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More Fallout From Crapitalist Uptown TIF

07.30.13

In our last post, “The Uptown TIF: Crapitalism Without Accountability,” we discussed how a misguided and poorly-executed decision on the Uptown TIF – by former public officials who seem totally unwilling to accept any accountability for it – has saddled current City officials and the taxpayers with some major long-term consequences.

It’s not just about the money, although a $5 million (and counting) TIF fund deficit which the City is required to make up with money from its General (operating) Fund is nothing to sneeze at.  All the subsidies the City gave to Uptown developer PRC Partners, LLC for project elements like the underground parking garage and a variety of street-scaping also didn’t do the taxpayers any favors.

And let’s not forget the arguably “bargain” price that the City charged PRC for those prime parcels of Uptown land: the “Reservoir Block,” as well as the former Bredemann property the City acquired (at less than a bargain-basement price) in order to sell them all to its developer of choice.  We’re still amazed how the City inexplicably failed to obtain an appraisal that might have confirmed whether the properties’ value really was the $6.129 million for which the City sold it, rather than the $8-10 million that some local real estate people thought it might be worth.

Was the “fix” in for PRC?  Who knows?  But for those of you who didn’t sit through any of those City Council meetings where the merits of the competing designs were being discussed, all we can say is that then-city manager Tim Schuenke and several elected officials around The Horseshoe back then sure seemed to be herding the rest of the cats in PRC’s direction.

But where the rubber meets the road anytime large sums of public money is expended, or boatloads of long-term public debt is incurred, is what other projects and services are effectively foreclosed by those commitments of money and/or debt.

For example, you folks who are frustrated by the pace of the City’s flood relief projects probably should cast a jaundiced eye on the bungled TIF financing and expenditures, because that current $5 million TIF fund deficit represents $5 million of potential flood remediation that might not get done.  And if that $5 million deficit spirals into the $27 million “worst-case” deficit forecast by the City’s new TIF consultants, flood control and other important City infrastructure projects might not get done, at least not without a substantial increase in our property taxes.

Unfortunately, it appears that a lot of infrastructure needs were neglected in the years leading up to the Uptown TIF fiasco, during which former mayor Ron “All O’Hare, All The Time” Wietecha obsessed over Uptown redevelopment in those few waking hours when he wasn’t consumed by shoveling tons of City bucks into that bottomless Suburban O’Hare Commission pit and its Peotone airport annex.  Within months of getting the Council to pass the TIF resolution in July 2003, Wietecha resigned mid-term without prior notice and fled to Barrington.

What a stand up guy!

He was followed by two mayors – Marous and Frimark – who acted as if they were every bit as committed to doing the Uptown deal as Wietecha, if not more so; and who couldn’t be bothered with something as mundane as inspecting, maintaining, repairing and replacing sewers when there were monuments to be built.

That might explain the July 15, 2013 Agenda Cover Memorandum by City Engineer Sarah Mitchell, which states that the City didn’t “resume” its sewer lining program until 2011 – although the memo doesn’t say when that program was suspended.  The schedule of sewers designated for re-lining during 2013-13 total 7,417 linear feet at a price of $310,000.  That schedule shows sewer lines ranging from 8 inches to 21 inches in diameter.

Are 8-inch sewer lines too small?  How about 15-inchers, or 21-inchers?  The City isn’t saying, nor is it saying how many more 8-inch, 15-inch or 21-inch sewers are out there, and in what condition.

Could those be contributing to, or even causing, a signficant amount of the flooding we’re experiencing?

We don’t know.  And, frankly, we doubt that anybody at City Hall or the Public Works building knows – at least not with the degree of certainty a pro-active infrastructure maintenance and improvement program requires.  But we have to believe that the $5 million that already has been sunk into covering those Uptown TIF deficits could have been put to much better use inspecting, maintaining, repairing and replacing that aged sewer system.

This isn’t to say that the Uptown project is a bad thing.  But considering that the combined Reservoir Block and Bredemann parcels was so attractive to developers back in 2002-03 that the City’s Uptown redevelopment RFQ/RFP drew 19 responses, 5 of which were “short-listed,” it’s a tad nauseating to think about how the City ended up handcuffing itself with long-term bonded debt in order to give PRC multi-millions of dollars in subsidies – especially now that PRC has banked its profit and walked away from the project, while the City will be struggling mightily to meet those debt obligations for the next 14 years.

Are the three amigos who led the Uptown TIF and PRC subsidies efforts (former mayors Wietecha, Marous and Frimark) willing to step up and publicly hold themselves publicly accountable for the Uptown TIF millstone?  How about the former aldermen who rubber-stamped the deal?

So far they’ve all been MIA.  And unless the TIF finances were to miraculously turn around, we suspect they’ll remain MIA.  And why not?  They’ve already basked in the glory of the project as proud parents when it was young and full of promise.

But now that the TIF is looking like a bust, it has become the red-headed step-child.

Or an orphan.

To read or post comments, click on title.

 

27 comments so far

The law of unintended (or recklessly ignored) consequences strikes again!

BUt didn’t the city have its own TIF consultant that was supposed to look out for the city’s interests in dealing with the various developers?

EDITOR’S NOTE: You must be referring to S.B. Friedman & Company, the “pros” who were going to “level the playing field” (per Tim Schuenke) in the City’s negotiations and dealings with the developers.

That worked out extremely well…for PRC.

What exactly would you like this group of folks to do to meet your request/demand to “step up and publicly hold themselves publicly accountable for the Uptown TIF millstone?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Excellent question.

First of all, it depends on whether they still consider themselves as visionary heroes or bucketheads. If the former, “accountability” would just mean more acclaim and aggrandizement.

If the latter, then perhaps they could provide the current Council with a kind of de-briefing/post-mortem on how presumably sane people of good will could convince themselves, or get suckered into: (a) believing that such a development could possibly bridge Touhy Ave. and “unite the north end of [Uptown] with its south end”; (b) deciding to have the City take “control” of the development process rather than selling the property to the highest qualified bidder and letting the Zoning Code, the Planning & Zoning Commission, and the Appearance Commission do their things; (c) selling the property without an appraisal; (d) putting the City on the hook for so much of the development cost, via bonded debt; (e) negotiating a “profit-sharing” contract that apparently had little chance of ever putting any “profit” in the City’s hands; etc.

Basically, a rudimentary yet practical variation on Santayana’s theme of: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Institutional amnesia being what it is, such a de-briefing presumably would be helpful to the current and future City officials, especially if it were videotaped and archived for future reference if/when the City considers the remaining three “target areas” of the Uptown TIF plan waiting to be implemented.

Good point, Dog. Reminds me about how Illinois voters don’t seem to understand how Madigan, Cullerton and the Democrats have been the ones screwing this state for 30 years. How has it happened? Rolling over for public employee unions. Underfunding pension benefits which themselves are too high. Ignoring infrastructure.

I’ll believe Wietecha, etc. will take accountability for the bad results of the TIF about the same time Madigan admits he screwed this state. Hah!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We agree with you on when our ex-mayors will admit error on the Uptown TIF.

But remember: Madigan (and, more recently and to a lesser degree) had plenty of Republican help from Govs. “Big Jim” Thompson, “Slim Jim” Edgar and George “No. 16627-424” Ryan. That’s why Kass calls state government “The Combine.”

Slightly of topic (Madigan related)…..a direct quote from a letter signed by he an Cullerton announcing their lawsuit (taxpayer paid for I am sure) to get GA salaries reinstated.

“By eliminating General Assembly member’s salaries, the Governor has chosen to disregard separation of powers and its necessity if our government is to work properly and efficiently”………..BAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!HAAAAAA!!!!!WAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD!!! OH MY GOD!!!! Talk about a complete lack of self awareness!!! Properly and efficiently…….BAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Further proof of the blind squirrel theory – or, in Madigan’s case, the all-seeing but corrupt squirrel theory.

While almost every one of those bozos in Springfield is overpaid based on the value of the services they perform, Quinn appears to have overstepped his authority by ham-fistedly taking away their pay – basically, because he is unhappy with their failure to pass what he considers to be “pension reform.” Which begs the question of why didn’t Quinn cut their pay last year, or the year before, when they also didn’t pass pension reform? Answer: Because he’s a big bozo himself.

THAT’S why we prefer to focus on local government. We may have our own bozos, but there are far less of them locally than in Springfield; and the local issues are a lot less convoluted and opaque.

A post mortem or briefing from the former powers that be? Dream on.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We answered the question asked. We didn’t put down a wager.

What about the elected officials who did (and continued to do) the SSI deal?? Where is the call for their video taped mea culpa??

What about the folks who voted for the TOPR deal??

None of these folks have explained their “mistakes”. I believe some are still in PR government and “apparently” still not publically accountable.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Are you referring to the Park District’s deal re use of the Park Ridge Senior Center by Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc.; and the City Council’s approval of the no-bid, no-contract, no-reimbursement, no-accountability deal struck in the Summer of 2005?

Of course those folks should be held accountable, but we remind you that the total cost to the taxpayers of both those deals combined don’t reach the $5 million that the Uptown TIF has already cost the City’s taxpayers.

I think the number of sewers to be re-lined is 5700 linear feet, not the 7400 you wrote. btw.. If the city were to re-line the entire system at 5700 feet a year, it would take 28.12 years to complete.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Math has never been our strong suit, but we suspect you failed to count the “Tentative Additional Lining” which the Council approved, thereby raising the price to $310,000.

We’ll take your word on the 28.12 years, although that wouldn’t do anything about the undersized sewers around town.

Wow!! They may have to raise our taxes just to buy all the videotape so that all these guys can be accountable.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wow!! How many years worth of videotape could the City have bought with the $5 million (and counting) it already has wasted due to the lack of accountability on the Uptown TIF?

I wonder how many of those former City officials are making “anonymous” comments critical of transparency and accountability?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hard to tell, but irrelevant.

OK…so let’s say some elected official(s) did or does something that is OK with you but that some others in PR are not at all happy about. What on earth do we do then?? Do we need to videotape???? Do we need your permission to videotape?? I mean are they accountable so long as PD likes what they do even without the videotape??

EDITOR’S NOTE: Public officials – including former public officials – owe the taxpayers (not simply this blog or this editor) accountability for their term(s) in office. And since the videotape lies less than people, we like the videotape.

How tough is that to understand?

7:18:

You posted anonymously……my god maybe you are a former city official. They’re everywhere ya know!!! Beware!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Or you, given the frequency and nature of your anonymous comments.

I hate to use math and logic here but assuming….
• The TIF was a huge mistake and is sucking money out of the budget.
• The previous administrations are to blame, but will never fess up.
• The Current administration can only do so much to “rework” the deal.
At what point do we just suck it up and raise taxes to pay for it? I don’t really want my taxes going up and I don’t really want to pay for braces for my kid either but, that’s where we are.

EDITOR’S NOTE: With that attitude, you don’t have to be a former Park Ridge City official – you could be Mike Madigan! Or any one of the bobbleheaded General Assembly members who did whatever The Speaker demanded for the past 30 years. Or any of the last 3 Republican governors. Or Richie Daley. Or any one of the bobbleheaded Chicago City Council members who did whatever Li’l Richie demanded for the 24 years he was in office raping and pillaging that city’s taxpayers.

Raising taxes to pay for this Uptown TIF boondoggle should be the absolute LAST alternative.

Dear Annon (sic) at 8:19 a.m.:

Would you mind publishing your total property tax payment for each of the last five years?

Sincerely,

Your Overtaxed Neighbors, Including Some Who Wince at the Thought of the Coming Pension Crisis Denouement

So I am reading the HA today and I happen upon the TIF article about the city meeting with the school districts about not making the payments that were a part of the original TIF agreement (the not paying are my words but that seems to be what they are looking for). I do not know the exact amount of these payments and it was not mentioned in the article but apparently that are significant enough where not paying them would really help put the city.

This begs a question. If the dollar amount is that big, won’t the schools be ultimately looking for that money from another source (that being us). I have to believe the Schools counted on these payments in their budgeting process and the money all comes from the same place. If the argument is that the schools have enough surplus that they can afford to do this (do they) won’t that make negotiations down the road to hold salaries in line a bit more difficult?

So anyway just when I was really getting frustrated at the lack of planning and mismanagement I happened on some great news. I is looking more and more like we will get an extra paddle tennis court!!! Hallelujah!!!!

How is that for a wise use of tax dollars? The city is going to have to cry poor to the school districts while the Park District builds Paddle Tennis courts. Why just 2?? How about 4 courts or 6 courts?? What the hell, we have all this money, right??

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re missing the point of separate taxing bodies, which let different groups of public officials and different constituencies play musical chairs with the taxpayers.

But if you’ve got a beef about paddle tennis courts, talk to your fellow taxpayers who voted for the Park District “Legacy” referendum and ask them whether their brains even processed any connection between voting for the Park District’s issuance of $13 million-plus of bonds and the City’s multi-million dollar TIF deficits; or between those bonds and D-64’s spiraling expenditures and tax increases.

Dear Anon. at 9:17 p.m.:

That’s a really great point. Our property tax bills show which portions go to the schools…the city…the park district…but in reality part of what we’re paying to the city ACTUALLY goes to the schools. Amazing.

I agree the editor about the paddle tennis courts. Our neighbors voting “yes” are the culprits here. Yes, people like Mr. Thillens, Mr. Barton and Ms. Mountcastle are the ones addicted to OPM. But instead of giving them an intervention, we gave them free drugs.

That said….when it comes time to cut the salary of school district administrators so we can afford everything else….they will just have to understand that paddle tennis is much more important to the community.

Editor…readers…anyone…what would have to happen to get the city off the hook for these payments? Surely the schools can realize that everyone in the community must share the sacrifice for the good of the whole? If not, do we need a referendum?

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s the problem with a TIF: there really isn’t any economical way to get out of it.

What would be needed to address this problem comprehensively is for all local governmental bodies to sit down and work together. Unfortunately, their missions are different AND their borders are different – so you’ve got Park District and school district taxpayers who aren’t City taxpayers and have no economic interest in the Park District or the school districts cutting their budgets to help the City recover from its TIF screw-up.

But as we’ve said before: Let’s get Wietecha, Marous, Frimark and all those alderdopes back together and let THEM come up with an answer to this problem – since they’re the ones who caused it.

Dear Editor: The chances are slim-to-none of former mayors or aldermen coming back to help solve this problem. Even if they came back, the solutions would take the form of tax increases. So, no thank you.

Actually, the idea of getting an intergovernmental effort together is a good one. It’s silly to focus on exceptions like school district residents who don’t pay city taxes. Why not think about city taxpayers who are subsidizing the public education of those people who have no economic interest in the city? They’re perfectly happy to take our money now. That’s all the more reason to have a discussion.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The City taxpayers are subsidizing public education because of the deals the City cut a decade ago in order to bribe the school districts to roll over on the TIF. So the City is only getting what it deserves in that regard.

Yet another reason for those City officials who violated the pooch in passing the Uptown TIF and giving away the store to PRC to step up and be recognized once again.

Maybe the current Council should declare a special “Uptown TIF Recognitition Day” and invite them to be part of a parade throughout Uptown.

So I am making my morning stop in uptown for coffee and I see a remax sign for lease and a blow out sale sign at Pines. I am relatively new here but hasn’t that store been around PR since like the 50’s or 60’s??

Now some might find this a bit sad and depressing but not me. After all, this is an opportunity for some enterprising person to chase their dream of opening up a frozen Yogurt store in Park Ridge!!!

Pine’s Bar and Grill! Perfect location.

Right, Anonymous at 1037, and just wait until you see what we’ve cooked up for ya (wink)! Pines is closing and we are indeed putting in a frozen yogurt stand under the very same management! I’m calling it “Iglow’s Igloos”! Don’cha just love that? Thought of it myself. Heck, I insured it myself, too. Wait till ya see the stand Iglow’s Igloos will have at next summer’s Taste of Park Ridge. It’s going to be great because we fixed it, see, so Dave won’t hafta pay any sales tax. It’s OK, the city can afford it. Let’s make a deal!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Droll.

Anon 8.02 If Pine’s is closing then why are you not bothered by it?
Who knows how long it will be before something else replaces it?

5th Ward Taxpayer:

Without having the document handy, Around $16,000.
Your point?

Mike:

It seems my sarcasm was lost on you. Oh well…..have a good weekend!!

My point was to (a) find out if you are actually a taxpayer and (b) encourage you to stop and think about whether “paying more taxes” would be an option you’d take so casually as your previous comment suggests. Over the past ten years my tax bill has gone from about $9,000 to about $19,000. Would you like to trade?

To those who are still lamenting the existence Youth Campus park, maybe the fact that 35 new townhomes are being slammed in next to Whole Foods will console you a bit. Provided they all sell, that gives you a new source of property tax.

7:20:

The issue (for me) has always been that we could spend the money we will be paying for the Park on something else!!!!!

Let’s use a house hold budget as an example. You have necessities like mortgage, utilities, car payment….oh I don’t know FOOD!!!!! (this is the city budget) and you have nice to haves, like the Harley or a big family vacation (Park DIstrict).

Let’s say the year has not gone as planned and you are having trouble with the necessities. Do you spend the vacation fund anyway?? Of course not. You adjust and behave like a grownup and make a hard choice.

So it is (or should be) with a city. PR people just voted to spend the vacation money even though we are having trouble paying the heating bill.

Your glib completely missed the point. If we would have taken the 72 buck per tax payer and put it towards the TIF debt, or sewer projects we would have been a hell of a lot better off. Especially considering we have good parks now and are about to spend millions on a new pool complex.

@5:09, I didn’t mean to be glib, and I certainly didn’t miss the point. I understand your household budget analogy, thank you, and I was very well aware of our city’s financial situation when I voted “yes” to the Youth Campus referendum. I think it was an example of making a hard choice.

To use your household budget scenario, I wouldn’t deny my kids a once in a lifetime opportunity even if our “year has not gone as planned,” as you put it. I’d scrape and sacrifice and yes, maybe even borrow. More importantly I’d keep my eye on the bigger picture.

It’s not like an open parcel of land will be up for grabs each and every year in Park Ridge, just waiting to suck your tax dollars away. This is literally a once in a lifetime chance, regardless of how “good” our parks are now.

5:09 p.m., this rant reminds me of the letter in the newspaper a few years ago from a school child who wrote piteously, “Dear Mayor Frimark, please save my Oakton Pool!” Some taxpayers don’t get the totally watertight Chinese wall (that’s OK to say, isn’t it?) between the various taxing bodies. Sometimes the wall is a good thing, protecting the diverting ov funds from one service to another.Other times the wall keeps the decent or reasonable thing from happening. Either way, the system is pretty bulletproof as well as watertight. You’d be better off just trying to ensure that within each taxing body, the money is allocated to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, or some other value system people can get behind — and that expenses and budgets have a reasonable relationship. That’s a Stygian (sp?) Stable task in itself.



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