Public Watchdog.org

Wishes For A Better 2010-11 City Budget (And Better City Officials)

01.13.10

The Park Ridge Herald-Advocate has just published its “wish list” for the City of Park Ridge (“Editorial: Greatest wish for 2010? Forget about past decade,” Jan. 11) that contains one “wish” we wholeheartedly endorse:

• aldermen educating themselves on municipal finance and the city’s budget situation. Since taking office nearly three years ago, more than one elected official has admitted to having limited knowledge of municipal finance. Such decision-making is one of the most important of aldermanic responsibilities and should be treated accordingly.

The H-A apparently didn’t believe its readers deserved to know the names of each of those elected officials who have admitted that they can’t (or just don’t want to do the work necessary to) figure out how City finances work to the extent necessary to cast an informed vote on budget matters.

But one of that hapless group is Ald. Robert Ryan (5th Ward), who admitted his fiscal ineptitude at the Council’s December 7, 2009, meeting.  Ryan’s solution to this particular shortcoming, however, wasn’t to promise to hit the books and educate himself, or to demand that City Staff provide financial reports and explanations that Ryan and everybody else, including the average resident, can understand.  Instead, he suggested the formation of another citizens task force – this time for the purpose of advising the Council on financial matters.

Brilliant!  Let appointed residents effectively make decisions for those public officials who were elected to make those decisions for us.

When Ryan – reportedly with the encouragement of then-mayor Howard Frimark – chose to run for alderman back in 2007, didn’t somebody tell him that perhaps his most important duties would be to guard the taxpayers’ hard-earned tax dollars and keep in check the often profligate spending of the bureaucrats who run City government on a day-to-day basis?  Or is it that he just didn’t care?

In contrast to Ryan, Third Ward Ald. Don Bach repeatedly has talked the talk about balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility.  Unfortunately for City residents, however, he has totally failed to walk the walk, as evidenced by his being one of the five aldermen (along with Alds. Allegretti, Ryan, Carey and Wsol) who voted to over-ride Mayor Schmidt’s historic veto last June of the Council’s giveaway of even more tax dollars to private community organizations run by folks not elected by or accountable to the taxpayers for those tax dollars. 

And although Bach has flapped his gums about drastic cuts in City personnel, he has offered little-to-nothing specific for Staff or the Council even to consider.  No surprise there.

Allegretti and Wsol wanted to hang about $1 million a year of extra debt service on the City to finance their new police station (thank you, Joe Egan, for your referendum that put the kibosh on that insanity), so we shouldn’t expect much fiscal responsibility from them – although it hasn’t escaped our sense of perverse humor that Wsol and Allegretti opposed the pass-through of water rate increases that would have netted the City approximately the same $400,000 of additional revenue – albeit for only one year – that Allegretti wants from his billboard deal (assuming that deal is even lawful, which the City Attorney disputes).   

This Saturday (Jan. 16) from 9:00 a.m. until noon, the City Council will be holding its first “budget workshop” for the 2010-11 fiscal year.  This session will be a crucial first step in a process that recently has produced million dollar-plus deficits that have put the City in an extremely precarious financial position. 

We understand that this year, unlike for past budget workshops, residents will be permitted and even encouraged to share their views about the budget and City finances.  That’s an encouraging change, instigated by Mayor Schmidt, although its practical value will depend on how many residents make the time and effort to show up, listen, and speak meaningfully to the issues.

But be forewarned: the spendthrift bureaucrats and elected officials who have proposed and presided over the recent deficit budgets and a good deal of indiscriminate spending will not embrace fiscal responsibility quietly or willingly.  In the past they relied on treating the taxpayers like mushrooms: keeping us in the dark and feeding us manure.

Now with the lights switched on (but with manure still at the ready), expect them to try to make this financial stuff sound as complicated and intractable as possible; and expect to hear about far more problems than solutions intended to discourage meaningful change and preserve the status quo with which they are all too comfortable. 

But if we fall for those tactics, we have only ourselves to blame.

17 comments so far

Today’s Journal has a front page story about Dist. 207 having to cut 100+ jobs in order to cut $15 million from next year’s budget AFTER a $22 million shortfall this year.

What the hell are these gov’t types doing? I can’t wait to see what City Hall will come up with.

It is high time these jokers pulled their heads out of their butts and their hands out of our pockets. It is high time all the special interests asking for handouts are told NO! Hell NO!

Unless responsible people get a look at the departmental budgets which get submitted to the City Mgr. by the Dept. heads, the wool will continued to be pulled over the eyes of the elected officials and the public.

anon 5:00:

How about we have each individual Park Ridge citizen initial each line item in the budget? After that we can address each individual citizen’s concerns. If it is decided that a particular change should take place then we distribute the document again for each citizen to re-initial……etc…..etc….etc……..

You are quite the parsnippy person and an extremist. I do not know where you got the idea I was saying every member of the public has to sign off on the budget. I do think the elected officials and the public would be better informed if we saw the department budgets which we never see.

Anon on 01.13.10 6:05 pm:

According to a report put together by the city and distributed last summer, the only year since 20001/02 that the city didn’t run a substantial deficit was 2006/07, when it booked a $6 million+ surplus, primarily from the sale of the reservoir block (and the old Bredemann property?) for the Uptown development.

For the rest of that period (including the current year’s projection) the city booked approx. $13 million of deficits, and over $6 million in the past three years. So neither city staff nor the city council is getting the job done with budgetary “business as usual.”

Since we can’t throw all the bums out between now and the deadline for the new budget, or do their jobs for them, we need to figuratively find a way to hold a gun to their heads and force them to balance the budget in the best possible way.

The sale of the property for the Uptown development was part of the budget. The sale was budgeted, which means the revenue was budgeted, and the expenditures for the year were also budgeted.

The City stayed within the budget for that year alone, booking the only budget surplus in recent memory.

Incidentally, that year alone was the only year those dirty democrats had total control of the City budget and City council.

Funny that.

If Mayor Schmidt\’s leadership on the budget isssue is similar to his stance on ethics –article in PRHA copied below–

Then we are all in trouble!

January 13, 2010

Park Ridge Mayor David Schmidt said a reported violation of the city\’s ethics policy for employees appears to have been unintentional, and he does not plan to pursue the matter.

An anonymous letter sent to the mayor and members of the City Council in December accused the city of violating its ethics provisions by hiring Depkon Landscaping to perform a job July 14 at a cost of $1,075. The company is owned by a current Park Ridge Public Works Department employee, and, according to the city\’s ethics provisions for employees, city employees cannot be hired contractors.

City Manager Jim Hock said Depkon Landscaping was used by the city until about two years ago when James Depkon joined the Public Works Department. Depkon was told the company could no longer be contracted to do work for the city of Park Ridge, Hock said, but last summer, supervisor Ron Brubaker issued a work order to Depkon Landscaping to repair a parkway on the 1700 block of Elliott Court that was disrupted due to a main break. The contract was only discovered by the city\’s purchasing director after the work was completed, Hock said, adding that Brubaker was advised this landscaping company cannot be contracted again.

It did not appear that any disciplinary action was taken.

Schmidt said he is satisfied with the explanation provided by the city manager.

\”Apparently there was a mistake made,\” he said. \”It was rectified, and it will not happen again.\”

I am sooooo glad the mayor is keeping his campaign promise about honest and ethical government……….We need better city officials and it starts with not reelecting DIPSCHMIDT!

HHHHEEEEEYYYYYY ——–

Why did post number 8 disappear?

I was reading the thread, left for some coffee and came back and pooof, it was gone.

It was about mayor schmidt\’s \”leadership\” on the budget and someone questioned if it would be as inconsistent as his stance on ethics. It had a copy of a article in the Park Ridge Hearlad avodcate about a ethics charge that the mayor shrugged off concering a city employee.

Why is the mayor so inconsistent? that is a fair question.

It seems ironic that a website that touts transperancy would CENSOR something because it questions the mayor in office.

Pubdog, you should let the message stay up because it was germane to the issue of better city officials…the poster just happened to disagree with you.

If that is the policy you employ then this site has no real bearing on any level because you can\’t even publish messages of an opposing veiwpoint.

Free speech when it lines up with your viewpoint but CENSORSHIP when it suggests we question the Mayor…..

Sadly this site is devoid of any real value if that is the policy.

A8:39

What happened to your comment was my “fault.” The site’s been a bit touchy of late and each of the comments you submitted (4 duplicates; the other 3 are still sitting in the spam folder) were directed to the spam folder. This may be a function of the FDC proxy server you are using.

I recovered your comment from the spam folder, then went about doing some comment testing, which included unapproving your comment to see where it would go and then leaving it in the moderation que until I was finished with other tasks, then finally reapproving your comment.

Your apology for jumping to conclusions is accepted in advance.

HUH? said…”I am sooooo glad the mayor is keeping his campaign promise about honest and ethical government……….We need better city officials and it starts with not reelecting DIPSCHMIDT!”

First off…I do not appreciate your use of the nickname “DipSchmidt” as that is my “pet name” for our dear Mayor and I claim “exclusive rights” to it, and I don’t recall giving my permission for anyone else to use it…in no small part, because I suspect it will be used inappropriately and indiscriminately…as you demonstrated.

Secondly…the Mayor is keeping his promise of honest and ethical government, at least in the example you cited, by publicly addressing the very issues which for so long were allowed to be swept under the rug…and seeing to it corrections are made where unethical conduct/ethical violations occur among city staff.

I disagreed very strongly with the Mayor’s vote on the demonstrably unethical conduct of former Mayor Howard Frimark and believe Mayor Schmidt acted irresponsibly, in the extreme, when he voted not to enforce the ethics ordinance which I hold dear. However, I do not suffer under the delusion that we would have even heard about the matter if Mayor Schmidt were not the boy in the big chair. Schmidt might have acted with the strength and determination of a tower of jello, but it still beats the ooze which previously occupied the office of Mayor of Park Ridge…

Finally, I agree…we need better city officials. However, the “start” for that begins with jettisoning the Frimark residue currently tainting city government and the aldermanic seats they occupy.

Anonymous on 01.13.10 7:33 pm:

You are correct that for 2006/07 the City’s surplus was just under $250,000 not counting the land sale proceeds of over $6.1 million, so we’ll give “those dirty [D]emocrats” some credit for that accomplishment, with the following qualifications/clarifications:

1. By our assessment “those dirty [D]emocrats” only accounted for 7 members (Anderson, Cox, Crampton, Markech, Parker, Radermacher and Wynn-Ryan) of the purported 9-alderman anti-Frimark majority of the then 14-member Council, with the other two majority aldermen being professed Republicans Kim Jones and Frank Wsol.

2. The 2005/06 budget, which “those dirty [D]emocrats” did not shape or approve but ended up overseeing after being sworn into office, although technically “balanced” when approved, ended the year $2.2 million in the red; and the 2007/08 budget, which “those dirty [D]emocrats” shaped and which was technically “balanced” when they approved it before leaving office in 2007 (and, therefore, didn’t oversee its implementation), ended the year $1.7 under water.

Of course, a prior Council set the table for the land deal that produced most of that 2006/07 surplus by stupidly/irresponsibly agreeing to a price without even attempting to get an MAI appraisal of its true value, which means we’ll never know for sure whether or not PRC got a “sweetheart” deal and the City left millions of taxpayer dollars on the table.

So we don’t see any group – either Democrat or Republican (in what is supposed to be a non-partisan public body) – winning any Lifetime Achievement Award for Fiscally Responsible Park Ridge City Government.

As you all calculate where we are versus budget, make sure to include the 74K out of pocket the city is required to pay for the 185K settlement of the police brutality case. See todays PRHA for article.

Is schmidts leadership really up to snuff fo rht the budget?–all indications are proving otherwise….

Anonymous on 01.15.10 2:22 pm,

What all indications are you referring to?

The indications referred to are the quickly becoming evident fact that he is losing support from his base and reinforcing his negatives with those who did not support him in the last election.(remember almost half of those who voted did not support him –a 5 or 6 percent margin is slim and frankly not very much of a showing to say he is the \”annointed one\”).

consider:

Loss of support from his base.

When staunch supporters like BEAN can only spout a modicum of \”praise\” with descriptions of Mayor shcmidts character being akin to Bill Cosby\’s favorite dessert…….Schmidt might have acted with the strength and determination of a tower of jello…

well, it makes you wonder if we can trust him.

Here is what BEAN said on the PRU on december 15, 2009:

…Additionally…there was I time I would have simply taken Schmidt\’s word for something (without verifying) and moved along. Now? Not so much…

Schmidt\’s words and actions (which speak louder by far…as well as words unspoken and INactions too, for that matter) and time and experience has provided…elucidation.

In short, trust but verify. Personally, I\’m going with \”verify\” and leaving \”trust\” off the table.

AND THAT IS FROM MAYOR SCHMIDT\’S STAUNCH SUPPORTER!!!

Then when you add in the distressing news that a citizen overheard the mayor say that he was glad that Uncle Dan\’s went out of business….How should we trust the man?

Inconsistency and breaking of Campaign promises. (certainly not a suprise when it comes to a politician –but this time was different, right? Right? Right? Appearently not.

Based on a recent January 13 PRHA article, Mayor Schmidt shrugged off his promise of ethical and honest government. (see PRHA article copied below:)

January 13, 2010

Park Ridge Mayor David Schmidt said a reported violation of the city\\’s ethics policy for employees appears to have been unintentional, and he does not plan to pursue the matter.

An anonymous letter sent to the mayor and members of the City Council in December accused the city of violating its ethics provisions by hiring Depkon Landscaping to perform a job July 14 at a cost of $1,075. The company is owned by a current Park Ridge Public Works Department employee, and, according to the city\\’s ethics provisions for employees, city employees cannot be hired contractors.

City Manager Jim Hock said Depkon Landscaping was used by the city until about two years ago when James Depkon joined the Public Works Department. Depkon was told the company could no longer be contracted to do work for the city of Park Ridge, Hock said, but last summer, supervisor Ron Brubaker issued a work order to Depkon Landscaping to repair a parkway on the 1700 block of Elliott Court that was disrupted due to a main break. The contract was only discovered by the city\\’s purchasing director after the work was completed, Hock said, adding that Brubaker was advised this landscaping company cannot be contracted again.

It did not appear that any disciplinary action was taken.

Schmidt said he is satisfied with the explanation provided by the city manager.

\\”Apparently there was a mistake made,\\” he said. \\”It was rectified, and it will not happen again.\\

Once again, when Mayor Schmidt had a chance to do the right thing on ethics, he gives it a pass. So much for his word on that campaign promise.

What it comes down to is this: you can\’t trust mayor Schmidt.

Those who did not support him saw that he is untrustworthy before the election. And those of us who did support him are now realizing that the other 40 some percent who didn\’t support him may have had better eyesight than did we who did support him.

What really irks me, as someone who thought Schmidt would be different, is the admission on the pubdog site that Schmidt\’s campaign supporter Anna Dudzyk who ran the polish fest (and by the way Mayor Dave, when will we be seeing a full disclosure from that event?????) (another campaign promise broken) was convicted earlier this decade of criminal activity (theft) and charged in August of 2009 for theft after the polishfest happened in the end of July. And this is the same lady who hosted a fundraiser for SChmidt. This is the kind of person the mayor defends???? That is the straw that broke the camel\’s back for me.

As a mother of three children, I thought mayor schmidt was someone who could provide a model of behavior to emulate, unfortunately, the model he provides is of what not to be like. The lessons my children will learn from his failure are that you should keep your word, stand up for what is right, and not defend those who have done wrong. Schmidt has failed to keep his promises, failed to act in accordance with his sworn oath of office, and defended a criminally charged and prosecuted person just because she was a campaign supporter and FUNDRAISER.

As pubdog always says, this is the county of crook in the state of corruption. Mayor schmidt may only have been here for a decade but, sniff, sniff, sniff –whew–it\’s been long enough….

Anonymous 1.15.10 @ 5:32 pm

I supported Schmidt and I was disappointed by his handling of the Frimark ethics violation. But I have seen not even a shred of evidence whatsoever that he is dishonest, either before he was elected or since. And I have seen no evidence that he has done anything as mayor to put money into his own pocket.

He’s stuck with a majority of pro-Frimark aldermen who know how to throw our money away but little else. So I’m willing to wait and see whether we can elect a majority of worthwhile aldermen in 2011 to replace these bozos before judging how effective Schmidt is as mayor.



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