Public Watchdog.org

A Little Yang, A Little Yin, A Left Hook To The Taxpayers’ Chin

09.23.16

It has been almost two years since we first started writing – in our posts of 11.28.14 and 12.23.14 – about Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s efforts to catch and cull non-resident “parasite” students.

So we were pleased to read a recent Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“12 students removed from District 64 for non-residency; background checks expanded,” 09.16.16) reporting that 12 students were removed from D-64 schools last year because it was discovered that they didn’t live in the District full-time. At a rough cost of $14,000 per student, that’s almost $170,000 a year in savings.

Upon seeing that article we went to the District’s website and found the Residency Update report that the District’s investigator is currently working on 9 more cases.

The H-A story, but not the District’s report, states that D-64 Chief School Business Official Luann Kolstad pegged the cost of the residency investigations and one formal hearing at $77,464, which seems a bit stiff. It’s also hard to understand because…SURPRISE!…the non-transparent District apparently offered the H-A reporter no explanation. And, presumably, the H-A reporter didn’t think to ask for one.

But saving the taxpayers a net $90,000+ seems to make it a worthwhile exercise and expense.

So we’re offering D-64 a rousing “Huzzah!” for getting something right.

But because yin can’t seem to exist without yang, we can’t help but note that the published agenda for this Monday night’s D-64 Board meeting includes something very wrong: “Ratification of PREA/Board Agreement.”

No Board packet has been posted on the District’s website, so we don’t know whether the opaque Board and Administration might actually deign to include the new contract among the rest of the meeting materials. But we highly doubt it.

After telling the taxpayers to pound sand for the past few weeks, it’s unlikely that Supt. Laurie Heinz would let “Boss” Borrelli and the rest of the Board lemmings do anything transparent, even something as worthless as an 11th-hour publication of the contract.

But if you don’t care about the Falcons v. the Saints on Monday night football, and are willing to risk missing the first few minutes of the Clinton v. Trump circus, swing by the Roosevelt School gym and bear witness to non-representative, Star Chamber local government at pretty much its absolute worst.

You are likely to hear Heinz, Borrelli and/or the lemmings brag about how wonderful they are, how wonderful the PREA folks are, and how wonderful the new contract is – including new spending that will make that $90,000+ savings from residency checks seem like chump change.

Then you can return home to the relative honesty and sincerity of Hill and Don.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Let’s Go To The Videotape!

09.19.16

There is a famous East Coast sportscaster, Warner Wolf, who would punctuate his television reporting of game results with his catchphrase “Let’s go to the videotape” so that viewers could see the play he was describing.

If you want to see the difference between people who belong on the School Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and the folks we’ve actually put there, take a scant 24 minutes of your time to “go to the videotape” of last Monday night’s D-64 Board meeting – starting at the 1:03:20 mark.

At the risk of gilding a perfectly good lily we will tell you that, in less than 15 of those 24 minutes, resident Jayne Reardon and resident Joan Sandrik articulated more sound public policy and more critical thinking, respectively, than has emerged from the folks sitting at the big table so far this year. And maybe stretching into last year as well.

There also was a third speaker, Ms. Reardon’s husband Mike (a Library trustee), who had to play truth squad for Board president Tony “Who’s the Boss” Borrelli’s first-ever “Citizens’ Corner” sideshow because Borrelli apparently couldn’t even quote Reardon accurately from the previous meeting.

Ms. Reardon – the executive director of the Illinois Supreme Court’s commission on professionalism – led off by making Board member Tom Sotos her beyotch when the latter foolishly tried to spar with her over the Board’s lack of transparency and its cowardly abuse of FOIA in continuing to hide the terms of the tentative contract with the PREA from the taxpayers until after the Board locks those same taxpayers into what is likely to be a 4-year, $200 million-plus deal that the “Boss,” Sotos and their fellow lemmings will rubber-stamp any day now.

We’ve already placed a $1 bet on that new contract requiring that the next contract negotiation 4 years hence require closed-sessions, just like the current one negotiated in 2012 by Board negotiators John Heyde and Pat Fioretto saddled the current Board this time around.

Simple Sotos actually asked Ms. Reardon whether, if the contract would be published in advance of a Board vote on it, he might actually have to listen to all the taxpayers who have comments about it; and if he chooses to listen to those taxpayers, whether he would be expected to let those opinions dictate his vote on the contract.

Seriously, he actually asked her that.

Borrelli jumped in and tried to stanch Sotos’ bleeding-from-the-ears after Sotos asked Ms. Reardon: “What does [publishing the contract] have to do with transparency?”

Seriously, he actually asked that, too.

Translation: “What does being transparent have to do with transparency?”

It’s apparently all Greek to Sotos – literally and figuratively – as can be seen from a string of posts on the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate Facebook page which include a colloquy between Sotos and the editor of this blog that features a legal analysis (highlighted in yellow) of why there would appear to be no legal consequences from the Board’s or any individual Board member’s publication of the tentative PREA contract.

Batting second was Sandrik, who has become a semi-regular at those meetings, thereby displaying both an unusually high threshold of pain and the public-spiritedness to speak truth to abuse of power.

[SPOILER ALERT: Watch how Board member Vicki Lee – who has yet to prove she’s anything but a rubber-stamp for more spending with less transparency and accountability – puts her clasped hands to her forehead and appears to slip into a trance about eight seconds after Sandrik gets to the podium; and then returns to what passes for consciousness just as Sandrik concludes her remarks. It’s precious.]

Monday night Sandrik noted that while no D-64 schools were among Chicago Magazine’s recent Top 20, the more important fact was that 15 of those Top 20 schools reportedly have lower educational costs than D-64.

Sandrik also took proper umbrage at “Boss” Borrelli’s and Simple Sotos’ suggestions that Park Ridge taxpayers like herself might not be smart enough to understand the contract language because we didn’t see and hear what went on during the negotiations – you know, those negotiations which Heyde and Fioretto, four years ago, chose to hide from us by the terms of that 2012 contract; and which the terms of the new contract are likely to hide from us in 2020, by which time the “Boss” and most/all of the current lemmings (and perhaps Supt. Heinz, finance czarina Luann Kolstad and propaganda minister Bernadette Tramm as well) will have pulled an Elvis and left the building.

We’ve read all 61 pages of the current contract and we’re betting Sandrik has, too. And any literate adult with either a college degree or a good high school education should have no problem understanding its most significant terms and conditions.

Once Sandrik concluded, the “Boss” took the floor to launch the maiden voyage of his “Citizens’ Corner” with a robotic reading from a script that we’d bet good money was written for him by Tramm – presumably with some editing from his ventriloquist, Heinz, who has yet to be observed drinking water while the “Boss” is talking.

We could provide a play-by-play and commentary of that effort, but we’re stopping here because nothing besides those 24 minutes of that meeting video can do them justice.

So watch, listen, and learn for yourself why Mark Twain famously said: “God created the Idiot for practice: then he invented the School Board.”

And thereby insulted the Idiot.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Taxpayers: Prepare To Be Screwed The “D-64 Way” Monday Night (Updated)

09.10.16

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass has often written about the secretive, unaccountable and corrupt manner in which Chicago city government, in all its various forms, does business as usual. Kass has branded it the “Chicago Way” – which, when spoken correctly, requires approximately the same distasteful inflection as “child molester.”

Roughly two weeks ago the Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School Dist. 64 announced that it had reached a tentative agreement-in-principle with the Park Ridge Education Association (the “PREA”) that was being presented to the PREA membership for ratification. Once it was ratified by PREA membership, the D-64 Board would vote to approve it.

But according to a Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“’Tentative’ contract reached for District 64 teachers, board president says,” 08.23.16), School Board approval of that agreement would occur without the District’s taxpayers getting a chance to see, read, and comment on it in advance of the vote.

That kind of opacity and outright contempt for the taxpayers is what has become institutionalized as the “D-64 Way.”

In case you don’t quite appreciate the absurdity and arrogance of the D-64 Board’s operating in this fashion, permit us to lay it out for you.

The PREA negotiating team reached the tentative agreement-in-principle that its members (the D-64 teachers) – presumably after being given an opportunity to read the agreement – get to vote on. And for all we know, they’ve already done so.

On the other hand, the D-64 negotiating team led by Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and his ventriloquist, Supt. Laurie Heinz, reached that same tentative agreement-in-principle at the same time. But unlike the D-64 teachers, the District’s constituent taxpayers who will be bound to pay for that contract over the next four years aren’t even going to get to see, much less read, it before the D-64 Board votes to bind those constituent taxpayers for the next four years.

Does that sound honest, transparent and accountable? Or even sane? No, but that’s the D-64 Way.

We can find nothing in the current contract (which controlled the negotiations that produced the new contract) or in state law that requires the terms of the new tentative agreement-in-principle to be kept secret from the taxpayers once it has been released for PREA teacher ratification. Even “Boss” Borrelli admitted as much in that H-A article, noting only that the District’s “practice” supported keeping the terms of the new contract secret from the taxpayers.

That’s Borrelli’s story – most likely written for him by the District’s propaganda minister, Bernadette Tramm – and he’s sticking to it. Because that’s the D-64 Way.

But the real reason for keeping the new contract a secret from the taxpayers is that publishing it in advance of any Board vote on it substantially increases the likelihood that suspicious and/or irate taxpayers might show up at that D-64 Board meeting and ask some tough questions about the contract, and about the “Boss” and his Board that cut that deal.

Tough questions are considered “no bueno” by the “Boss,” his ventriloquist, and their lemmings on the Board…because answering tough questions and the hard-edged comments that often accompany them is not the D-64 Way.

So with the agenda for this Monday night’s “special” Board meeting stating that there will be yet another closed-session starting at 6:00 p.m. during which “collective negotiating matters between the District and its employees or their representatives…“ will be discussed, we can’t help but suspect that such a discussion might be the prelude to a vote to approve the new contract once the Board emerges from that closed session.

Especially with the PREA Governing Board conveniently scheduled to meet from 4:00 t0 6:00 p.m. that same afternoon, presumably to formally authorize the results of the ratification vote that already should have taken place.

If you think that the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) notice requirements for such meetings prevents such a vote, think again.

IOMA requires the posting of a meeting agenda 48 hours in advance of the meeting. The D-64 Board, therefore, has already met that requirement. And even though the agenda doesn’t expressly provide for a contract vote, the Board could still come out of closed session and vote to approve the contract. That’s because Section 2.02(a) of IOMA is written with sufficient ambiguity that enemies of transparency and accountability – i.e., a majority of the D-64 Board members – can claim that a contract approval vote is “germane to a subject on the agenda”: the collective bargaining item on the closed-session portion of that agenda.

Making up quasi-legal, or legal but dishonest, ways to fleece the taxpayers while keeping them in the dark is the D-64 Way.

And don’t think for a New York minute that the malefactors on that Board won’t do it, even if one or more (but not a majority) of them makes a grand-but-dishonest (or dishonest-but-grand?) gesture of voting against that contract – like Borrelli did four years ago – purely as political opportunism. Such theatrics are easy when they know in advance, from the earlier closed-session discussion, that their vote is meaningless because the contract already has Board majority support.

So don’t be surprised if that’s the way it goes down Monday night, with the “Boss,” the lemmings and Heinz praising the unseen contract as a masterpiece of collective bargaining, farsightedness and fairness to everybody.

Even if those of us paying the bill have no choice but to take their word for it.

Because that’s the D-64 Way.

UPDATE (09.12.16): Now that the Board packet for tonight’s (09.12.16) meeting has been published we note that the “Upcoming Meetings and Topics” section shows that “Ratification of PREA/Board Agreement” is scheduled for the September 26 meeting at Roosevelt School.

So we’ll take that at face value. For now.

Meanwhile, at least a few citizens appear to have taken it upon themselves to have FOIAed the District for the contract, term sheets, and other documents. Not surprisingly, they’ve been stonewalled with the excuse that the language of the PREA tentative agreement is “still being reviewed and edited by the PREA negotiating team and the District’s legal counsel before it can be finalized for approval and signatures” and, therefore, the agreement is exempt from FOIA disclosure under exception 7(1)(p).

We’ve also heard that some teachers have copies of the tentative agreement, but we don’t know whether those are rank-and-file PREA member-teachers or members of the PREA negotiating team.

But the bottom line here remains the same: As Borrelli acknowledged to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, no legal restriction prevents the District’s disclosure of the tentative agreement-in-principle, on the District’s past practice. And the FOIA exception to disclosure invoked by the District in rejecting taxpayers’ requests for copies of the contract is a voluntary one, not a mandatory one. Which means D-64 could produce that agreement if it wanted to.

It just doesn’t want to…because “Boss” Borrelli and his lemmings don’t want the scrutiny, the questions and the comments those contract terms would likely generate, at least not until AFTER the Board approves that contract and there’s nothing the taxpayers can do about it.

Whether it’s stupidity, corruption, or something else, the taxpayers of this community deserve better.

To read or post comments, click on title.

When A New Fire Engine Is More Than Just A New Fire Engine

09.07.16

Several weeks ago we took a few shots at the Park Ridge Fire Dept. and Chief Sorensen in our post: “Fire Chief’s Salary Beef Too Little, Too Late” (06.16.16)

As we wrote back then, we believed Chief S was better than that particular performance would indicate. So we’re happy to read a Sept. 1 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate about how he and the department’s executive officer Paul Lisowski were able to secure a FEMA grant that will provide $500,000 toward the replacement of the department’s 21 year-old fire engine that had become a maintenance problem due to the almost 130,000 miles it has logged.

The cost to Park Ridge: $50,000.

That warrants a big “Huzzah!” to Chief S, EO Lisowski, and whoever else made this possible.

Fortunately, that $500,000 grant comes with another dividend that should not be overlooked: the trenchant observation by Chief S that his department’s inability to get the new engine other than by this grant was the result of the City’s financial condition.

For those folks who just can’t seem to figure out public-sector economics, the idea that the City does not have the available cash to spring for a new fire engine might be scoff-worthy. They tend to see government, in its every form and iteration, as some kind of uber-wealthy uncle always able to pick up the dinner tab and still indiscriminately dole out virtually unlimited funds.

But the City’s inability to easily buy new fire trucks – at a cool half mil a pop – is just one of the many consequences of almost two decades of foolish spending, idiotic borrowing, irresponsible under-taxing, and sweetheart deals under former mayors Wietecha, Marous and Frimark, aided and abetted by at least one manipulative and outright dishonest city manager, enabled by a gaggle of complicit alder-dunces.

Those mistakes are still tying the hands and purse-strings of the current mayor and Council, and will continue to do so for years to come. But beginning in 2009 with the administration of the late mayor Dave Schmidt, the adoption of more transparent and accountable taxing, budgeting and spending policies and practices started to turn things around. And that turnaround has continued under the stewardship of Acting Mayor Marty Maloney and the current Council,

Unfortunately, that steady course of improvement over the past 7 years is not yet sufficiently institutionalized to the point where it can’t be blown up with just a few injudicious and expensive ideas and/or decisions, especially if they involve large amounts of long-term bonded debt. Should you need an object lesson to understand this concept, look no further than the City’s foolish issuance of tens of millions of dollars of 20-plus year General Obligation bonds a decade ago, used effectively to subsidize the private Uptown Redevelopment project pushed through without even giving the taxpayers a chance to express their opinion via a referendum.

Equally problematic is what appears to be an increasing number of newer residents who talk and act like every one of our units of local government is sitting on its own gold mine staffed by a contingent of elves who simply dig up a few more shiny nuggets anytime teachers and administrators want raises, parents want hot lunches, and kids want Chromebooks.

Yes, Kathy Meade, f/k/a “Kathy Panattoni Meade,” that means you.

On September 1 Ms. Meade posted the H-A story about the fire engine grant on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page, and then commented about this being “a phenomenal opportunity to get a brand new state-of-the-art engine for the price of an entry-level Lexus.

Such childlike naïvete (or freeloader-ism, take your pick) completely ignores the tens of millions of dollars Park Ridge taxpayers send to Washington (i.e., FEMA) and Springfield each year with only a tiny fraction of that treasure being returned through things like FEMA fire engine grants – while federal and state politicians use the rest of our tax dollars to fund other communities’ fire trucks, police cruisers, community centers, libraries and schools even though some/many of those communities are no more economically-distressed than Park Ridge.

Maybe even less.

So when all is said and done, we didn’t get a new fire engine for the price of an entry-level Lexus: We got a new fire engine for the price of several Lexus dealerships.

Meanwhile, we’re now into the fourth decade of corrupt Madigan Democrat rule, aided and abetted by complicit and/or corrupt RINO governors Thompson, Edgar and No. 16627-424, that has turned state government into one big shell game, except with several dozen shells to most effectively bamboozle the clueless taxpayers. That’s how Madigan, Cullerton, et al. can keep on robbing Peter to pay Paul – and Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, Jude, Thaddeus, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John, Paul, Cosmas and Damian – without looking at the business end of the federal indictments they so richly deserve.

Simply by throwing communities like Park Ridge an occasional bone. Or fire engine.

Don’t get us wrong: a fire truck from FEMA beats a sharp stick in the eye any day. And you can be darn sure that if we didn’t get it, Rockford…or Fargo ND…or Athens GA…or Bakersfield CA…would. That’s the kind of merry-go-round spending that keeps the freeloaders hooked like crackheads, and our governments growing like Topsy.

So another round of applause for Chief S and EO Lisowski for getting us that shiny new fire engine for the price of a Lexus.

Entry-level.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Labor Day 2016: Time For Us To Stop Going Gently

09.05.16

As another Labor Day signals the unofficial end to the summer and, this year, the unofficial beginning to the November election season, we want to remind our readers of all the wonderful things that private-sector labor unions have brought about for ALL workers in this country, including:

  • The minimum wage;
  • The 8-hour work day;
  • Overtime pay;
  • Holiday pay;
  • The 40-hour work week/work-free weekends;
  • Social Security;
  • Paid (and unpaid) sick leave;
  • Paid vacations;
  • Paid work breaks, including lunch;
  • Child labor laws;
  • Pensions, including 401(k)s;
  • Unemployment insurance;
  • Workplace safety;
  • Employee and family health insurance;
  • Collective bargaining rights;
  • Anti-discrimination laws; and
  • Whistleblower protection laws.

Not surprisingly, NONE of the foregoing was brought about by public-sector unions – those late-blooming organizations that have colluded and conspired with crooked Illinois politicians (redundancy intended) to give us:

  • Automatic, non-merit based raises unrelated to performance;
  • Underfunded constitutionally-guaranteed defined-benefit pensions;
  • Every holiday off;
  • 185-day work years (for, e.g., D-64 teachers);
  • No accountability for under-performance or outright failure; and
  • Virtual impossibility of being significantly disciplined or fired.

When it comes to the private sector, labor and capital have been able to strike an uneasy – albeit not always equal – balance of supply and demand, increasingly distorted by the unfair competitive effects of globalization.

In the public sector here in Illinois, however, unionized labor has come to dominate capital (i.e., tax dollars) specifically because of public-sector labor’s unique immunity to both the laws of supply and demand and the unfair competition of globalization.

So as we have done in the past, we praise the private-sector trade unionism that created a middle class and gave us the highest standard of living in the world. And we caution against public-sector faux-unionism that, in approximately 30 years of collusion with our corrupt Democratic politicians and their RINO co-conspirators, has driven Illinois to the economic and social bottom of the 50 states of the Union.

And we encourage our fellow citizens to not go gently into that dark night our corrupt politicians and their co-conspirators have created; and from which they have prospered.

To read or post comments, click on title.