New Acting City Manager To Be Chosen Tonight?


There’s a special meeting of the Park Ridge City Council tonight at City Hall/505 Butler Place.  Only one topic appears on the agenda: the appointment of an Acting City Manager to replace the soon-departing ACM Juliana Maller (leaving for the Hanover Park Village Manager job, at a $20,000+ pay boost) who has been filling in for recently-sacked City Manager Jim Hock.  

Thanks to the December 2010 fiscal boneheadedness of current Alds. Joe Sweeney (1st) and Rich DiPietro (2nd) – along with former alds. Jim Allegretti, Tom Carey and Frank Wsol – the City (a/k/a, we taxpayers) is still paying Hock a severance of approximately $130,000 not to work for us.  By having Maller fill in for Hock while keeping her Deputy City Mgr. position vacant, however, the City has been able to somewhat ameliorate the adverse effects of that foolish severance benefit.

But with Maller’s decision to leave, the City now has to scramble to bring in a new ACM.  And under the City Code, it’s up to Mayor Dave Schmidt to appoint one, with the approval of the City Council.

We hear Schmidt is leaning toward someone with substantial private and public sector experience.  That sounds like the “right stuff” to us, as we have long been critical of traditional bureaucratic “leadership” that seems so immersed in the mediocre “good enough for government work” mindset that tends to strangle in its crib anything other than the same old same old. 

Consequently, innovation of the kind embodied in private sector strategies and methodologies is unlikely to spontaneously generate among the folks currently in charge of the day-to-day administration of City services, all of whom appear to be good people who seem to have become too comfortable and complacent with the way things have always been done.  Only the current Finance Director has demonstrated innovation in her approach to the City’s financial management – and her non-conformist methods have won her few friends at City Hall outside of the mayor and most of the aldermen.

As the City continues to confront the challenges provided by a grossly-underperforming Uptown TIF, tens of millions of dollars of TIF-related debt, neglected infrastructure, spiraling employee compensation and benefits, increasing water costs, flooding, and the prospect of a major RE tax increase in November, more “business-as-usual” just doesn’t cut it.  While Schmidt’s fiscally-responsible leadership has finally started to gain some meaningful traction – as evidenced by numerous vetoes that have helped turn operating deficits into surpluses, and the City’s succesful refusal to succumb to the revenue-sharing demands of Whole Foods – the City remains desperately in need of much more than the lackluster City Manager performance it has endured under the last two City Managers: Hock and Tim Schuenke.

Although the new ACM appointment is intended to be merely an interim one, we see no reason why Schmidt and the Council shouldn’t treat it as an “audition” for the permanent position.  We also see no reason, however, that they shouldn’t begin the interview process for other applicants for the permanent position – with the express understanding by both the Council and those applicants (including the interim ACM) that the interim ACM’s “audition” is not the same as a commitment for the permanent position.   

And with the April 2013 election presenting the possibility of a new mayor and three new aldermen, we think it would be wise of this Council to seriously consider offering the new ACM a term that runs through April 2013; and to defer any final decision on a new permanent City Manager until after that election when the new Council is seated.

Because the last thing the City needs is to hire a new City Manager who promptly finds himself/herself under the authority of a new mayor and three new aldermen who had no hand in and, therefore, no “ownership” of, his/her appointment.

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$48,101 Increase Keeps City Wages Spiraling Upward


Some people in Park Ridge might consider the City’s spending of $48,101 as pretty much a drop-in-the-bucket number, especially when compared to the City’s $60 million 2012-13 budget.

But that $48,101 takes on much more significance as a symbol of the flawed decision-making that has plagued, and often even defined, previous City Councils – and that seems to continue to plague and define some members of the current Council and the bureaucrats who run City government on our “dime,” figuratively speaking.

In literal terms, that $48,101 is the total cost of the raises the Council approved Monday night for non-union City employees: a 1% raise for those employees who merely “meet expectations,” and a 2% raise for those who “exceed expectations.”  Ironically, although not surprisingly, that approval came on a 4 to 2 vote (Alds. Joe Sweeney, Rich DiPietro, Sal Raspanti and Marty Maloney v. Alds. Jim Smith and Dan Knight, Ald. Marc Mazzuca absent) only minutes after a discussion of how Crook County was now projecting $220,507 less revenue from the hapless Uptown TIF than has been budgeted this year. 

Meaning that the Council majority voted to pay out an additional unbudgeted $48,101 in salaries while knowing that it now will have $220,000 less revenue from which to pay them. 

If that sounds shortsighted and irresponsible, that’s because it is.  And, unfortunately, it’s been the City’s practice for the past decade and beyond.

Like their counterparts in Chicago and Crook County, over the past decade or longer the City’s elected officials and bureaucrats, with a few notable exceptions, virtually institutionalized a process of giving raises to union employees, which in turn led them to give raises (albeit in lesser amounts) to non-union employees, which in turn led to further raises for union employees, and so on in an upward spiral.  As can be seen from a schedule recently produced by the City, since 2008 – in the teeth of this recession – the City’s unionized firefighters and police have received raises totaling 13% through next May; unionized public works employees have received raises totaling 12.75%, with more on the way; and non-union personnel have received raises totaling between 7% and 9%.

During that very same period the City, while continuing to raise taxes by approximately 3.5%, was cutting back on various services as Mayor Dave Schmidt led the fight to escape from a decade of deficits totaling multi-millions of dollars that had put the City’s finances in a figurative iron-lung.

In addition to all those raises, City employees also got credits toward their guaranteed defined-benefit pensions that are virtually extinct in the private sector, in part because not only can they be taken as early as age 55 but, also, they have been reported to provide the beneficiaries with as much or more money in pensions than they made while actually working! 

Additionally, unlike almost all private-sector workers, City employees are virtually fire-proof because of poor performance, which would explain why so few of them leave the City for similar positions in other communities.  Plus, City employees run no risk of their employer packing up and moving to Mexico or Malaysia; or of filing for bankruptcy – at least not until after the City bleeds the taxpayers dry.

So although the Council majority wasn’t deterred from those $48,101 in raises by this $220,000 revenue shortfall, it seems to have been mightily impressed by the “white paper” authored by the City’s H.R. Manager, Cathy Doczekalski, and its H.R. Consultant, Michael Suppan, which begins with the flippant, almost dismissive “[t]he process of giving pay raises…[has] been happening since before the birth of Christ.”

Doczekalski and Suppan go on to salt their report with certain buzzwords/phrases – e.g., “loyal”/”loyalty,” “hard working,” “dignity and respect” – in what appears to be an attempt to portray the City’s salaried employees as quasi-serfs.  They also spout the ridiculous assertion that “[w]hether the pay increases are merit increases or Cost of Living (cola) increases doesn’t matter” – thereby demonstrating their inability to grasp the difference between compensation earned for meritorious performance, on the one hand, and what amounts to nothing less than the employer’s guarantee of the purchasing power of the wages being paid, on the other.

Yet when Ald. Knight questioned them about the exact meaning and relevance of those various buzzwords and terms, he basically got deer-in-the-headlights responses from the authors…until Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim rode to their rescue with tales of salaried employees working extra hours without pay, and laments about “wage compression” – shrinking pay differentials between supervisors and subordinates. 

Zingsheim seemed oblivious to the fact that extra hours without extra pay is a hallmark of salaried employment.  And his only example of any lack of “dignity” or “respect” was the fact of subordinates making more than their supervisors, a/k/a “wage compression.”  

But proposing an actual solution for “wage compression” – other than just giving the salaried employees 1-2% raises – must be above both Zingsheim’s and the Council majority’s pay grade, as suggested by Ald. Maloney’s rationale that: “We say ‘no’ to this group [the salaried employees] because we can, but we can’t necessarily say ‘no’ to some of the unions.”

Why not, Alderman?

According to the final page of the arbitration award for the Fraternal Order of Police issued December 20, 2011, the City’s final offers – beyond which it chose to say “no” to the FOP’s demands – were upheld by the arbitrator in five of six instances.  Keep the champagne on ice for the time being, however, because while that might have been a technical “win” over more extreme union demands, the arbitrator’s findings on Page 35 of the award suggest more of a Pyrrhic victory, “won” by the City’s having given away “effectively 9% over four years, more when longevity is factored in.” 

If you want a little insight into how inter-dependent the various union negotiations and resulting contracts are, check out the first four pages of that award.

What becomes obvious from just this trickle of information is that the Doczekalski/Suppan phobia about the salaried employees possibly joining a union if they aren’t given raises, is that the City and its hard-nosed negotiators already gives the unions such good deals that even the pro-union arbitrators end up endorsing them!

Victory by surrender? 

We’re not opposed to City employees, including the salaried employees, receiving fair compensation.  And we’re certainly not opposed to City employees being represented by unions.  But we most certainly are opposed to aldermen and supervisory personnel who seem to care more about special interest groups – in this case, the salaried employees – than about the taxpayers who pay the wages of those employees, some of whom would gladly take those City jobs.  Without raises.

As was demonstrated Monday night, the City’s salaried supervisory personnel (with the notable exception of Finance Director Allison Stutts) and at least four of our seven elected aldermen are seemingly more concerned about pandering to this one special interest group than about undertaking the admittedly more difficult task of forging a long-term, comprehensive and economically realistic wage policy – especially when there’s already the specter of an 11% City property tax increase looming this coming November?

But when you can make a special interest temporarily happy simply by giving away $48,101, why do any heavy lifting?

To read or post comments, click on title.

“Soft” Campaign Opening Creates Quiet Buzz For Mayoral Candidate Ryles


Not all that many years ago, when a new restaurant or store opened, it would stage a “grand opening” on its first day in business.  The recent trend, however, is that new businesses stage a “soft opening” days or weeks before the grand opening, often to work the kinks out or to build a customer base under the radar.

But it looks like the “soft opening” might be spreading to the local political realm, if the D-1 Statement of Organization of the “Larry Ryles for Mayor of Park Ridge” campaign committee that came over our transom earlier this week is any indication.  From the information on that statement, Ryles and campaign treasurer Paul Sheehan formed the Ryles-for-mayor committee on June 25th without even a whisper of publicity, much less any fanfare.  

So why would Ryles form a committee and file a D-1 without publicly announcing his candidacy?

The most likely answer is that he wants to begin raising campaign funds without attracting the attention and questions an announced candidate would receive.  An unannounced candidate can say, do, or not say or do a lot of the things that would draw much more scrutiny and speculation coming from a declared candidate.

But now that Ryles’ cover is blown, we look forward to his appearances at City Council meetings and hearing his views on City issues.  Presumably the local press will begin treating him as a candidate and do its collective best to inform the voters about his ideas, opinions and vision for our community. 

Ryles’ “soft” announcement contrasts sharply with then-Ald. Dave Schmidt’s announcement of his mayoral candidacy by press release on November 18, 2008, the same day he filed his D-1 statement; and with former mayor Howard Frimark’s announcement of his re-election bid on December 20, 2008, which was preceded 10 days earlier by an announcement of his upcoming announcement!

Four years before that, then-ald. Michael Tinaglia effectively “announced” his mayoral candidacy by means of a platoon of supporters clad in “Tinaglia for Mayor” t-shirts marching in the 2004 Memorial Day parade, while then-ald. Frimark announced his candidacy from the front of the Pickwick Theater while the theater’s marquee proclaimed his candidacy in lights.

Notwithstanding the oddity of his stealthiness, Ryles’ candidacy is a good thing because it ensures a contested race in the likely event Schmidt stands for re-election.  And we’re big fans of contested races, even on those occasions when our preferred candidates don’t prevail.  Whether Ryles’ early-but-“soft” declaration encourages additional challengers to Schmidt or pre-empts the field of potential challengers remains to be seen.

Also remaining to be seen is whether Ryles is the beneficiary of part or all of the $15,000 campaign fund bequeathed by the now-defunct Homeowners Party to the Citizens for Non-Partisan Local Elections, a political committee created by former First Ward HO alderman John English back in 2009.  

Ryles’ candidacy also adds the unusual element of a mayoral candidate who has never held elective office in the community, something that apparently has not occurred since before Marty Butler’s election in 1967.  Perhaps that will enable him to stress his military experience, or his post-military Kiwanis leadership, as his principal credentials.

In any event: Welcome, Mr. Ryles!  We look forward to hearing your goals, ideas and vision for Park Ridge between now and April 2013.

To read or post comments, click on title.

City’s New Water Rate Ordinance Proves Size Does Matter


Monday night’s City Council meeting was the first demonstration of the significant difference between new Park Ridge 6th Ward Ald. Marc Mazzuca and his predecessor.

Former 6th Ward ald. Tom Bernick’s approach to City business, when he showed up at all, often consisted of a recitation of everything he had inspected and everybody he had talked to, culminating in several disjointed observations that usually produced more heat than light.  And, most of the time, no Council action.  

Despite being on the job less than a month, Mazzuca stepped up Monday night to challenge the water rate increase recommendations of the City’s water consultant, Baxter & Woodman.  He produced a five-page report promoting an amendment to the water rate ordinance that had already passed its first reading two weeks earlier, and even the consultant’s representative acknowledged that the report was very detailed and well done, even though it’s proposals defied conventional industry analyses based on the standards adopted by the American Water Works Association.

By the end of the evening, Mazzuca’s amendment was adopted by a vote of 4 (Alds. DiPietro, Smith, Knight and Mazzuca) to 2 (Alds. Sweeney and Raspanti, Ald. Maloney absent).  Which goes to show what even an inexperienced alderman can accomplish when he doesn’t mistake mere activity for achievement – to paraphrase an axiom of the late, legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden.

That’s not to say, however, that we’re in agreement with Mazzuca’s conclusions, or the Council’s action in passing the rate hike with his amendment. 

As long-time fans of user fees and cost recovery, we most definitely applaud the Council’s water rate increase to the extent it passes through to the users the full cost to the City of the water it purchases from the City of Chicago.  We also applaud the City’s imposing an additional charge on that water to help fund the cost of maintaining and improving the City’s water-delivery infrastructure.

Where we differ with Mazzuca and the Council, however, is on the new “fixed charge” based on the size of the water meter(s) servicing local homes, businesses and institutions. 

Under that new fixed fee structure, accounts with meters less than 1” – characteristically smaller/older single-family homes – will be charged $8.94 per bi-monthly billing period, while accounts serviced by larger-sized meters will be charged from $21.64 for 1” meters to $865.43 for 6” meters.  That translates into a commercial property owner with a 6” meter paying the City $5,192.58 per year just in meter fees, irrespective of its actual water usage, while a residential property owner with a 3/4” meter will pay only $53.64 in meter fees, also irrespective of water usage.

Why such a big differential? 

Beats us, other than it might be more of a political decision than a policy-based one – a suspicion aggravated by our inability to find any hard data showing that a 6” meter is $5,138.94 per year more expensive for the City to maintain, repair or replace than a 3/4” meter; or that the 6” meter causes $5,138.94 per year more wear and tear on the City’s water infrastructure than a 3/4″ meter.  

And, sadly enough, we can’t seem to find one shred of evidence that anybody – the City staff, consultant Baxter & Woodman, or Ald. Mazzuca himself – considered, or even possessed, any such hard data to support these meter-based charges.  

That raises the specter of political pandering, especially when Mazzuca punctuates his report in several places with references to the “shifting” of those fixed water charges from one group of users to another as a “better, more equitable allocation of fixed costs” based on some unidentified “best practice”; and when Ald. Jim Smith (3rd) invokes the populist-sounding rationale that “[s]ome will pay more, but 81 percent will be paying less.” 

Given the significant changes contained in Mazzuca’s amendment and the fact that he completed it only 3 days prior to the meeting, we think the Council might have been wise to have deferred a vote on it for two weeks, to give the public a chance to read, digest and comment on its recommendations.  

Interestingly enough, however, the water users likely to be hit the hardest by the new rate structure – Lutheran General Hospital, the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District, the Park Ridge Country Club, and both local school districts – were notably absent from not only Monday night’s session but from the previous meeting at which the Council passed the first reading of this ordinance.  And as we understand it, only the Park District voiced its opposition to the increase via letter.  So expediting the vote on the amendment might not have been all that bad a decision.

Despite the apparent size-shouldn’t-matter arbitrariness and possible politicization of the meter size-based fees, this new water rate ordinance is a big step in the right direction of pay-as-you-go funding of water usage and infrastructure maintenance.  

And it also marks the new 6th Ward alderman as a potential force to be reckoned with on the Council.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Senior Center Advocacy HIghlights Seniors’ Vice, Not Virtue


We respect Carla Owen.  She is a smart person who seems to care deeply about this community. 

So when the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate recently published one of her guest essays, and when she sent us a copy of her and Barbara Hemeder’s letter to the editor of the Park Ridge Journal, we promptly read and analyzed their contents – even though we already had given plenty of thought and devoted plenty of pixels to the ongoing dispute over the Park Ridge Senior Center and the $330,000 Betty Kemnitz trust bequest to the “Park Ridge Senior Center,” including our posts of 12.01.10, 01.27.11, 07.29.11 and 04.16.12.

But after reading that essay and that letter, we are more convinced than ever that Ms. Owen and that not-so-merry band of seniors who run that private corporation known as Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc. (“Seniors Inc.” or “SSI”) are totally and unequivocally wrong about who should be running that facility at 100 S. Western, how it should be run, and who should get the Kemnitz trust money.

Let’s start with Ms. Owen’s essay, which is an endorsement of the seniors’ illegitimate power and control over the Senior Center. 

It begins with the totally false premise that the “Senior Center” is not the building on Western but, instead, is some sort of “organization” of its members.  That’s like saying the Park District’s Community Center on Touhy isn’t the building but, instead, is some organization of all the people who work out or otherwise recreate there.

That’s just plain goofy.  But without such a goofy premise, Ms. Owen’s and Seniors Inc.’s arguments for control of the Senior Center collapse because any “Senior Center” organization is not a legal corporation like Seniors Inc., or a limited liability company, or a similar form of corporate entity.  At most, it’s an unincorporated association; and Ms. Owen, a licensed attorney, knows that this particular unincorporated association has no legitimate claim on the use of that Senior Center building.

That is borne out by the several contracts between the Park District and Seniors Inc. (not the “Senior Center” organization) going back to 1980, the last of which is dated December 31, 2005, and expired on December 31, 2010, over 18 months ago.  Not surprisingly, there is no mention in that Agreement of anything called the “Senior Center” organization, or of any “Senior Senate” that Ms. Owen claims is “the elected governing body of the Senior Center.”   

Simply put, Ms. Owen is insisting that the Senior Center building owned and operated by the Park District (on behalf of all the Park District’s taxpayers) should be run by some “elected governing body” of some “organization” with no contractual or other recognized legal right in that Senior Center building.  And then she has the audacity to condemn the Park District for not going along with such an absurdity!

While Ms. Owen’s essay is about power and control, her letter is about plain old unvarnished greed – the greed displayed by this suspect “Senior Center” organization and Seniors Inc. in their venal attempt to hijack the $330,000 Kemnitz trust bequest to the “Park Ridge Senior Center,” a/k/a, the Park District’s building at 100 S. Western.

Ms. Owen, on behalf of Seniors Inc., writes that “we believe we are the rightful recipients of the Kemnitz bequest.”  Why?  Because, as she modestly explains it: “we are better able to judge how Betty [Kemnitz] would like to spend her money.”  

Says who?  Why, Teresa Grodsky, of course!

Grodsky, the long-time Park District employee and Senior Center supervisor who left the District under a cloud several months ago, is the trustee of the Kemnitz trust.  As best as we can tell from the available information, while still employed by the Park District, Grodsky went rogue and didn’t even notify her then-employer of the bequest before distributing more than 2/3 of it to Seniors Inc.   Once the Park District discovered the bequest, it raised its objections; and Grodsky responded with the pending lawsuit.  

If Ms. Kemnitz wanted Seniors Inc. and its leadership – and not the Park District – to decide how her $330,000 bequest should be spent, she easily could have had her attorney draft that bequest to “Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc.”  But she didn’t: It was drafted to “Park Ridge Senior Center.”  And the only “Park Ridge Senior Center” we know of is at 100 S. Western, owned and operated by the Park District – whose board already has said it would use that money solely for that building and its senior citizen operations.

That sure sounds to us like exactly what Kemnitz wanted. 

In light of that offer, the demands of Ms. Owen and Seniors Inc. that the Park District “drop this lawsuit immediately” and let Seniors Inc. have the money to use as it wishes are not only wrongheaded and shameless, but border on despicably greedy.

PublicWatchdog initially addressed this Senior Center situation solely because we objected to the Park District’s spending approximately $160,000/year in taxpayer money to subsidize the operation of the semi-private Senior Center clubhouse so that its 800-1,000 “members” could continue to enjoy their measly $45 annual “dues” when a fee structure comparable to the District’s other facilities should have put those dues at around $225 – still a bargain, especially in light of such a large taxpayer subsidy they’ve been receiving for such a small number of users.

That’s one reason why we think the Park Board was being far too conciliatory in offering to walk away from Kemnitz’s $330,000 in return for a mutual general release from Seniors Inc. and the questionable “Senior Center” organization.  Nevertheless, we considered it an acceptable settlement of a lawsuit that could cost a lot more in attorneys’ fees and costs to litigate.   And if the relationship between Seniors Inc. and the Park District is as dead as Seniors Inc. and its spokespeople like Ms. Owen say it is, then mutual releases serve as appropriate eulogies. 

But it seems that the Seniors Inc. crowd’s greed, combined with their desire for power and control over the Senior Center, motivated their rejection of that overly-generous settlement offer.  Which means that these issues will likely need to be litigated in the courts, although we understand that Judge Peter Flynn earlier today ordered the parties to mediate their disputes before going into full-blown litigation.

Whether mediation is of any value to the taxpayers depends on whether Seniors Inc. finally gets real, gets a conscience, and displays some good faith – which will be demonstrated by nothing less than acceptance of the mutual releases previously offered by the Park District.  That still won’t be fair to the taxpayers, but it will be a big step in that direction on a going-forward basis.  And it will stop the legal fee meter from running. 

Thanks in large part to Ms. Owen’s essay and letter, the taxpayers now have an even better insight into the entitlement mentality that has prompted the greedy Seniors Inc. leaders and their equally greedy senior constituency to try to beat the Park District out of money rightfully belonging to the District and its taxpayers.

Hopefully, this misbegotten goat rodeo also will serve as a lesson to the Park District (and to other local governing bodies) about how an otherwise worthwhile public-private arrangement – if instituted in a half-baked manner and allowed to spiral out of control due to lack of effective government oversight – can, and will, go bad, usually to the detriment of the public rather than the private entity.

Meanwhile, the honest, decent taxpayer gets ripped off a little bit more by a cadre of the greedy masquerading as the needy.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Finally, A Reason To Savor The “Taste”


The 2012 edition of Taste of Park Ridge (“TOPR”) opens tonight with one major change from past years’ events: Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”), the private corporation that has had a no-bid monopoly on TOPR since the summer of 2005, will be reimbursing the City of Park Ridge for all of the City services Taste Inc. had previously been getting for free.

Based on prior cost reports, this new arrangement could put between $10,000 and $20,000 in the City’s treasury, rather than costing the taxpayers that same amount, as in past years.

Four years ago (in “Time For A Transparent ‘Taste’,” 07.07.08), we began questioning how TOPR was being operated.  Since then, we’ve endured various slings, arrows and invectives from the Taste Inc. crowd and its supporters in response to our efforts to gain transparency and expense reimbursement of the City by Taste Inc., efforts Taste Inc. vigorously and successfully resisted while Howard Frimark was mayor and continuing while his alderpuppets remained on the Council following his re-election defeat in 2009.

That’s one reason why we take a certain amount of satisfaction from seeing those efforts finally produce a little bit of “conscience” in the Taste Inc. operators – even if that conscience had to be “coaxed” out of the Tastees by the City Council’s imposing a first-ever TOPR bidding process and a bidding requirement that the City be reimbursed for all its TOPR-related expenses.

While that’s a big step in the right direction, it still leaves a number of unanswered questions about Taste Inc.’s operations during those early years it claimed to be a not-for-profit corporation while actually being a for-profit one.  And it still leaves room for improvement in the areas of TOPR transparency and first-dollar profit sharing with the City.   

But progress is progress.  And $10-20,000 in the City’s treasury is better than a sharp stick in the eye.

Just to show there’s no hard feelings on our end, we wish the Tastees all the best when it comes to weather, turnout and revenue for this year’s event.  That’s because, according to the terms of Taste Inc.’s first-ever contract with the City, if TOPR generates more than $20,000 of profit this year – thereby boosting Taste Inc.’s bank account balance to a cool $100,000 – Taste Inc. is required to split that excess with the City on a 50-50 basis.

So we encourage our readers to have a great time at TOPR these next three days, secure in the knowledge that for the first time in 8 years you won’t be footing Taste Inc.’s bill.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Maller Departure Creates Second Reason To “Go Private”


Beginning on August 11, Park Ridge will be without the services of Acting City Manager Juliana Maller for the first time since 1996.  And barring any emergency hiring by the City Council, it also will be without the services of both a city manager and a deputy city manager for the first time in memory.

Maller, who has been in the “acting” position since Jim Hock was fired by a unanimous Council vote two months ago, also served in that capacity when Hock’s predecessor, Tim Schuenke, made his 2007 run for the border – the Wisconsin border, that is – in search of another public paycheck to supplement his Illinois public pension.  She is heading to Hanover Park as its new village manager.

Don’t be surprised to hear howls of concern from certain quarters about how the City is being left with no city manager or deputy.  And don’t be surprised if those howls are accompanied by finger pointing at Mayor Dave Schmidt and at least some members of the Council for presiding over a sandbox that bureaucrats don’t want to play in anymore. 

Frankly, in this economy we’re betting on multiple applications for both positions. And we are confident that quality replacements can be found in the public sector ranks.

But even if it turned out that public sector candidates were scarce, that could very well be a good thing.  With both top bureaucratic spots vacant, the City has an unprecedented opportunity to consider hiring from outside the bureaucratic ranks for both spots!  And by so doing, it would reduce the likelihood of tensions and conflicts between a new city manager from the private sector and a top subordinate mired in his/her public sector culture.

This gambit does not come without some risk, however.

Private sector managers are trained for, and driven by, the quest for profit.  Their public sector counterparts, on the other hand, are often stuck with activities and responsibilities (like infrastructure maintenance and social services) that are chronically, if not inherently, money-losers – which is one reason those activities and responsibilities are not private sector enterprises in the first place.

And while most private corporate boards of directors generally stay out of the way of a good private CEO so long as the company’s balance sheet remains solid, public “CEOs” like city or village managers must deal with more active political constituencies and competing interest groups.  Many management decisions, therefore, tend to require at least some form of approval from elected officials.

Unfortunately, one of Hock’s major failings – in our opinion – was his preoccupation with playing politics.  Consequently, his management “style” tended to be finger-in-the-wind rather than principled, which cost him the confidence of Mayor Dave Schmidt and, subsequently, of the “new” aldermen who took their seats at The Horseshoe in May 2011.    

One thing private sector managers can bring to City government is an appreciation of the need to streamline bureaucratic labor-management practices and rethink compensation policies, concepts that are too often foreign to public sector managers.  Public sector compensation systems, relying on longevity and equity instead of productivity and excellence, breed complacency and mediocrity.

Another benefit of private sector experience is the tendency toward more pro-active management practices, ones that constantly re-evaluate and re-positions the goals the enterprise is seeking to achieve; that identify and assess the resources the enterprise has (or can acquire at reasonable cost) to achieve them; that determine how that achievement can be accurately and routinely measured; and that redirect capital and revenue, whenever possible, from services of marginal desirability and/or value to more productive ones.  

What public sector managers can’t seem to grasp, or simply don’t want to grasp, is that money spent on unproductive and inefficient programs and practices is money that cannot be spent on the productive and efficient ones – at least not without additional revenues through taxes and fees.  Or a winning PowerBall ticket.

After 16 years of relatively lackluster management from the City’s high-priced “CEO”s that effectively has forced the mayor and the Council to extend themselves beyond their policy-making roles into more active managerial roles, more of the same old same old is not what the City and its taxpayers need.   Attempting to recruit a new city manager and deputy manager from the private sector is an idea whose time most definitely has come. 

Whether the Council can muster the courage to consider such a bold step remains to be seen. 

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A Republic, If We Can Keep It.


We still haven’t found a better depiction of how challenging, difficult and dangerous the vote for independence was for our Founders than this scene from the 2008 HBO 7-part “John Adams” series:

The signers of the Declaration of Independence also effectively signed their own death warrants, risking their lives, their families and their fortunes for the freedom to enjoy the inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As we celebrate this world-changing action and document, we should stop a moment and think what we have done, what we are doing, and what we still can do to prove ourselves worthy heirs to the Republic these truly remarkable men – farmers, merchants, physicians, lawyers, judges, educators and even a minister – gave us 236 years ago.

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