Public Watchdog.org

Has The Train That Never Should Have Left The Station Finally Been Stopped?

11.14.18

It has been more than a year since we first heard about Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s plan to put very part-time – a total of 8 hours per week, 4 hours per each of 2 days – school resource officers (“SRO”s) in Emerson and Lincoln Middle Schools.

That SRO program was dreamed up by Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski and Niles Police Cmdr. Robert Tornabene, with the assistance of D-64 Supt. Laurie Heinz. Despite Heinz’s presentation of the program to the D-64 Board a week after a gun-related “threat” to Maine South High School was posted on social media by a Lincoln student and a Maine South student, Heinz and other D-64 officials incredibly insisted that the SRO proposal was not related to that threat.

That program was immediately embraced by Board president Tony Borrelli and Board members Larry Ryles, Tom Sotos and Mark Eggemann, and supported (albeit less enthusiastically) by vice-president Rick Biagi and members Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu.

We criticized that SRO program as a wrongheaded faux-solution looking for a non-existent problem in our posts of 08.31.2017, 12.29.2017 , 02.02.2018, 02.21.2018, 04.30.2018, 05.21.2018 and 06.22.2018.

But even after Biagi, Sanchez and Tiu broke ranks with their colleagues in February 2018 in response to the well-researched, well-written SRO report by the law firm of Ekl, Williams & Provenzale (under a contract with the District) that recommended against such a program in our schools, Borrelli, Sotos, Ryles and Eggemann doubled down on the program, with Heinz’s support. They, along with Kaminski and Tornabene, kept blurring the purpose of the SRO program.

Was it for security? Not really. Discipline? Not really. Counseling? Not really. Anti-bullying? Not really. Anti-vaping? Not really. Anti-sexting by minors? Not really.

Ultimately, it became clear that the program was primarily intended as a public relations initiative by Kaminski and Tornabene in the nature of the old “Officer Friendly” program, but with D-64 picking up the costs of what would start out as a “pilot” but likely grow – via pre-planned mission creep – into a more substantial and permanent presence.

So we were delighted to hear that this past Monday night one of the SRO program’s initial drivers, Board member Ryles, corrected his course and branded the SRO program a “train [that] has run off the track,” the implementation of which “has taken way more time than it’s worth”; and that he was in favor of scrapping it.

Actually, it was a boneheaded idea from the start, well before it ran off the track into quicksand. But the right decision, even for the wrong reason(s), is still the right decision. And after staking out a strong position in favor of the SROs, it took some gumption for Ryles to reverse engines. Kudos to him.

Not surprisingly, Borrelli continued to argue for the SRO program, and Eggemann joined him in voting to keep the program moving forward.

According to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“ ‘This train has run off the track’: District 64 board to scrap middle school resource program,” November 13), Chief Kaminski had not returned calls seeking comment as of press time.

But we wouldn’t be surprised if Chief K, the consummate local politician, isn’t burning up the phone lines to Ryles (who was a dependable Chief K vote when he was a member of the incredible expanding Chief’s Task Force from 2010 to 2013) and to Sotos, who agreed to put a keep/kill vote at the D-64 Board’s December 10 meeting but who reportedly still favors “some sort of police presence in District 64 schools.”

How about a life-sized cutout of McGruff, the Crime Dog ?

Kaminski’s biggest challenge will be re-packaging the ridiculous 8-hour/week SRO program to make it more marketable to the many Park Ridge parents who regularly showed up at Board meetings and spoke in opposition to it, such as: Miki Tesija, Ginger Pennington, Carol Sales and Alice Dobrinsky.

Fortunately, Biagi seems locked and loaded on this issue and appears to have gained the support he needs to nuke it. Hopefully, Ryles, Sanchez and Tiu can hold their ground in the face of whatever new kandy-kolored tangerine-flake streamline baby version of the SRO program Kaminski comes up with; and, hopefully, Sotos doesn’t get mesmerized by its shininess.

But even if they succeed in putting an end to the SRO discussion, it still won’t make up for the waste of more than a year of time, effort and attention that District personnel and the D-64 Board put into it. Nor will it make up for the ill-will caused by Borrelli’s and the Board’s ham-fisted way of dealing with legitimate concerns voiced by parents and community members who understood from the start what a half-baked idea the SRO program was.

This Board got stampeded into approving multi-millions of dollars of not-really-secured vestibules by the shameless panic peddling of Heinz and the paid shills for the school security industry. And it almost got stampeded into this SRO fiasco, albeit at only a tiny fraction of the price of the vestibules. Hopefully the Board members have learned that a bovine mindset is no way to run a school district.

Now let’s see if a Board majority can, once and for all, scrap that train that never should have left the station when it meets on December 10.

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Veterans Day 2018

11.11.18

As Americans – and as regularly demonstrated here in Park Ridge – we seem to have a hard time distinguishing between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The former is for remembering those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. The latter is for those who served and survived.

In other words: Today and tomorrow – and not Memorial Day – is the time to thank living veterans for their service. But we owe veterans more than just our thanks one day a year.

The Thousand Oaks, CA shooting last week is just one illustration of that point. The shooter, a 28 year-old former Marine who saw 7 months of combat in Afghanistan, reportedly had difficulty re-adapting to civilian life, as do many veterans.

Whether manifesting itself as PTSD, unemployment, homelessness, addiction and even suicide, the problems of too many veterans have not been treated with the dignity, the respect and the effectiveness they deserve. The services provided by the Veterans Administration (the “VA”) too often have been inconsistent and too variable among the VA’s 1,243 facilities.

Lengthy wait times for treatment have become the rule rather than the exception at many facilities. A 2014 audit found that more than 57,000 veterans had been waiting more than 90 days just for an appointment, while an additional 64,000 who requested medical care but were not added to a VA waiting list.

Although President Trump signed the largest budget ever for the Department of Veterans Affairs, that still does not appear to be money enough to address the high costs of their devastating injuries and related health issues. But those veterans who have fought for our freedom and our democracy deserve the best care we can offer.

So besides thanking our veterans for their service, let’s contact our senators and congressmen to demand the kind of care they deserve.

That’s a debt of honor all of us owe them.

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Election Recap

11.08.18

With the election results now settled, the following congratulations are in order:

To Snow-Job and the 7 Dwarfs on your landslide (61%-39%) referendum victory: You proved that grossly neglecting the District’s school buildings for the past 9 years of Snow-Jobs reign – while at the same time amassing over $130 Million of reserves and also making the District’s teachers and administrators among the highest-paid in Illinois while the schools’ rankings sunk – could be a winning referendum strategy, at least if you spend $115,000 of the taxpayers’ money on a propaganda campaign. We look forward to a dramatic surge in both the academic performance of D-207’s students AND the District’s rankings from the spending of that $235 Million.

To those 49,669 voters who actually cast ballots in the D-207 referendum: You did one of your most important civic duties, unlike the other 46,941 slugs who failed to show up. While that means only 29.3% of the District’s registered voters authorized the referendum borrowing, it doesn’t change the outcome or diminish the mandate.

To the Illinois Stupid Party (f/k/a the Illinois Republican Party), state chmn. Tim Schneider and Crook County chmn. Sean Morrison: This was an even more insipid and boneheaded performance than we could have imagined – although Schneider’s loss of his County Board seat provided some justice. “Insipid-to-boneheaded” also describes the performance of the “rogue” faction of the Stupid Party – represented by Dan Proft, Richard Uihlein, Liberty Principles PAC and the Illinois Opportunity Project – that appears to have backed not one winner. So much for your more-flat-tire-than-inspired “Save Your Home Now” campaign and slate.

And how can we not acknowledge the absolute political mastery of Speaker Madigan, the Darkest Lord of the Sith, who now is the undisputed owner of all of Illinois – busted lock, crumbling stock and rusted barrel.

Finally, to new Gov. JB: Please hurry up and legalize recreational weed – we’ll need it to endure the next four years.

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Hey, Snow-Job, Hey Dwarfs: Can You Say “Money Laundering”? (Updated)

11.04.18

As we wrote in our most recent post the D-207 bond referendum is less about the money than it is about the honesty of Supt. Ken “Snow-Job” Wallace and his “7 Dwarfs,” the D-207 Board members, in their stewardship of our three high schools for the past 9 years.

You can read about their dishonesty – and their incompetence, in that post

But back in our 08.24.2018 post we wrote about how, under the Election Interference Prohibition Act, 10 ILCS 5/9-25.1, it’s illegal to use public funds “to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition….” But we’re not sure how that applies to public funds laundered through a vendor like the George K. Baum & Company (“Baum”), or a vendor like Wight & Company.

As you can see from the most recent filings by the “Yes207” campaign run by Dean Patras and based in Morton Grove, Baum appears to be the single largest contributor to that campaign’s funding with a tidy $7,943 “in-kind” contribution, presumably from the $75,000 contract Snow-Job and the Dwarfs gave it last January 8 for its “Community Engagement for future school remodeling projects,” a/k/a propaganda campaign.

Right behind Baum is the architectural and engineering firm Wight & Company, which got a $40,520 contract from D-207 back on March 5 for “Additional services for food services & furniture,” and may have other contracts in hand or in the works from D-207. Wight has chipped in $4,900 to sell the referendum to the taxpayers.

And let’s not forget the Frank Cooney Company, a school furniture company who ponied up $1,500 – presumably in return for its $72,798 contract for 66 cafeteria tables on May 7.

Could it be that these three contributions have been made by these D-207 vendors merely out of the goodness of their over-sized corporate hearts – or are they just a “thank you” to Snow-Job and the Dwarfs for profits already made, and/or a down-payment on the hope for some favorable consideration when it’s time for Snow-Job and the Dwarfs to start writing those boxcar-sized checks if the referendum passes?

If you’re a D-207 taxpayer and don’t think you’re being fleeced on this deal, think again.

UPDATE 11.05.2018. After publishing this post we did a little more digging and came across the hard evidence that all three donors actually had decent-sized contracts with D-207 this year alone. And the fact that these three campaign contributions came in only days before the election is no coincidence.

THIS is an example of just one of the many types of CORRUPTION that have destroyed this state over the past 30 years.

But so long as we keep rewarding it by employing and over-paying dishonest and conniving administrators, and by electing and re-electing the corrupt and/or clueless public officials who rubber-stamp whatever those dishonest and conniving administrators propose, D-207 will continue its academic decline despite having some of the highest paid (but least accountable) high school teachers and administrators in Illinois.

And this state will keep on sinking into the muck.

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Former D-207 Board President Ed Mueller: Profile In Courage

11.02.18

For all you readers who haven’t yet voted, this coming Tuesday (November 6) is when the rubber meets the road on the Maine Twp. H.S. Dist. 207 referendum.

That’s the one where Supt. Ken “Sno-Job” Wallace and his 7 Dwarfs (the 7-member D-207 Board of education) want us to vote to enable them to borrow $195 Million – at a total repayment cost, with interest, of approximately $300 Million – and spend that $195 Million plus another $45 Million of cash on hand to do a laundry list of projects on all three schools.

In our 08.24.2018 post and our 08.31.2018 post we wrote about how this grand tax/borrow/spend plan is, basically, a scam by Snow-Job and the Dwarfs to stampede us taxpayers into giving them hundreds of millions without any itemization of the costs of any of the individual projects, or even on a per-school basis, and no prioritization – because they don’t want us taxpayers distinguishing between what is actually needed and what is merely wanted, or between what is grossly neglected maintenance/repair and what amounts to new fluff.

And don’t forget how Snow-Job and the Dwarfs have wasted $115,000 of our tax dollars to hire the public relations services of bond underwriter George K. Baum & Company (“Baum”), public relations pollster Public Opinion Strategies (“POS”) and focus group facilitator/manipulator Minding Your Business (“MYB”) to bombard us with their slick videos, misleading surveys and misleading FAQs, all for the purpose of bamboozling a majority of D-207 voters into voting for this boondoggle.

Meanwhile, during Wallace’s 9-year tenure as superintendent, the rankings of our schools have dropped to the point where U.S. News & World Reports did not even rank Maine South in either 2017 or 2018 because it is so underperforming its demographic profile.

But this referendum isn’t really about money: It’s about honesty and trust. Or, in the case of Snow-Job and the Dwarfs, their dishonesty and untrustworthiness, both of which – along with their gross incompetence and lack of transparency – should  disqualify them from any stewardship of both our children’s education and our money.

For example, do you know that as of June 30 of this year, D-207’s own budget document shows that Snow-Job and the Dwarfs had stockpiled over $126 Million of reserve funds, and that it is projecting to end the current school year next June 30 with $120.5 Million of reserves?

That’s right: Even though folks like Kelly Przekota have complained about the schools “falling down faster than London Bridge” and having to buy her teacher-husband a plastic bin with latches to protect his coat and laptop from cockroaches, and even though the ubiquitous Kathy (Panattoni) Meade has warned parents to purchase gas masks for their kids who use Maine South pool because of chlorine gas buildup, and even though Ashley Hawkes pleads for a roof that doesn’t leak, Snow-Job and the Dwarfs have intentionally, callously and dishonestly ignored those and many other sub-par conditions – and refused to make necessary repairs and replacements – despite accumulating and sitting on over $120 MILLION in reserve funds, $45 Million of which they are throwing into the boondoggle pot!

Why?

Because if Snow-Job and the Dwarfs had actually done the maintenance, repairs and replacement needed to remedy such problems, they wouldn’t have all those scary photos and videos – compliments of the $115,000 propaganda squad – that they’ve been using to hoodwink the stupid, the gullible and the profligate into supporting the referendum.

But don’t take our word for it. Instead, read what former 3-term (12 years – from May 2001 to April 2013) D-207 Board member and 3-time D-207 Board president, Edward Mueller, courageously wrote in his letter to the editor of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate published in yesterday’s on-line edition, which is reprinted here with Mr. Mueller’s permission:

Letter: Past school board president opposed to Maine Township District 207 referendum

As a former member of the Maine Township High School District Board of Education for three terms (almost 12 years) and president for three terms (three years), I would like to go on record as opposed to the referendum.

My experience on the board that runs the three Maine Township high schools makes it clear that vast sums of taxpayer money are squandered. The supposed “tax caps” enacted by the Illinois legislature have become floors. During my last few years on the board, I opposed methodical, rote tax hikes designed to maximize tax revenue under the caps without regard to need, and almost invariably was a minority of one in doing so. My efforts to pass tax rebates were voted down while I was on the board (the reasons for increasing taxes and then rebating a portion thereof are complex, related to the above-mentioned “tax cap” legislation).

I know certain of the sitting board members and I believe that the proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on unneeded physical improvements is an attempt to create a personal legacy, which is utterly divorced from actual need. When I was president, I spearheaded a comprehensive review of the physical conditions of the three schools, which utterly belies the current proposals for more taxpayer money. And please, please don’t believe that the cost will be “only” $350 per household per year. That is an average, based no doubt on fuzzy math, and is not what most people will really owe, if the past is prologue.

I urge the voters to vote no on the proposed referendum. And, voters next April should take a close look at the board members who have routinely approved unnecessary tax increases that make District 207 teachers the highest paid of almost 900 districts/schools in the state of Illinois.

Ed Mueller

Past president

Maine Township 207 Board of Education

_________________________

For the past 9 years Snow-Job and the 7 Dwarfs (and their predecessors) have intentionally, callously and irresponsibly neglected the District’s physical infrastructure despite having multi-millions of our tax dollars that could have addressed virtually every actual building NEED. They did so in order to manufacture all these alleged school building “crises.”

And like those folks in Washington D.C. who dishonestly pack 100s of disparate and expensive projects and programs into one bill that nobody can read or understand, and that they can pass without us taxpayers being any the wiser, Snow-Job and the Dwarfs – with the aid of their $115,000 propagandists – have done the very same kind of thing by rolling all these projects into one referendum question.

By voting “yes” you are endorsing incompetent, dishonest, irresponsible, non-transparent and ultimately wasteful government.

GFL with that.

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