design of the City Commons streetscape improvements”  [Emphasis added], which suggests that the project is really more about appearance than about safety.

But if you really want to see the bureaucratic mind at work, check out the second page of her memo, where Davis attempts to explain away the over-budget cost of this project with four “reasons” (using that term loosely, as very little actual reasoning is at work here), including a repetition of her conclusory “safety” argument (this time, the more specific but no better explained “pedestrian safety”) and the recitation of one of the most loathsome of all bureaucratic excuses:

“Construction costs are expected to continue rising, making it more expensive to do the work each year the project is delayed.”

In other words, buy everything you want today because it’s going to cost more tomorrow!

Unfortunately, the members of our City Council must have been mesmerized by the total inanity of this explanation and whatever additional “pertinent details” Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim came up with, because without even one question or comment they approved spending $1,553,341 on this project by a 7-0 vote at the Council’s August 18, 2008, meeting, as evidenced by the relevant excerpts of that meeting’s Minutes [pdf].

If the term “fiscal responsibility” is to be more than a tired cliché when applied to local government, we’ve got to get rid of this buy-it-now mentality which treats our tax dollars like Monopoly money, and treats non-essential amenities as if they are necessities. 

And if our bureaucrats and elected officials can’t embrace the concept of a “wise and frugal government” that Thomas Jefferson advocated in his first inaugural address over 200 years ago, then it’s time to get rid of them, too.

Honoring Our Veterans (Special Edition)


Last Tuesday, Election Day, we encouraged our readers to vote “as payment of a debt of honor” to our country’s Founding Fathers and the millions of Americans who fought and died to keep this country free.

Today we should all take a moment to specially honor those American servicemen and women – our “veterans.” And if you know any veterans, or any Americans currently serving in the military, it wouldn’t be a bad time to say “Thank You.”

Because this is a political blog, however, we want to offer the following “political” quote that seems even more applicable today than ever before:

“But this Veterans Day, I believe we should do more than sing the praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans have embodied in the past. We should take this opportunity to re-evaluate how we are treating our veterans in the present.”
        Congressman Nick Lampson (D. Texas)

And that, folks, means providing them with top-notch and continuing medical care, educational opportunities and jobs.  

PADS: Moving On, Or Just Re-Grouping?


For the many Park Ridge residents who welcomed an end to the wrong-headed efforts of the Park Ridge Ministerial Association (“PRMA”) and Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark to bring a PADS to HOPE, Inc. (“PADS Inc.”) homeless shelter franchise to Park Ridge, last week’s announcement to that effect was good news.

But before the opponents of that flawed shelter plan declare victory, they may want to look at what the City’s Human Needs Task Force is up to.  Because “PADS” appears as an item on the agenda [pdf] of that group’s meeting tomorrow morning (Nov. 11, 8:30 a.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room).

But even more interesting is what’s reported in the draft minutes [pdf] of that group’s October 14th meeting, in which – with Frimark’s encouragement – they tentatively approved sending a letter to the City Council endorsing the PRMA’s efforts to bring a PADS shelter to Park Ridge.  

That group also wanted to include a plea that the homeless shelter go into St. Paul of the Cross “without restriction or license,” but that point was abandoned when it was suggested that it might “make it difficult to get this project to move forward.”

What’s disturbing, however, is how the Task Force – in what was an open meeting – nevertheless attempted to cloak it’s plan for a PADS endorsement letter in secrecy by getting PADS opponent Missy Langan to agree “not to discuss this letter with anyone”! 

Whether Langan actually agreed to that bit of deception or went along with it is not currently known.  But those minutes reveal yet again how the Culture of Secrecy permeates local government, especially City government under the administration of Mayor Frimark – in this case, with an assist from former 2nd Ward Ald. John Benka, who should have known from his Council days that the Illinois Open Meetings Act doesn’t permit such secrecy. 

And those minutes also suggest that the Human Needs Task Force members may have their own agenda to keep the PADS shelter issue alive for the foreseeable future, waiting for just the right opportunity to help bring it onto the front burner and push it through.

Meanwhile, one of our readers provided us with a copy of “Fr. Carl’s Corner” [pdf] from yesterday’s St. Paul of the Cross bulletin, in which Fr. Morello once again uses the church’s “pulpit” as a forum for his personal political views on PADS and to pat himself and his PRMA associates on their collective backs.  Especially amusing is his admonition: “do not judge others.”

Do you mean like accusing people with whom you disagree of engaging in “thinly-veiled racial and economic bigotry”?