Ald. Melidosian’s Dangerous Liaison With The Library


Why are Park Ridge residents Alice Dobrinsky and Amy Bartucci so concerned about the attendance at Park Ridge Library Board meetings of the City Council’s liaison to the Library Board, Charles Melidosian (5th)?

And why did those concerns prompt such a lengthy article in last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate: “Residents voice concerns over Park Ridge Library Board attendance,” January 23, 2018?

Historically, the attendance of aldermanic liaisons at City board and commission meetings was irregular-to-rare. That changed in 2009 when mayor Dave Schmidt – in response to the Council’s new Committee of the Whole (“COW”) structure following its reduction from 14 aldermen to 7 in Spring 2007 that also cut the number of monthly regular Council meetings and Council committee meetings from around 12 per month to 4 per month – encouraged aldermanic liaisons to become more pro-active in their interactions with their respective boards and commissions, especially when significant issues might be on those meeting agendas.

But Schmidt, who himself was the Council’s liaison to the Planning & Zoning Commission while he was the First Ward Alderman, realized that aldermanic liaisons didn’t need to attend every meeting of their respective boards or commissions to do their jobs. A lot of the liaison’s duties can be accomplished just by the liaison’s reading the minutes and board packets, and by being accessible to its members.

It’s against that historical backdrop that we consider the significance of Dobrinsky’s and Bartucci’s complaints about Melidosian’s – and certain Library Trustees’ – meeting attendance.

According to that article, both Dobrinsky and Bartucci were troubled by Melidosian’s absences – he reportedly attended 12 of 26 regular board and COW meetings since being appointed Library liaison in February 2017 to replace the late ald. Dan Knight. Ostensibly their beefs arose from the Library’s failure to fill the Library Director vacancy since Janet Van De Carr retired in June 2017.

We wrote about that goat rodeo in our 12.15.17 and 12.26.17 posts, including about how hired-gun library recruiting consultant John Keister fed our Library Board two candidates, one of whom he was simultaneously recruiting for the Palatine Library Director position – apparently without telling our Board – that she accepted just as soon as she was announced as a finalist for our position. And the other finalist, Aaron Skog, withdrew right after his first public vetting, although his qualifications were so questionable we have to wonder how he even got to be a finalist, other than by being the last midget standing.

According to the H-A article, Bartucci faulted Melidosian for not attending the November 27 public vetting of Skog even though the City Council was meeting that night: “If there is a [City Council] liaison not attending and [the library board] is in the process of finding an executive director, I felt this deserved more attention.”


Melidosian belonged exactly where he was that night – at 505 Butler Place – instead of at the Library auditorium listening to Skog. But apparently that concept doesn’t jibe with Bartucci’s view of City, and Library, government.

Yes, we know – thanks to the Jennifer Johnson’s curiously incomplete cite to the City’s Handbook for Elected Officials – that aldermanic liaisons are “expected” to attend the meetings of their respective boards and commissions. The Handbook, however, does not set any specific requirement for liaison attendance, nor should it – because the duties of a liaison can be accomplished in many ways, some far more effective than by sitting at an uneventful meeting.

And, not surprisingly, Ms. Johnson overlooked that other provision in the very same paragraph of the Handbook (at page 10) that states: “It is not the role of the liaison to express opinions on any issue before the Board or Commission in the liaison’s capacity of Alderman.”

So riddle us this, Ms. Dobrinsky, Ms. Bartucci and Ms. Johnson: What did you expect Ald. Melidosian – or Mayor Maloney, or any other alderman – to do had they been in attendance at the November 27 public vetting of Skog, hours before he withdrew his candidacy for the director’s position: Wave goodbye?

As best as we can tell, Ald. Melidosian has attended virtually all of the Library Board’s regular meetings and a few of its COWs. And, frankly, on occasion he has over-stepped the role of an aldermanic liaison by expressing his opinions about matters before the Board. But we don’t hear Ms. Dobrinsky, Ms. Bartucci and Ms. Johnson beefing about that.

So what exactly is their agenda?

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Is “Reform” Finally Coming To Maine Township Government?


Illinois has almost 7,000 units of government – a whopping 2,000+ more than first runner-up Pennsylvania. In contrast, Florida deserves the taxpayers’ Miss Congeniality award for serving 6 million more residents than Illinois with only 1,650 units of government.

Critics of our banana republic (formerly known as the “Land of Lincoln”) correctly attribute its nearly bankrupt condition to our surfeit of taxing/borrowing/spending entities. And one of the bigger contributors to our fiscal buffoonery is township government.

Illinois has 1,432 individual units of township government, even though 17 of Illinois’ 102 counties have none at all. That leaves 85 counties with an average of 16.85 townships apiece. And because all townships sit within county borders, there are two higher layers of government – state and county – already in place to address the needs of township residents.

But all townships also contain municipalities (Park Ridge is home to portions of Maine, Norwood and Leyden townships) that provide yet another layer of government services to township residents within those municipalities’ borders, to say nothing of the park districts, school districts, library districts and even mosquito abatement districts that do the same.

Against the backdrop of such perversely-comical redundancy we offer today’s post, our first ever that focuses exclusively on Maine Township government and on how three newly-elected (in April, 2017) trustees – Dave Carrabotta (R), Claire McKenzie (D) and Susan Sweeney (R) – have forged a bi-partisan majority to challenge the Township’s sclerotic business-as-usual operations and shake it loose from its historical Illinois Combine-style politics.

We’ll refer to them collectively as “The Reformers.”

To illustrate what they are up against, we direct your attention to a January 2, 2018 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate: “Maine Township trustees set property tax levies amid pushback” – which captures some of the half-truths, “what ifs” and wrong-thinking that have made Maine Twp. government a sluggish political backwater for decades.

Back in November The Reformers voted 3-2 (Supervisor Laura Morask and Trustee Kim Jones voting no) to lower the Township’s general town fund and general assistance levies by 5 percent, arguing that the Township was sitting on substantial reserves and did not need the higher levy Morask was seeking.

Imagine that: A majority of Maine Twp. elected officials actually voting to reduce a tax levy. They must be taking lessons from the Park Ridge City Council, which last month reduced its levy for the second consecutive year – this time by 8.99% – as Mayor Marty Maloney credited the late mayor Dave Schmidt and the late alderman Dan Knight for starting the do-more-with-less effort that City staff and the current Council have built upon.

Although The Reformers won that November vote, at the Township Board’s December 19 meeting Morask argued vigorously against the reduction while her long-time ally, Township Highway Commissioner Walter Kazmierczak, insisted on a 2 percent increase in his road and bridge levy that would push his department’s annual revenue to over $2 million.

That brought a rebuke from Sweeney, who pointed out that Kazmierczak’s department had spent approximately $1.8 million the previous year, and well below $2 million in previous years.

But Morask and Kazmierczak weren’t giving up.

They threw every single uncertainty, contingency and catastrophe they could imagine against the Town Hall wall: Uncertain health care costs, successful property tax appeals, increased user fees, the potential for a cold and snowy winter, increased overtime costs, possible increases in commodity costs, an increase in the CPI – even the possibility of the General Assembly approving a property-tax freeze.

When that didn’t appear to be swaying The Reformers, however, Morask and Kazmierczak insisted that the Board was legally required to approve Kazmierczak’s road and bridge levy request – with Morask telling them: “You guys really don’t have a choice.”

Fortunately, The Reformers are learning that Morask is often wrong, even if never in doubt.

McKenzie, an attorney, pointed out the absurdity of the Board’s having to vote on a levy without being able to vote “no” – especially given Kazmierczak’s admission that his department “had plenty of money left over” from last year due to a mild 2016-2017 winter. Maybe he’s looking to create a slush fund (pun intended).

That left it to Morask to provide the night’s biggest whopper in trying to impose her will on The Reformers:

“Right now, we have the perception of being good government.”

We can only wonder where Morask acquired the delusion that “good government” consists of spending almost $700,000 a year to give out less than $200,000 of general assistance benefits.

That’s right, folks: According to the the Township’s own report, the Morask Administration – which more accurately should be called the “Morass Administration” – it appears that last year the Township paid $697,804 out of its “General Assistance Fund” (presumably in staff salaries and related expenditures) in order to distribute $183,833 of benefits to the needy residents of the Township. By our calculation that’s an efficiency rating of 21%.

If Maine Township were a private charitable organization it would be flagged as one to avoid because of its excessive overhead expenditures!

Hopefully that kind of inefficiency factored into The Reformers once again approving a 5% reduction in the general town fund and general assistance levies, and a flat road and bridge levy, by a 3-2 (Morask and Jones again voting “no”) majority.

We realize Maine Township, with an annual budget of around $7 million, absorbs less than 2% of our RE tax bills – even as the City of Park Ridge and the Park Ridge Library combined take about 13%, and the schools grab the lion’s share of approximately 69% (with a majority of that going to Park Ridge-Niles School District 64). At the December 19 meeting, Sweeney noted the Township’s relatively small RE tax bite while correctly observing: “[T]hat doesn’t mean we should go without scrutiny or [not] look at saving whatever tax dollars [we can].”

We quoted scripture in our 03.17.2011 post about how D-64’s bumbling of its lunchtime supervision program did not bode well for its bigger decisions: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” Luke 16:10 (King James Version). That same passage could apply to Maine Township if not for The Reformers.

Here’s hoping Carrabotta, McKenzie and Sweeney stick together and remain faithful to both the Township’s taxpayers and its neediest residents by even more aggressively calling out the business-as-usual incompetence (if not outright waste) that has been SOP for Township government for too long.

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Maybe Not “Fake News”…But Nowhere Close To The Whole Truth


In our most recent post we wrote about our wish for more H.I.T.A. from our units of local government in 2018. We also observed how televised and videotaped meetings have compensated for “sketchy” reporting by our local newspapers.

Not surprisingly, an anonymous commenter to that post accused us of being unfair to our local press on our way to playing the “fake news” card.

So what a fortuitous coincidence it is that an article in this week’s Park Ridge Journal just happens to provide a timely illustration of how the local press subtly – or not so subtly – attempts to influence opinions rather than just report the facts.

The article in question, “Library Board Gears Up For New Director Candidates” (Jan. 3), is by Anne Lunde, who has covered local government in Park Ridge for as long as we can remember.

Throughout her career Ms. Lunde has displayed a decided bias favoring governmental bodies – the bigger, more expansive and more expensive, the better – first at the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate and currently at the Journal. This being Illinois, and Ms. Lunde being an unapologetic Chicagophile, that means her views are about as anti-H.I.T.A. as possible.

To which, of course, she is entitled as a citizen.

As an experienced journalist, however, she has learned how to promote her bias in nuanced ways intended to be undetected by the casual reader, which she gets to do from a media platform not generally available to the ordinary citizen. It’s not what the current POTUS criticizes as “fake news,” but it’s also a far cry from what legendary WaPo reporter Carl Bernstein described as good reporting: “[T]he best attainable version of the truth.”

In order to understand and fully appreciate Ms. Lunde’s advocacy in what should be objective fact reportage, one needs to deconstruct and analyze her article, virtually paragraph by paragraph.

The first two paragraphs subtly attribute the Library Board’s “losing their top finalists” for the director position to its “[e]fforts to be very transparent.”

What’s her favored remedy to prevent losing future finalists? A third paragraph that extols “interviews in closed session” followed by “deliberat[ing] in closed session” before “return[ing] to deliberate in a separate closed session and determin[ing] a salary offer in closed session” – the process adopted by a majority of Library trustees at their December 19th meeting.

That might be a record for use of “closed session” in one paragraph, at least when the author is not condemning them. And Ms. Lunde isn’t about to condemn a closed session: In her view of government, which she has shared with this blog’s editor on several occasions over the past decade, closed sessions and behind-the-scenes schmoozing are how government gets things done.

Which is why her final paragraph attempts to excuse those secretive closed sessions by pointing out that the Library Board – after interviewing the candidates outside the public’s view, after deliberating about the candidates’ qualifications and suitability outside the public’s view, and after debating and deciding the salary and benefits to be offered the candidate outside the public’s view – still has to conduct the actual vote on hiring the chosen candidate in open session.

Big whoop. That’s the absolute barest minimum transparency required by the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”). But IOMA’s bare minimum is apparently what a utopian government looks like to Ms. Lunde.

In our opinion, however, Ms. Lunde’s most devious journalistic device resides in her shortest paragraph, of only five words, about those closed sessions: “There was not universal agreement.”

What’s so “devious” about that? Because it is the truth but not the whole truth.

The lack of the whole truth advances Ms. Lunde’s political agenda at the expense of honest journalism – about which conservative public intellectual Thomas Sowell warned thusly:

“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”

How does she advance her political agenda at the expense of her journalism?

Simple: By not identifying the dissenters – Library trustees Joe Egan, Char Foss-Eggemann and Mike Reardon, whom we identified in our 12.26.17 post – and thereby marginalizing them and their dissent.

She knows that Egan, Foss-Eggemann and Reardon are the Library Board’s strongest H.I.T.A. proponents. She also knows that they are well respected by many members of this community. Because of that, she knows that identifying them by name would likely cause folks who know and respect them to question the legitimacy of those closed sessions, as well as the judgment of the members of the Board majority – Karen Burkum, Steve Dobrilovic, Josh Keim, Garreth Kennedy, Pat Lamb and Judy Rayborn – who prefer to hide from their constituents in such sessions.

So she reports the bare fact of the dissent but leaves the dissenters numberless and nameless. That also helps their fellow trustees escape scrutiny for their anti-H.I.T.A. beliefs, policies and conduct – like the bogus, chicken-bleep “survey” of their closed-session hiring process instead of an actual vote on adopting it. That way, the majority gains the political cover of not having a public record of their actual votes for more closed sessions.

You can watch that discussion on the meeting video, starting at the 29:45 mark and ending at the 53:45 mark.

So while we hope for more H.I.T.A. from our local governments in 2018, the same is sorely needed from our local press. Which reminds us of a quote from Pres. John F. Kennedy that Ms. Lunde and the Library Board should consider:

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

If Lunde and the Library Board majority actually care about “a free and open society” – or, at least, care about it more than they do about pandering to the anti-H.I.T.A. propensities of mercenary headhunter John Keister and about hiding from their constituents – they sure have an odd way of showing it.

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Our Wish For 2018: More H.I.T.A.


It was back in 2009 that then-alderman Dave Schmidt, with less than two years’ of City Council experience under his belt, decided to challenge first-term mayor Howard Frimark’s bid for re-election. Schmidt’s political platform became embodied in the acronym: “H.I.T.A.”: Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability.

Honesty, as in telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Schmidt, a trial attorney, was familiar with that concept because it’s part of the oath witnesses take when testifying in a court of law. Too many politicians don’t seem to discover it until they hear it repeated by the witnesses testifying against them or their colleagues in federal corruption trials.

Integrity, as in firm adherence to a code of conduct or ethical values. Schmidt’s code of government was simple: The best government that Park Ridge taxpayers are willing to pay for.

Transparency, as in an openness characterized by the sharing of important information with the citizenry so that it can hold its governing officials accountable. Even before he came up with H.I.T.A., Schmidt walked his transparency talk by blowing the whistle on questionable Frimarkian closed-session discussions about the City’s acquisition of 720 Garden.

Accountability, as in the assumption of responsibility for the policies, decisions and actions; and the obligation to be answerable to the citizenry for them. Schmidt proved how that works on several occasions by admitting, and publicly apologizing for, mistakes he made; and promising not to make them again. And he didn’t.

H.I.T.A.’s an easy philosophy to understand and implement – assuming that you actually believe in the concepts and want to abide by them. But if you’re a “politician,” it’s your worst enemy. Which is why so few embrace it, and why others fear it so much that they mock it in the hope of undermining its legitimacy in the minds of the citizenry.

There was a bit of mockery (“Who would ever want to watch that?”) almost two decades ago when this editor, who served on the Park Ridge Park District board from 1997 to 2005, led that body in becoming the first unit of local government to videotape meetings so that taxpayers no longer had to rely solely on slanted and/or sketchy newspaper articles, or sketchy meeting minutes.

Schmidt followed that lead when he became mayor in 2009, using some of his mayoral salary to buy the camera that was mounted on the back wall of the Council chambers; and using some of his mayoral goodwill to enlist a couple of supporters to run the camera and upload the videos onto the Internet before the City’s website could accommodate them.

Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 followed suit in August 2011 after Marshall Warren, Char Foss-Eggemann, Susan Sweeney and friends showed up at a meeting with their own video camera, embarrassing a reluctant school board into doing what it had previously resisted. And, as we recall, the Maine Township High School District 207 board finally jumped on that bandwagon a couple/few years later.

This editor also spearheaded bringing video to the Library Board meetings in 2015. And Ms. Sweeney – with the assistance of fellow newly-elected trustees Dave Carrabotta and Claire McKenzie – was instrumental in getting that backwater of local government, Maine Township, to videotape its board meetings after they were elected to that board last April.

Why is H.I.T.A. so important when it comes to government?

Because, unlike in most organizations where the people at the bottom are accountable to the people at the top, in government it’s supposed to be the reverse: The people at the top are supposed to be accountable – at least in theory – to the people at the bottom.

What’s problematic about that situation, however, is that it’s the people at the top – the elected and appointed officials, and the public employee bureaucrats – who have most of the resources (money provided, ironically, by the people at the bottom; and manpower provided by public employees both on and off the taxpayers’ clock) needed to manipulate the information flowing to the people at the bottom, thereby manipulating their beliefs and opinions.

That’s why H.I.T.A. and its accoutrements – like published-in-advance meeting packets, videotaped meetings and keeping closed sessions to the barest legal minimum – are essential if we are to avoid what has been recently been described as a “post-truth society”: Where special interests at both ends of the political spectrum wallow in their own (usually woefully incomplete) facts and create their own ideological “echo chambers” such as can be observed on both Fox News and MSNBC, and even from time to time in our own local newspapers.

Which is why we concur with Glenn Greenwald: “Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power,…its enabling force. Transparency is the only real antidote.”

Along with Honesty, Integrity and Accountability, of course.

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