Does Anybody Have New Ideas To Increase Library’s Usage?


This week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate contains an article (“Park Ridge officials consider coffee sales in the Public Library,” December 24) about a suggestion by two Park Ridge Library Board trustees that establishing an on-premises coffee shop might be a way of increasing the number of Library visitors while also generating additional revenue.

New trustees Pat Lamb and Dean Parisi both raised the possibility of the Library’s working with a private coffee vendor. Parisi cited as an example a coffee chain in a Chicago hospital that shares proceeds with the hospital, while Lamb noted the small Starbucks located in Macy’s. That’s pretty outside-the-box thinking for Park Ridge Library Board members, and something the Library needs after years of lethargic, bobble-headed boards annually whining about not having a bigger new building and then rubber-stamping the same old way of doing things, all the while hoping for different results – or perhaps not even caring whether the results were different, or better.

Lamb and Parisi were reacting to the recent marked decline in Library in-person visits (v. “virtual” on-line visits), circulation (i.e., more materials being checked out) and program attendance.

Library visits and circulation in FY2013-14 were the lowest in 5 years, but 7 years into FY2014-15 both visits and circulation are tracking even lower this year.  And year-to-date program attendance is also on track to be the lowest in the past five years, even though the Library continues to offer in excess of 900 programs that are still free of charge and accessible on a drop-in basis with no reservations or advance commitment required.  So if visits, circulation and program attendance matter, that downward trend would not appear to be a good thing.

Staff has tried to blame the decline on “The Recession,” or on the “recovery” from The Recession. Although circulation did increase during The Recession, it actually continued to go up in the first four years following the official end to The Recession – in June 2009, according to the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the official arbiter of such dates. And while Library visits increased precipitously during the 18-month duration of The Recession, until last year they had dropped only slightly from The Recession’s end, while remaining well above pre-Recession levels.

So if maximizing visits, circulation and program attendance are valid goals against which the Library’s effectiveness in serving the community should be measured, “The Recession” doesn’t appear to be a realistic or even useful alibi for the recent decline in the Library’s numbers.

Whether getting a private coffee vendor to come into the Library proves to be do-able remains to be seen. And even if it is, whether such an idea will be successful in significantly increasing visits, circulation, program attendance and revenue is, at best, speculative at this time. Given the recent emergence of “bookless” libraries-of-the-future such as the Bexar County, TX public library and the Hunt Library at North Carolina State University, “circulation” as we have known it might be losing its prominence as a benchmark of successful libraries.

Much as we applaud that kind of creative thinking, it probably should not be coming from the part-time unpaid volunteer trustees – especially from the two newest ones – who are supposed to be focusing on overall Library policy and long-term Library operations from 30,000 feet rather than doing boots-on-the-ground micro-managing.  Such ideas, instead, should be coming from the well-paid full-time library professionals who already are “on the ground” on a forty-hour-per-week basis.

But full-time staff seems content to keep doing basically what it has been doing for years, give or take the occasional nip and tuck like the planned $15,000 “Digital Media Lab” that is intended to provide patrons with free access to hardware and software for creating media presentations, converting digital content from one format to another, and editing photos, music and video – at least some of which we understand are currently available from that local taxpaying business on Northwest Hwy. known as Kinko’s, albeit at a cost to the users rather than at a cost to the taxpayers.

That’s because the stereotypical government approach to increasing usage is with giveaways.  But when you’re the Library and you’re already giving away your visits, circulation and programs, new giveaways need to take the form of new services – even if it means unfairly competing (free versus paid) with an established, tax-paying business.

Which brings us to the title, and point, of today’s post.

We’re inviting you to offer your ideas for increasing the visits, circulation and program attendance of the Library.  And while ideas that could generate revenue for the Library and thereby reduce the funding burden on taxpayers would be preferred, we’ll publish whatever comes in.  As always, however, we reserve the right to criticize and, under appropriate circumstances, ridicule.

But don’t let that stop you…as if it ever has before.

[Note: The editor and publisher of this blog, Robert J. Trizna, is a member of the Park Ridge Library Board of Trustees.]

To read or post comments, click on title.

One More “Residency” Shenanigan From The Jokers At D-64


In our November 28 post we wrote about how Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 had finally figured out that it might be giving away hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars by not confirming that every student receiving a free D-64 education actually lived in the District.

But while it is gratifying to read that the School Board might actually be trying to finally address that problem, a recent Park Ridge Herald-Advocate story (“District 64 considers further residency requirement changes,” Dec. 19) raises new questions about D-64’s ability to be competent stewards of the taxpayers’ money that leave us scratching our heads and reminding ourselves of manager Casey Stengel’s indictment of his own New York Mets back in 1962:

“Can’t anybody here play this game?” 

At the School Board’s December 15 meeting, Board member Dan Collins – the only one with the integrity and fiscal responsibility to have argued against free (i.e., at the taxpayers’ expense instead of the parents’) Chromebooks even though his household would receive two of them worth over $600 – argued for residency checks for every grade instead of just at enrollment, and again at entering third and sixth grades. 

But this Board apparently is still driving under the influence of its senior – and most fiscally irresponsible – member, John Heyde. Consequently, it is continuing to look for plausible ways not to require annual residency checks for kids whose parents expect $14,000 (or $28,000, or $42,000, depending on number of kids in District schools) of free D-64 education. 

Not surprisingly, Heyde is appalled that parents might have to endure what he has called the “pain in the neck” of proving their kids’ residency on an annual basis when, instead, he can simply dump any additional financial burdens of educating kids who don’t live in the District on its beleaguered taxpayers. 

We suggested a no-cost way of doing the residency checks in that 11.28.14 post. But anything that won’t stiff the taxpayers or enrich public employees, preferably at the same time, is rarely (if ever) to Heyde’s liking. So with no shortage of encouragement from Heyde, the Board is having a cost-benefit analysis done, presumably one that will predict a boatload of expense for a mere bucket-full of savings. That’s usually the way these kinds of things are done.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, D-64 is looking to make it even easier for non-resident kids to get a free D-64 education.

The Board is thinking about letting kids who don’t actually live in the District – but whose families are allegedly in the process of building or renovating homes in the District – attend District schools for free for the 18 months prior to the construction/renovation being completed.

The current policy is that kids can start D-64 schools only 60 days before occupancy, although we have no idea what happens if the kid starts school and then the family doesn’t move into their new/newly-renovated home. Given the currently inept state of residency non-checks, however, we suspect the kid could be going to D-64 schools for years while living in Edison Park, Norridge, Des Plaines, etc.

But where the real mental breakdown occurs is in what passes for the thought process of the Board members when it comes to the traditional benchmark qualification for free education: the concept of “residency.” Either kids live in the District or they don’t.

What benefit to the existing District taxpayers is achieved by letting kids who don’t live in the District attend District schools FOR FREE for 18 months?

According to Board member Scott Zimmerman (Heyde’s very own “Mini-Me”), free non-resident education should be extended for at least 18 months, and even up to 24 months, before residency actually occurs.


Zimm blames the slow speed of construction in Park Ridge!  And if that’s not dumb enough for you, try this one: “These people…are building homes and increasing property values in the district. I’d like to encourage that.”

There you have it, folks…further proof that Mark Twain was right when he said: “God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board.”

Not content to have bungled his assigned task of making sure D-64 is producing the very best educational value for its students and its taxpayers in return for the high taxes we already pay to D-64, Zimmerman is now trying to play economist by shifting his attention to faux-stimulating the local real estate market through giving away as much as $28,000 per kid of D-64 education to NON-RESIDENTS whose parents already are committed to building/renovating a Park Ridge home!

Zimm could have lifted that bright idea right out of a scene from the movie “Dave.”

And it may have inspired fellow Board member Dathan Paterno to chime in with the equally goofy observation: “As long as they’re paying taxes on the property, they’re putting money into the system.”

By that kind of un-reasoning, should a Chicago family living in Norwood Park that owns a Park Ridge condo it rents out for $1,000/month to a senior citizen be able to send their kids to D-64 schools because they are “paying taxes on the property” and “putting money into the system”?

Chalk that up as just another sick joke on the taxpayers passing for stewarsdship from our elected representatives on the D-64 Board – one they are supposed to be voting on at their January 26 meeting, along with whether to do residency checks on the kids of homeowners more frequently than just at the time of initial enrollment.

If your sense of humor runs to the twisted and absurd, feel free to “Ha! Hah!! Hah!!!” Or, given the season, “Ho! Ho!! Ho!!!”

But if you’re a D-64 taxpayer, you’re still getting coal.

To read or make comments, click on title.

D-64 Fees Simplified


The Discovery Channel has “Shark Week,” so we’ve decided to make this “D-64 Week.”

And you thought sharks were scary.

Now that D-64 has once again jacked up its tax levy by a vote of 6-1 (Board member Dathan Paterno dissenting), we thought we would take a look at a very simple financial issue that, nevertheless, has remained unresolved by the D-64 brain trust for over a year since we last wrote about it in our post “Herd Mentality Does Not Justify D-64’s Bovine Thinking On Student Fees”: school fees.

We got a couple of over-the-transom inquiries about this topic, apparently because it became a sidebar discussion in connection with a tax levy post last week (December 10) on the Park Ridge Citizens Online Facebook page. According to comments on that blog, D-64’s continuing lackadaisical efforts to collect unpaid fees has left over $100,000 due and owing.

One complaint that those who don’t pay at all (we like to call them “freeloaders”) share with a smaller group of critics who claim to be paying under protest, is that D-64 has failed and refused to provide itemized statements of what the fees cover. One might have expected that by now, more than a year after folks like Kathy Ranalli and George Korovilas began railing about it, D-64’s administrators – hello, overpaid (over $215,000/year) Business Manager Rebecca Allard– might have actually done that.

But no-oooooooooo!

The transparency-challenged D-64 administration can’t quite seem to fess up and tell the parents of D-64 students for what exactly it is that they’re paying $84, or $227, or $315 of annual fees – even though parents reportedly are being charged only around 55% of the total cost of those unidentified/un-itemized materials and services for which the fees are assessed. And our alleged “representatives” on the School Board seem totally disinterested in forcing the reluctant administrators to disclose this information.  Or maybe it’s yet another case of the Board being totally intimidated by the “education professionals.”

That’s just plain stupid and irresponsible. Unfortunately, stupid and irresponsible seems to be D-64’s default setting – as demonstrated by its decision to switch from a parent-paid monitoring program for students who stay at school for lunch, which will now cost the District (a/k/a, the taxpayers) another-$400,000.

But let’s not kid ourselves about one main fact.

Even if D-64’s Board and administration actually did the right thing and provided parents with a list of fees itemized down to the penny, the freeloader contingent would still rail about how charging ANY fees violates the Illinois constitution’s requirement that students be provided a “free” education. That’s because those shameless freeloaders have no problem insisting that their kids are entitled to “free” $14,000/student/year educations because they pay taxes: $3-4-5-6,000 to D-64 on a total property tax bill of $9-12-15-18,000, respectively.

And from our experience, it’s the ones running two or three of their kids through the schools – at at total cost of $28,000-42,000 a year worth of education for that same $3-4-5-6,000 of property taxes – who beef the loudest about paying a few hundred dollars in fees. They’re also the ones who occasionally threaten legal action against the District if it takes any collection action against their freeloading.

As if these freeloaders would actually dig into their own pockets to pay several thousand dollars of legal fees when then won’t even pay $84 of school fees!

But in the hope of taking at least one more bogus argument off the table regarding this fee issue – that fees are “illegal” – we direct your attention to the case of Beck v. Board of Education of Harlem Consolidated School District No. 122, an Illinois Supreme Court decision from 1976 that appears to still be the law of this state.

The father of some students sued the school board for charging him fees for school supplies and materials furnished his children, arguing that such charges were illegal. Our Supreme Court said he was wrong, relying on its prior decisions that traced the concept of “free schools” from Illinois’ achieving statehood in 1818 in order to ascertain the intent of the Illinois constitution and statutes relevant to state-provided education.

Rather than our paraphrasing the Court’s reasoning, here is exactly how then-Justice Goldenhersh explained it:

[P]arents of pupils financially able to do so have been required to provide their children with textbooks, writing materials and other supplies prescribed by the school board and required for the personal use of the students. ( 47 Ill.2d 480, 486—90, 265 N.E.2d 616.) Sections 10—20.5 and 10—20.8 of the School Code (Ill.Rev.Stat.1973,*16 ch. 122, pars. 10—20.5 and 10—20.8) respectively authorize the board to adopt and enforce all necessary rules for the management and government of the school, and to direct what branches of study shall be taught and what apparatus shall be used. Under these sections defendant was authorized to require parents financially able to do so to provide their children with educational materials and supplies for use by them or on their behalf. We are of the opinion that defendant was authorized to accomplish the same result by purchasing the necessary materials and supplies, apportioning the cost among the pupils, and charging those parents who were financially able to pay, and we so hold. We also hold that because some of the materials were used by more than one pupil or by a teacher or administrator, or that they might be retained as school property and used for more than one school year did not serve to convert the fee charged into a tuition charge. Tuition is defined as ‘the price of or payment for instruction’ (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961)), and, clearly, the fee charged plaintiff’s children was not part of the price of, or payment for, instruction.

That surely won’t please the freeloader contingent, but nothing less than “free” (compliments of their fellow taxpayers) ever does.

So unless somebody has some more convincing legal authority than the Beck decision, it’s time that D-64 told the scofflaw parents to pay up or be subject to the full panoply of lawful collection efforts – except for those precious few parents who can actually demonstrate that they are not “financially able to pay.”

Or if D-64 wants to spare the taxpayers the costs of such additional collection efforts, it should simply publish the names and addresses of all these “fee freeloaders” so that their friends and neighbors might know them.

That way, the friends and neighbors who are covering those costs can thank them personally for their freeloader-ship.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Tis The Season For D-64 Tax Increases…And PREA-Friendly Board Candidates (Updated)


Tonight the Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 will hold what is called a “public hearing” on the proposed 4.6% hike to the District’s tax levy.

That means the hearing is open to the “public” even if, in reality, the true “public” rarely shows up.

One reason for the no-shows is that these tax levy hearings are always held less than two weeks before Christmas. According to the minutes of last year’s levy hearing, only “three members of the public” attended, none of whom were identified. For all we know, they might have been Danish foreign exchanges students earning meeting observation credits.

The other reason for the low attendance might be that the 60-70% of District taxpayers who have no children in D-64 schools and, therefore, no DIRECT stake in its product, seem to have given up hope that D-64 can curb its tax-borrow-and-spend ways, or that it will begin delivering an objectively-measurable, top-shelf education that might provide some measurable INDIRECT benefit to those taxpayers in the form of higher property values.

Such a lack of hope is understandable, given last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article about the 4.6 levy (“District 64 poised to raise tax levy by 4.6 percent,” Dec. 10), which described one of the D-64 Board’s “Consensus Goals” for the 2013-2015 school years as:

“[T]ry to get as much tax revenue as it can collect without increasing tax rates to the point that [a] voter referendum would be needed to approve them.”

In other words, shake down the taxpayers for as much as you can without letting them vote on how much their pockets are being picked.

Referendums are anathema to most school boards because they increase taxpayer scrutiny, even if only for a few months. And taxpayer scrutiny is the last thing D-64 wants, given how well the “combine” of PREA-dominated teachers, complicit school administrators and PREA-friendly/owned Board members have mastered the art of avoiding any accountability for the modest educational achievement D-64 has been returning on all the money it wrings out of Park Ridge taxpayers.

Ask why not even one D-64 school is consistently listed among the annual ISAT-based rankings of the Top 50 Chicagoland elementary or middle schools by the Chicago Tribune or the Sun-Times, even though we pay some of the highest teacher and administrator salaries, and you get…nothing.  <Crickets>

Not even any official acknowledgement of those rankings, and our schools’ absence therefrom, from either those highly-paid administrators or our alleged “representatives” on the School Board.

And for those of you who view Schooldigger as a credible rating service, its latest rankings place no D-64 school among its Top 100 Illinois Elementary Schools, and no D-64 school among its Top 100 Illinois Middle Schools.

Fortunately, the proposed 4.6% levy increase that will pass tonight is likely to end up around 1.7% once the Cook County Assessor’s office applies the tax caps: at the November 17 Board meeting Allard admitted as much, stating her expectation that the actual increase would be only around 1.7%.

We still have to wonder, however, why D-64 is approving a 4.6% levy increase, or even shooting for a 1.7% increase, when it’s already sitting on around $61 million in “fixed investments” and money market funds, according to the first page of Allard’s 12.15.14 “Executive Summary”. That’s over 77% of D-64’s 2014-15 Tentative Budget with no reason to think D-64 won’t collect the money it will be taxing during 2015 and beyond.

And we can’t help but suspect that there’s something fishy about yet another levy increase when such a large fund balance exists, especially when we consider that there are four (4) School Board seats – a majority, for the mathematically impaired among us – subject to contestation in this April’s election: John Heyde’s, Dan Collins’ and Tony Borrelli’s 4-year seats; and the final 2 years of Terry Cameron’s seat now held by appointee Bob Johnson.

Could a 77% fund balance be part of some strategy for Board incumbents to tout their stewardship during their re-election campaigns?

Ironically, today also is the first day of the 1-week period (ending next Monday, December 22) during which candidates for those Board seats can file their nominating petitions (we understand a minimum of 50 signatures are needed) and required statements of economic interest. Two years ago only six candidates vied for four openings, and only 32% of eligible voters turned out – electing 3 of the 4 most PREA-friendly candidates on the ballot (Zimmerman, Lee and Cameron).

PREA-friendliness is even more significant this time around because the Board that results from April’s election will be in charge of negotiating the next PREA contract in 2016.

If you go back and read our 09.27.12 post and our 10.13.12 post, you will get a sense of how having a PREA friendly/owned Board majority enabled the PREA to negotiate in secret with D-64’s bargaining reps, Heyde and then-Board member/one-term wonder (and union attorney) Pat Fioretto.  Not surprisingly, those closed door sessions led to a four-year sweetheart contract for the PREA that appear to have made/kept our teachers among the highest paid in Illinois, albeit without producing commensurately high-ranked ISAT scores from their students.

And getting an even sweeter deal this time around is why the PREA has targeted this April’s election, according to PREA President Andy Duerkop’s “President’s Message” of 10.27.14: “A number of PREA members have been working to recruit candidates from the community….”

Of the four sitting Board members whose seats are up in April, only Borrelli – whom we endorsed (along with Collins) in 2011 – has voted against a PREA contract. Unfortunately, since then, the vast majority of his votes suggest that he has “drunk the Kool-Aid” (or, if you prefer, “gone native”); and although we would love to be proved wrong on this, it appears that he cannot currently be counted on to champion the taxpayers’ interests over the monetary interests of the PREA.

Will any candidates with the kind of iron will and overarching public spiritedness needed to overcome D-64’s culture of underperformance, and to demand both measurably better education for students and better value for Park Ridge taxpayers, step up to challenge the D-64 pay-for-underperformance status quo?

You can be sure the PREA is hoping that answer is “no”…if only for just the next seven days.

UPDATE (12.17.14)  The levy was approved by a vote of 6 – 1 (Paterno).  Only two members of the “public” showed up to address the Board on the levy, but that’s a 100% increase over last year.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Park Board Bites Dog!


For close to a century “man bites dog” has been the tongue-in-cheek benchmark for a newsworthy story.

That’s not quite what occurred at last Thursday (Dec. 4) night’s Park Ridge Park District Board meeting.  But it came pretty darn close.

The Park Board, by a vote of 5 (Rick Biagi, Dick Brandt, Jim O’Brien, Mary Wynn Ryan and Mel Thillens) to 2 (Joan Bende and Jim Phillips), REVERSED its 4 (Bende, Brandt, Phillips and Ryan) to 2 (Biagi and O’Brien, Thillens absent) vote for a 1.50% tax levy increase at its November 20 meeting.

Yes, you’re reading that right.  A local taxing body reversed field and CUT a previously-approved tax levy increase.

On a motion by previously-MIA Board president Thillens, Brandt and Ryan flipped positions from two weeks ago and joined the Biagi/O’Brien/Thillens team.

Brandt didn’t explain his change of mind.  But Ryan – an unabashed “the bigger the government the better” fan who hasn’t seen many, if any, tax increases she couldn’t salute or applaud – read from a prepared statement to explain her epiphany from a “yes” to “no.”

Ryan claimed to be concerned about this levy increase being “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”  In getting to that point she first kind-of-blamed the City for raising its tax levy by 22%, even though that increase was public knowledge prior to her earlier “yes” vote.  Then she also kind-of-blamed the $4 million (over 4 years) Library referendum tax increase, without mentioning that she was instrumental in helping pass it.  She even cited the tax increase from the $13.2 million 2013 Youth Campus Park referendum, also without mentioning her wholehearted support for its passage. But she barely touched on the 3-month-per year, $8 million ($7 million of long-term debt) Centennial water park that she also heartily endorsed.

Such epiphanies are fairly common for tax-borrow-and-spenders as they enter re-election mode and feel the need to re-invent themselves as fiscal neo-cons in the months before election day (April 7, 2015), when voters might actually start paying attention.

Before Ryan announced her epiphany, however, Philips mounted a spirited defense of the levy increase, focusing on the principle of “use it or lose it” (“UIOLI”) – a kind of redheaded step child of the tax cap law.

When the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (“PTELL,” commonly referred to as the “tax caps”) to protect homeowners from excessive property tax hits, it incorporated a maximum annual levy increase of the lower of 5% or the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”); and it built in an exemption for adding new growth or construction to a taxing body’s tax base.  The taxing body can capture additional property tax revenue generated by any new property (e.g., when a $300K home is torn down and replaced by a $1 million McMansion), but it must levy for that new growth – and make it part of the tax base – the very first year that new growth comes onto the tax role.

If the new growth and CPI are not captured in any given year, the caps prevent any future levy for that new property or to make up for that year’s forgone CPI; i.e., if you don’t “use” it – by levying for it – you “lose” it forever.

Call that Exhibit No. 861 for why Illinois government is so broken it very well may not be fixable: even things called “tax caps” are designed to enable and even compel higher tax levies.

Philips’ UIOLI argument iterated and reiterated how a failure to capture new growth and that 1.50% in this year’s levy would, with compounding, have a long-term adverse effect on the District’s ability to tax its residents.  He also noted how inflation has made what could be purchased for $1.00 back in 1994 into a $1.60 expense today.

And it looks like he’s right!  As far as it goes.

But basing taxing decisions on keeping pace with inflation is a lot like chasing your tail – except that, with inflation, somebody else controls the pace at which your tail moves.  Moreover, the higher Park Ridge property taxes climb, the less of a “bargain” (or even a “good investment”) Park Ridge homes tend to appear.

That didn’t seem to faze Philips, who noted with clear displeasure (joined in by Ryan) that the District’s property taxes have already been reduced to the point where they have been exceeded by the District’s user-fee revenue.

Hallelujah!  Can we get an “Amen”?

We have always advocated for the taxpayers footing the bill for “assets.”  In the Park District’s case, that means land/parks and facilities (e.g., parks, the Community Center, Ice Rink, pools, etc.).  The value of these kinds of hard “assets” can actually be appraised, and the facilities can even be valued as “going concern” operations.  Their value to the community, therefore, can be measured and readily allocated to the community; and, therefore, in fractional interests to each piece of taxable property.

When it comes to the costs of operating those “assets,” however, we believe those should be allocated to the fullest extent possible to their users through memberships, program fees and user fees.  Once the taxpayers pay for the basic costs of keeping those “assets” operational, those who don’t use those “assets” shouldn’t have to help foot the bill for the extra costs attributed to such use.  And, frankly, if the quality of the programs or operations provide enough added value, we can think of no good reason for the District not to charge – for the taxpayers’ benefit, of course – a fair market price commensurate with that value add.

Whether Thillens’ leadership on this particular do-over represents a genuine epiphany of his own while out on the campaign trail during his recent state representative run, or just a temporary Ryan-style re-election ploy, remains to be seen.  That shuttered-from-September-through-May Centennial water park, with its constantly-running debt service, that Thillens and his compadres hung on the taxpayers – without a referendum – remains a big black mark on his report card.

But fair is fair.

Which is why we’re giving a big Watchdog bark-out to our long-time whipping boy for not only making the do-over motion, but also for expressing his justifiable pride in the District’s seeming ability to provide so much diverse and successful programming as to make it the District’s dominant revenue engine.  While we’re at it, we’ll also add a big Watchdog bark-out to one of our long-time whipping girls, District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle, for being instrumental in managing to achieve such results.

And, finally, a big bark-out to the Park Board majority for, in this one relatively small way, trying to give Park Ridge’s beleaguered taxpayers a break.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Mayor, Council Not Afraid Of Rats


When was the last time you saw two large inflatable rats in front of Park Ridge City Hall, their inflatable paws holding inflatable sacks of inflatable public money?

Never, that’s when.

So when the rats and their keepers – a contingent of the City’s Public Works employees and their representatives from Local 150 of the Union of Operating Engineers, bearing signs like “Time to Veto Dave Schmidt” – showed up outside City Hall for the City Council meeting on the evening of November 24, it was most definitely a significant event.

As background, one needs to remember that Local 150 has no love for Park Ridge Mayor Dave Schmidt. It was Local 150 that very publicly supported Schmidt’s opponent in the April 2013 election, Larry Ryles. In fact, Local 150’s $1,000 contribution to the Ryles campaign is the only contribution by a union to any candidate for our non-partisan local offices that we can remember or find evidence of.

That’s because Schmidt has been the first Park Ridge mayor to have the audacity to say “no,” or even “maybe not,” to the unions representing City employees. And to public employee unions used to having their way with the majority of feckless public officials who seem to derive more than a little faux self-esteem from spending OPM (“Other People’s Money”), “no” is not an acceptable option.

Especially when Schmidt can back it up with the support of a majority of the City Council.

In this case, as we understand it, Local 150’s beef with the City is the unfair labor practice charge it filed in which the union claims the City is overcharging Public Works employees for health insurance by keeping them on the City’s insurance policy rather than letting them transfer to the union’s coverage. The union claims the City is breaching the contract it cut with the City, while the City says that particular health insurance provision was not part of the contract the City Council approved.

That contract reportedly has not yet been signed by either party, presumably because the draft that Local 150 claims its members ratified contains healthcare terms different from the ones in the draft the City Council initially approved. That confusion is something we blame on City Mgr. Shawn Hamilton and the City’s crack negotiating team, who are very well paid to get this kind of basic stuff right. But that bungled effort has already been the topic of our 06.14.13 post and our 03.14.14 post.

It was Schmidt’s veto of the Council’s 4-3 approval of that bungled contract, which was sustained by a 5-2 vote of the Council on April 7, 2014, that apparently provoked the “Veto Dave Schmidt” signs.

The Local 150 unfair labor practice, and a similar counterclaim filed by the City, are currently being arbitrated before the Illinois Labor Relations Board, a public body which effectively has become an arm of public-sector unions over the many years that public sector union-beholden Democrats have dominated Illinois state government, not only stacking state laws to favor public employee unions but also controlling the appointment of the arbitrators who decide these kinds of disputes. So taking on a union in such a proceeding is an uphill battle.

But it’s one that has to be fought because surrendering would announce to Local 150 and to all other City employee unions that our current elected officials are a bunch of easily-intimidated ankle-grabbers who will sell out the taxpayers almost as readily as their soft-touch predecessors.

If you have any doubt about that point, consider the irony of all these Local 150 types ripping Schmidt and the Council for “wasting taxpayers’ money,” the second most popular Local 150 sign slogan behind “Veto Dave Schmidt.”

In the Bizarro world of public-sector unions and their members – including police, firefighters and teachers – the doling out of tens and even hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in raises and benefits, without any increase in productivity or efficiency, is wise spending. And spending a fraction of that money fighting the unions’ demands, on the other hand, is a waste of those funds.

Which is why Local 150 member Doug Karowsky can shamelessly argue that “the City Council had a duty to the taxpayers to be financially responsible” while somehow considering that such a duty could be discharged by the Council’s rolling over for the union’s wage increases and benefit demands.

In 1798 the French foreign minister Tallyrand demanded bribes of $250,000 for himself personally, $50,000 pounds sterling for France, and a $100 million loan to France, in order to stop French ships from plundering American ones. U.S. Sen. Robert Goodloe Harper responded to that demand with the famous toast: “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute.” And later that year American warships and armed private merchant ships captured 80 French vessels and chased French warships out of U.S. waters.

We’re not suggesting that the City spend “millions” – or anything remotely close – on battling Local 150.

But Park Ridge taxpayers should be glad that Schmidt and the Council have let the word go out to friend and foe alike that at least one local governmental body will not be seduced or intimidated by public-sector unions bearing signs and demanding unwarranted raises and/or better benefits.

Or by their inflatable rats.

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Nothing “Fair” About Public Services For Private Developments


Readers of this blog know that one of our major pet peeves –stuck in there one step below corruption and one step above stupidity – is greed masquerading as need.

That’s why we’ve written some nasty posts about “freeloaders” (shorthand for residents looking to get something for free or with a heavy subsidy from their fellow taxpayers) and “parasites” (shorthand for non-residents looking to scam a freebie or subsidy from local taxpayers). We especially like to apply those terms to folks who portray themselves as needy when it’s pretty obvious they’re just being greedy.

So we were a bit dismayed to see how residents of several Park Ridge housing developments seem to once again be aspiring to “freeloader” status in seeking do-overs of deals done decades ago.

At last Monday (November 24) night’s City Council Committee of the Whole meeting, Mr. Lee Tate, ostensibly representing the residents of the Park Ridge Pointe development, showed up to once again offer to the City ownership of what we understand to currently be, by law, Park Ridge Pointe’s “private” property: its streets, curbs, sidewalks, fire hydrants, sewers, etc.

That offer to turn over property isn’t any altruistic gift by the Park Ridge Pointers, however.

The quid pro quo for that offer is that the City would start providing certain City services that up until now have been provided and paid for by Pointe residents themselves under the terms of a legal deal cut by the Pointe’s developer in order to get City permission to build the Pointe the way the developer wanted – with narrower streets, shorter setbacks and non-compliance with other then-code requirements that enabled the developer to wring more units, greater density and greater profit out of the site.

In other words, the residents of Park Ridge Pointe currently are doing the right thing by paying for services they are legally obligated to pay, yet they seem intent on becoming…wait for it…freeloaders…by welching on those obligations.

If the City Council lets them.

Starting at 2:27:20 of the meeting video, Mr. Tate invokes “the Fairness of Taxation” before adopting a best-defense-is-a-good-offense strategy by claiming, incredibly, that “the City…is the freeloader” in this situation because it has been getting full-boat City taxes from the unit owners in these private developments while not providing services like snow removal, street repair, etc.

There’s nothing “unfair” about that, however, nor is the City anything close to a “freeloader.”

The City already lived up to its part of that legal bargain decades ago by permitting the construction of residences (homes/condos/townhouses) in these “private” developments that wouldn’t even have been built except for the developers’ agreements to keep all the streets and infrastructure “private” and to undertake, apparently in perpetuity, their maintenance/repair/replacement – a legal bargain that the current residents are trying to weasel out of after decades of performance.

To hear Mr. Tate tell it at last Monday’s COW, however, he and his fellow residents/aspiring freeloaders were victims of outright snookery by the City.

How? Because the City didn’t tell them at the time they bought their homes/units that they weren’t getting these City services.

As we understand it, Park Ridge Pointe’s (and every other developments’) legal obligations for privately obtaining those certain public services normally provided by the City is reflected in each development’s homeowners’ association documents AND in the title documents that are a matter of public record and given to buyers as part of every real estate purchase. Any competent real estate broker and any competent real estate attorney should have known about those obligations and should have explained them to the purchasers of units in those developments at or before closing.

Mr. Tate and every other one of those residents, therefore, knew or should have known what obligations they were buying into. If they didn’t, shame on them. And shame on their brokers and attorneys if those professionals didn’t properly inform their clients.

In neither event, however, should it be the City’s problem. It also shouldn’t be the City’s job to bail out careless buyers and/or incompetent brokers and attorneys.

So if it’s “fairness” the folks in Park Ridge Pointe, Bristol Court, and all those other similarly-situated developments want, it’s time they realized – and time the City Council told them in no uncertain terms – that they’ve already got it; and that they have had it for decades.  Truth be told, the fact that they are living in non-code compliant housing is proof of it.

But if these folks think they’ve got valid legal claims against the City in this regard, they should hire themselves an attorney and file those claims rather than continuing to browbeat the Council into letting them welch on the deals that were cut decades ago and that they legally agreed to when they bought their units.  And they should most definitely stop trying to become freeloaders.

There are enough of those already.

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