Court Upholds City’s “No” To The Stumphouse


Back on March 9 of last year, we published our post: “A Stump Is Not A Tree, A Shed Is Not A House.”

On February 9, Circuit Court Judge Celia Gamrath effectively agreed in upholding the decision of the City of Park Ridge Zoning Board of Appeals that the stumphouse at 916 N. Western Avenue doesn’t pass muster under the City’s Zoning Code. And she did so without even providing an Architectural Digest critique.

Although the City was victorious, neither side covered itself in glory.

The two City Building Department employees whose greasy fingerprints are all over this debacle – then-Building Administrator Lonnie Spires and then-Zoning Coordinator Ed Cage – would have been hard pressed to screw this up more than they did, assuming their mishandling of the situation was the product of mere negligence rather than some form of Chicago-style winking-and-nodding.

Fortunately, they departed the City for public-sector sinecures in other communities shortly after their Laurel & Hardy act here, so they’re somebody else’s problem now. And their asleep-at-the-wheel superior, Community Preservation & Development Director Jim Testin, followed about a year later. Call it addition by subtraction.

As we pointed out a year ago, this situation identified several flaws in the City’s permitting process that, hopefully, will be corrected under new CP&D chief Jim Brown – who should not wait for direction from the City Council before doing a forensic analysis of what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again – starting with a BIG BOLD WARNING on every application for a building permit that says something along the lines of: “If it’s not in writing and signed by the appropriate City official it is not authorized or permitted.”

And it might not hurt to re-examine the Zoning Code’s definitions of terms like “deck,” “deck addition,” and any others that might have given aid, comfort or credibility to any of the stumphouse owners’ arguments. Because whether it cost $26,000 or $2.60, the stumphouse would have been an eyesore at even half its elevation – unless it was gracing the backyard of some hillbilly mansion down in Stickney or McCook.

Not surprisingly, the perpetrators of the stumphouse insist they did nothing wrong and that they were just innocently taking their cues from Laurel & Hardy. They also claim to be considering further legal options.


Meanwhile, we’d like to end this post with a Watchdog bark-out to Planner/Zoning Coordinator Howard Coppari, who was hired after Laurel (Spire) & Hardy (Cage) departed. Instead of chalking up this fiasco to their errors and looking the other way, Coppari investigated the stumphouse like a starving dog getting after a t-bone.

We normally don’t applaud people for just doing their jobs, but Coppari stepped up and did his after 3 others failed to do theirs.

Well done, Mr. Coppari!

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Selection Processes Distinguish City Democracy From D-64 Oligarchy


If you want a simple example of just how different – how more honest, transparent and accountable – City of Park Ridge government is compared to that of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, look no farther than the way the City chose a successor to Ald. Dan Knight versus how D-64 chose a successor to Dathan Paterno.

Following the very same protocol that has been in place since, at least, the selection of Jim Allegretti as successor 4th Ward alderman to Howard Frimark when the latter was sworn in as mayor in May 2005, a committee of five community-active Fifth Ward residents – 3 women (Judy Barclay, Sue Knight and Joan Sandrik) and 2 men (Mike Reardon and Sal Raspanti) – publicly interviewed and then publicly deliberated the qualifications of 8 applicants before recommending Charles Melidosian to Acting Mayor Marty Maloney.

And Maloney’s appointment of Melidosian was publicly deliberated and debated by the entire Council – in an open session, with citizen input – on Monday, February 6, before the Council approved that appointment by a 4-2 vote.

D-64’s process?

Surprisingly, it started out okay, with public interviews of the 8 applicants for the appointment. But then, in typical Tony Borrelli-led fashion, the Board retreated into…wait for it…closed session, where the real deliberation (at D-64, that’s primarily a bunch of winks and nods) took place with no prying eyes or ears, and no pesky input from the citizenry, before the white smoke signaled the unanimous anointing of former Board member Terry Cameron as the designated chair-filler for the next 10 weeks.

Was the City’s transparent process messier than D-64’s Star Chamber? Of course!

Transparency is almost always messier than secrecy – which is why transparency is a fundamental underpinning of democracy, either direct or our representational/republican version, while secrecy is a fundamental underpinning of oligarchies and dictatorships.

Which pretty much describes the difference between the City Council and the D-64 Board.

But the messiness at City Hall was almost entirely the product of Alds. Rick Van Roeyen (3d) and Roger Shubert (4th) figuratively throwing up on their own shoes by deciding, at the 11th hour and 59th minute of the process, to object not only to the appointment of Melidosian but, also, to the entire process – after it had gone on for over two weeks with their full knowledge.

Such last-minute empty grandstanding not only was an insult to all the good-faith time and effort put in by the committee members but, also, to all the equally good-faith effort of the applicants who submitted to that process.

It was also borderline absurd, given that Van Roeyen got his current position on the Council through the same exact ward recommendation process. Either he and Shubert believed Third Ward residents were more capable of picking an interim replacement alderman than Fifth Ward residents, or their objections were of a more “political” nature. We’re going with the latter, but if they want to publicly own up to the former we’ll take their word for it.

They were initially joined by Ald. Nick Milissis (2d) before he had a welcome epiphany, if only “to show [his] intentions are not to stack the council or [make] a power grab” – and only after committee members Barclay and Sandrik personally defended the committee’s efforts, Melidosian defended his own qualifications, and Gareth Kennedy, one of the two runners-up (with Helen Fanning), spoke in favor of both the fairness of the process and the choice of Melidosian.

But no matter how bone-headed the objections to the Fifth Ward process may have been, every last second of them – in full view and hearing of the taxpayers, memorialized by video – was infinitely less insulting to the taxpayers than the D-64 Dwarfs’ secret conclave.

Unless, of course, if you’re one of those “mushrooms” who enjoys being kept in the dark and covered with manure.

You know who you are.

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D-64 Board Attacks Free Speech, Ignores Conflicts Of Interest (Updated)


Yesterday we wrote about the stupid (Paterno’s tweets), the ridiculous (women proclaiming themselves “screaming” or “screeching, raging” vaginas) and the absurd (Tom “Tilted Kilt” Sotos claiming to be offended by “vagina”) aspects of the January 23, 2017 meeting of the Park Ridge-Niles District 64 School Board.

Today we’re going to focus on that Board’s “thought police” plans to crack down on a member’s exercise of his/her free speech rights by adopting the new “Policy 2:81” at tonight’s Board meeting. That new policy, as drafted, allows a majority of the Board to pass a “Resolution of Censure” against any member for saying or writing things (such as on social media, a la Paterno) that the majority finds objectionable or offensive.

One of those censure resolutions and two bucks won’t even buy you a latte at Starbucks. In other words, it’s useless.

But that totally arbitrary standard also can be applied by the Board majority to justify its request to the Regional Superintendent of Education that he/she remove the member from the Board if that majority deems the member’s comments to be “a failure to fulfill the member’s official duties.”

That’s another crock of hooey.

Borrelli sprung this bogus Policy 2:81 at the February 6 meeting without even the courtesy of first publishing it in the Board meeting packet so that residents might come out and speak to it. Then he and Sotos spent the better part of an hour discussing it in such an obtuse manner that its boredom value actually may have exceeded its stupidity. Borrelli tried to buy himself some time by saying that he’d need to “vet” the policy with the Board’s legal beagle, Tony Loizzi, before moving its adoption.

But the fact that it’s on tonight’s “Consent Agenda” suggests that this legal beagle blessed it. Which means this legal beagle can’t hunt.


Because a 10-minute Google search revealed that the Regional Superintendent can’t lawfully remove a school board member for something as benign as blogging and/or tweeting things that a majority of board members don’t like, or find offensive. Rather, 105 ILCS 5/3-15.5 gives the Regional Supt. the authority to remove a school board member only for “willful failure to perform his official duties.”

And guess what, Borrelli and beagle: blogging and commenting on social media don’t qualify.

Which is why Warren Twp. High School District 121’s board was unable to do more than censure board member Liz Biondi when she refused to resign after creating a furor back in 2014 by saying she did not want that district to hire a gay superintendent. We can only assume Borrelli and his legal beagle couldn’t find the news stories about that situation, but you can read them for yourself here, here and here.

Also on tonight’s agenda is the first reading of an amendment to the Board’s conflict-of-interest policy, which was drafted so lamely that even Borrelli – in one of his rare moments of candor – admitted: “There is [sic] no teeth in it, and it’s that way for a purpose.” Seriously? Is that so Board candidates Greg Bublitz, Norman Dziedzic and Michael Schaab, if they get elected, can vote to give their wives raises and better benefits when the next PREA contract is negotiated in 2020?

But we couldn’t end this post without a shout-out to the Tilted Kilt himself, Sotos, who is quoted in yesterday’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“District 64 considers addition to conflict of interest policy,” Feb. 20) as being “super torn by this” policy and claiming to “need every minute…to really sit with myself in a quiet place and try to figure out how to move forward.”

In the cartoon world that is the D-64 Board, the 7 Dwarfs draft, discuss and adopt toothless policies.

And one of them is so “super torn” over that toothless policy that he needs to lock himself away to think deep thoughts about it.

Yep, he’s “Dopey” du jour.

Update (02.27.17) Over this past weekend D-64 finally posted the video of last Tuesday (02.21.17) night’s Board meeting.

Yes, the toothless conflict of interest policy was approved, unanimously (Cameron stepping seemlessly back into the rubber-stamp role he previously played in his initial tenure on the Board), so Messrs. Bublitz, Dziedzic and Schaab will be free to vote their teacher-wives raises and better benefits in 2020 if the taxpayers are clueless enough to elect them to the Board in April.

And, yes, Borrelli’s Star Chamber anti-free speech Policy 2:81 was approved, unanimously, even if the removal-from-the-Board provision is legally unenforceable.

Just more business-as-usual from the lesser transparent of our two most expensive and under-achieving local units of government.

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“Screeching Vaginas” + Shameless Board = Thought Police


It has been a few weeks since Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board member Dathan Paterno launched some boneheaded tweets about the Women’s Marches, including his description of some of the marchers as “vagina screechers.”

So although this editor’s day job may have cut into his civic duties vis-à-vis this blog for the past month, something as bizarre as Paterno’s tweets and the similarly bizarre responses they generated, deserve a decent critique before we wade into the last six weeks of this hotly-contested political season.

Paterno’s a psychologist, not a gynecologist, so we doubt that his use of “vagina screechers” was any kind of clinical term. But his tweets brought about 40 more people to the January 23 School Board meeting than usually show up for those bi-weekly exercises in shameless oligarchy – and turned it into perhaps the most ridiculous D-64 Board meeting we’ve ever seen.

Which is saying something for a Board that seems to strive for the ridiculous…and the shameless, simultaneously.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Paterno wasn’t even at that meeting. He resigned earlier that day after being lambasted on social media. That didn’t stop a number of the assembled multitude from stepping up to the podium and barbecuing him in absentia, starting at the 21:10 mark of the meeting video

But it wasn’t long before the real goal of most of those in attendance became evident: Leveraging Paterno’s indiscretions into demands for official restrictions on Board members’ social media usage – to prevent them from engaging in what a majority of Board members might deem to be unpopular or offensive speech, no matter how tenuously related, or even unrelated, that speech might be to the Board member’s performance of his/her Board duties.

Take Stacy Kelly, for example, whose comments start at the 38:14 mark of the video. For someone ostensibly offended by Paterno’s comments, it was interesting to hear her promptly proclaim herself “one of those screaming vaginas in Washington, D.C.” And then she went on to accuse the Board of knowing about, and acquiescing in, Paterno’s uber-conservative views over the past four years of his Board tenure – before calling for “an independent review of the Board to ensure the community of Park Ridge that behavior [like Paterno’s tweets, a/k/a his political speech] will no longer go unchecked.”

For those of you who, like Ms. Kelly, may have forgotten about the First Amendment, you can find its text HERE

But that was nothing compared to Daisy Bowe (starting at the 38:14 mark), who kicked Stacy Kelly’s “screaming vagina” up another notch or two by proclaiming herself “a screeching, raging vagina” – although we suspect that “raging, screeching vagina” would have been the better syntax.

Bowe’s angry proclamation proved more than the delicate sensibilities of Board member Tom Sotos could bear.

“Can we not have to hear [‘vagina’],” interrupted the suddenly-sensitive Sotos, before going on to explain that the word “upset [him]” because it was “a bad word in this context” and “not being used in a positive way.”

How’s that for irony: A “screaming vagina” and a “screeching, raging vagina” claiming to be offended by a former Board member’s use of “vagina screechers” who, in turn, offend the guy who owns a Loop gin joint called the Tilted Kilt – think of it as Hooters-meets-Braveheart, but with much skimpier kilts and far more cleavage.

Bowe and the rest of the audience were having none of Sotos’ newly-discovered sensitivity, however, and Bowe went on to insist that “there needs to be a new code of behavior” restricting Board members’ publicly expressing their thoughts and opinions.

Not surprisingly, neither Kelly nor Bowe explained where it says that school board members – or any other elected officials, for that matter – give up their First Amendment rights upon taking office. But they didn’t have to because none of the 7 Dwarfs sitting at the big table, or Supt. Laurie Heinz, cared enough about such rights to even raise the issue, including attorney Sotos.

That’s what we get for electing an attorney who was wrapped up in Kilt Law when he should have been studying Con Law.

While that January 23rd meeting was merely bizarre, the February 6 special Board meeting is where the First Amendment was pushed in front of the speeding bus.

Starting at the 8:04 mark of that meeting videoBoard president Tony Borrelli led the Board in a lengthy discussion of a “new Board Policy 2:81” – which he smugly claimed to have borrowed from some un-named “north shore district,” as if that were some king of imprimatur – that would permit a majority of the Board to censure and even seek the removal of a fellow Board member for saying or writing things the majority didn’t like.

Or at least that’s what we were able to glean from listening to Borrelli, the foot doctor, educate Sotos, the attorney, about the legality of that new Policy 2:81. Their dueling bloviations consumed roughly 2/3 of the discussion that ran from the 37:25 mark to the 1:05:54 mark of the video. And listening was all we could do because the Board oh-so-conveniently failed to include the “NEW” Board Policy 2:81 in the Board packet published in advance of the meeting, making it impossible for any meeting attendees or the public generally to actually read the proposed new policy in advance, or even during the meeting, and to ask pesky questions.

As this Board and its predecessors have demonstrated time and time again, they couldn’t spell “Transparency” if somebody spotted them 5 of the 8 consonants and let them buy 2 vowels. And did it as a group project.

But Borrelli and the other 6 Dwarfs finally got up the nerve to publish the language of “2:81 NEW” in the packet for tomorrow (Feb. 21) night’s meeting, presumably because it’s already set for final approval on the “Consent Agenda.” No muss, no fuss, just your typical day at the office for the Dwarfs.

If there were any truth in advertising, they’d march in and out of the meeting room wearing sock hats and singing “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho.”

We’ll talk more about what a stupid, insulting and apparently unenforceable policy 2.81 is in tomorrow’s post. And we’ll also break down Borrelli’s equally stupid amendment to the Board’s conflict-of-interest policy – which Borrelli shockingly had the honesty to admit, in an article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 considers addition to conflict of interest policy,” Feb. 20), has “no teeth”!

Maybe Borrelli thinks he can gum perceived offenders into submission.

Meanwhile, if you decide to watch the meeting videos, try to figure out which one of the 7 Dwarfs is “Dopey”…du jour, of course, because the casting can change.

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