Public Watchdog.org

Not-Really-Secured Vestibules No Match For 12-Year Olds With Guns

07.21.17

We’ve written several posts about what a stupid and money-wasting idea the “secured vestibules” for Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 schools are, including posts on 03.11.16, 03.29.16 and 04.04.16. The sad fact is that they are so stupid and ineffective that we took to calling them “not-really-secured” vestibules.

Which they are.

We also suggested that metal detectors and either police or security guards (off-duty police?) would be more effective and economical than those not-really-secured vestibules in dealing with any actual threats.

So we weren’t at all surprised to hear those not-really-secured vestibules talked up in response to the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the aftermath of the recent incident where one 12-year old Lincoln Middle School student, along with a 15-year old fellow knucklehead/delinquent, posted some kind of gun-related threat to Maine South summer school students on Snapchat.

It also came as no shock that D-64 Supt. Laurie Heinz, her puppet Board president Tony Borrelli, and a few School Board members reacted to this incident as if they had just woken up in the middle of a minefield without a minesweeper.

When a parent of Washington and Lincoln school students showed up at last Monday (July 17) night’s School Board meeting and beefed about the four-day delay in the District’s notification of D-64 parents about the incident, then asked what plans were in place to prevent school shootings, Borrelli jumped at the opportunity to assure the woman and everyone else that the Administration has been so concerned about security that it is installing those not-really-secured vestibules – thereby “increasing the security atmosphere in all of our buildings to prevent these kinds of horrible events should they occur,” according to an article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Parents concerned after learning District 64 student was accused in Maine South threat,” July 18).

Note that bit of Orwellian Doublespeak: “[T]o prevent these kinds of horrible events should they occur.” [Emphasis added.]

President Borrelli, your Freudian slip is showing.

Making sport of Borrelli’s shortcomings as School Board president is not a fun assignment, but it’s something that needs to be done – if only as an object lesson in the kind of bad government we tend to get when we keep electing open-minded, non-judgmental, glad-handing “pleasers” who immediately “go native” and become witting or unwitting dupes of the bureaucrats we are paying quite handsomely to blow smoke up our kilts and mislead us while positioning themselves for their next job.

Can you say non-resident carpetbagger Laurie Heinz? We knew you could.

That’s why it’s so easy for Heinz to lead Borrelli and certain other Board members around by the nose, getting them to blow around $1 MILLION per school for these not-really-secured vestibules that are so worthless that…wait for it…they couldn’t have stopped either that 12-year old or his 15-year old partner had they shown up at any D-64 school with guns and ammo in their backpacks.

As we’ve pointed out many times before, the lack of metal detectors effectively gives students, parents, teachers, vendors, service people, etc. carte blanche to walk into any D-64 school “strapped,” “packing,” “heeled,” “heavy,” “Roscoed,” or any of the myriad other terms for walking around with a gun.

Nor will those vestibules stop those same people from bringing in knives, grenades, or ball bearing-laden suicide vests.

And for anybody hell-bent on shooting schoolkids, all they need do is drive by the playgrounds at recess, or the main entrances when school lets out and the schools themselves create target-rich environments.

So what’s the point of the not-really-secured vestibules?

Giving the Board and the administrators an excuse for spending millions of taxpayer dollars to create a façade of top-shelf security that merely conceals the vulnerability.

Not unlike their spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars creating a façade of top-shelf educational quality.

To read or post comments, click on title.

“Impact Fees” Just More Snake Oil For The Masses

07.18.17

We rarely agree with anything Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board member Tom Sotos says or does when it comes to the D-64 schools. But when “Tilted Kilt” Tommy gets something right – or even half-right – it deserves some recognition.

As reported in a current Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“Study to address proposed Park Ridge development’s impact on District 64,” 07.11.17), during a recent D-64 Board discussion of the City of Park Ridge’s possible assessment of “impact fees” on proposed new residential development on the current Mr. K’s site on Higgins just east of Dee, Sotos correctly observed that such fees aren’t “going to solve our problems” of more residences being constructed and burdening the schools with students who cost far more to educate than whatever taxes are paid on their parents’ residences.

Where Sotos missed the boat, however, was with his observation that “[i]f we assess an impact fee on the 31 units considered for the Mr. K site, that impact fee won’t be enough to help us potentially work around our particular problem if all 31 units end up having children in them.”

He’s right, but in the same way that getting the right answer on a math problem is undermined when you have to show your work and, in so doing, you demonstrate that you really don’t understand the applicable math concept.

That’s because the taxes on that 31-unit development can’t even cover the cost of 16 students attending D-64 schools, much less the cost of 31 school kids.

Let’s assume, just for Schlitz and Googles, that each of those 31 residences will have total RE tax bills of $20,000 per year – an unrealistically high assumption, for sure, because that would make them some of the highest-taxed residential real estate in the City. But it makes the math a little easier.

Of those $20K tax bills, roughly $8K per residence would go to D-64 each year. But the cost-per-student in D-64 is around $16K annually, so do the math: 31 units @ $8K/unit of RE taxes = $248,000 of revenue to D-64. Divide that by $16K per student and the whole development starts swimming in red ink if only 16 of the 31 units have just one student living in them.

Even if the developer were forced to pay an $8,000 per unit “impact fee,” the resulting revenue would barely cover the cost of 16 school kids.

And only for one year!

Add any more D-64 school kids above that 16 threshold and the District’s taxpayers will no longer be swimming in red ink, they’ll be drowning in the stuff.

So why is the D-64 Board even discussing such impact fees?

Ignorance and political posturing.

It seems and sounds like many/most of the D-64 Board members and Staff don’t really understand impact fees and how, historically, they have been used almost exclusively to address infrastructure problems anticipated from new development; e.g., the cost of sewer and water service improvements needed to handle increased demands from the new development, or the widening of nearby streets to add turn lanes and traffic lights for access and traffic flow, etc. Because that kind of infrastructure has predictable costs and lengthy useful lives, a municipality can calculate a one-time impact fee that puts the new development on the same financial footing – cost wise – as more established neighboring areas, and at no additional cost to the taxpayers.

Not so with the highly variable and annually recurring expenses of educating elementary school kids.

And that doesn’t even address the question of whether it would be legal for the City to impose impact fees on developers in order to obtain City approval of their developments, but then turn those impact fees over to D-64 or D-207.

As for political posturing, some of our local politicians are realizing that merely sounding fiscally conservative can fool many Park Ridge residents who desperately want to believe that their elected representatives truly are looking out for the interests of the taxpayers as much as (or more than) for the interests of the tax users. Spouting anything that sounds like it might save those taxpayers money, therefore, becomes a valuable political tool, especially for those politicians who don’t believe one word of their spiel but don’t have the honesty and integrity to publicly admit that they are big-government tax/borrow/spenders.

That makes a term like “impact fees” a wonderful substitute for real knowledge, understanding and principles.

So expect to hear the shallow-thinkers toss that term around for at least a little while longer, if only to avoid addressing the much more difficult problem of figuring out whether, and how, Park Ridge draws the line on allowing more housing for more residents who will drain the taxpayers’ pocketbooks with more and more kids using increasingly expensive public education.

And that’s irrespective of how good or mediocre the quality of that education might actually be.

To read or post comments, click on title.

D-64 Bd. Member Sotos: Trizna Failed To Do My Job On WCBs

04.28.17

The following was submitted as a comment to our 04.24.17 post by Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board member Tom Sotos. We are choosing, instead, to print it here as a stand-alone “guest” post because it demonstrates the kind of irresponsible, anti-H.I.T.A., anti-taxpayer, unaccountable mindset that permeates the current rubber-D-64 Board under Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli, lead sock-puppet for Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz. 

Hopefully this Monday night will herald an end to D-64’s Star Chamber, anti-H.I.T.A. form of government with the exit of four compulsive rubber-stampers and the arrival of four new members who might not all be Heinz’s pawns.

_________________________

It’s a shame that Mr. Trizna, who obviously is well informed and educated in these matters, didn’t mobilize and follow the procedures to halt this vote.

Mr. Trizna knows full well how he could have been heard. He knows exactly what he could have done to lead a challenge to be the voice of the tax payers.

Yet, it appears that Mr. Trizna only cares to be a voice with no action.

Why, Mr. Trizna, did you wait until it was too late to speak up?

Why did you fail your followers and not inform them that they could have petitioned. Why didn’t you inform them and lead the charge?

You claim the board was secretive. Yet the board held multiple discussions surrounding this matter in open session over the course of several meetings.

I can’t blame the regular tax payer of PR for not sitting through these meetings or viewing them on line.

However, you sir, have proven that you will sit through many meeting videos to gather your information.

How is it possible that you didn’t care enough, when you could have made a “difference”?

Your readers, if upset with the board, should be more upset with you. You are the one they look to for information and guidance.

Either way. Thank [sic] guy for not using many insults in your recent article. It shows growth.

___________________________

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tilted Kilt Tommy:

You seem to be confused.

Back on May 4, 2015, only one of us raised his hand to “solemnly swear that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of member of the Board of Education…to the best of my ability”; and to “respect taxpayers’ interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district’s assets.”

That was you.

I swore my oath to Park Ridge’s taxpayers and residents as a Library Board trustee, first in 2011 and again in 2014. And I take that oath as seriously as a heart attack.

But my civic duty, either as a LIbrary trustee or as the publisher of this blog, isn’t to do yours for you.

Although recounting how you have dishonored that oath and betrayed not only the taxpayers but, also, the students and parents of D-64 over your past two years on the Board could occupy the rest of this Note, I’ll confine my comments to your disrespect for D-64’s taxpayers’ interests in just the past month or so regarding non-referendum debt.

At the March 13 Board meeting, before casting your vote to issue $9.25 million of debt certificates, did you care enough about those taxpayers to ask, on the record, why the District should be borrowing $9.25 million (and running up an extra $2.5 million in interest charges on those certificates) as part of a $30 million borrowing plan – without going to referendum, even if just an advisory one?

No.

At that same March 13 meeting, before casting your vote to declare the Board’s intention to issue $20 million of working cash bonds (“WCB”s), did you care enough about the taxpayers to ask Finance Minister Luann Kolstad why her cover memorandum (at Appendix 7 of the Board’s meeting packet) didn’t explain the “backdoor referendum” process for those WCBs, the 30-day period within which citizens could circulate petitions to force a referendum on them, and how many signatures they would need?

No.

At that same March 13 meeting, did you care enough about the taxpayers to ask Kolstad to publicly explain the vital details of that WCB backdoor referendum petition process before you voted to start that process running?

No.

At any time prior to that March 13 meeting did you care enough about the taxpayers to propose a public hearing at which “the Board shall explain the reasons for the proposed bond issue and permit persons desiring to be heard an opportunity to present written or oral testimony…” before the March 13 meeting at which the vote to start the process was scheduled to be taken?

No.

Obviously, you didn’t care enough about either the “taxpayers’ interests” or your oath of office to make sure the taxpayers got that vital WCB information early enough so that they might have been able to do something with it.

But you certainly were smarmy enough to finally ask Kolstad at Monday night’s meeting – after the 30-day petition period had conveniently elapsed – the $64,000 Question (at the 13:50 mark of the meeting video):

“Can you explain what right the community had, and what the process is [for forcing a backdoor referendum by citizen petition]?”

How honest and transparent you pretended to be when you asked that, knowing the backdoor referendum process was at an end and that no annoying taxpayers would be challenging your backdoor borrow-and-spend plans.

You claim the Board “held multiple discussions surrounding this matter in open session over the course of several meetings” but I challenge you to produce minutes of any meeting held this year that even mention the terms “backdoor referendum,” “citizens’ petition” and “30-day petition period”?

Even on Monday night, in response to some solid questions by resident Moira Collins during the too-little-too-late “public hearing” (starting at the 9:12 mark of the meeting video and continuing to the 28:28 mark), when Borrelli and Kolstad referred to the WCBs as “non-referendum bonds” instead of “backdoor referendum bonds,” did you correct them?

No.

And when Ms. Collins, clearly perplexed by all the double-talk and arguably irrelevant chatter coming from Borrelli and Kolstad, asked (at the 13:13 mark of the meeting video) where she could find the information with which she was being bombarded – and was told by the District’s D.H. Blair bond lady that “It’s all on the Board video and Board minutes, you can just look over the last year at those” – did you suggest that respecting the “taxpayers’ interests” means something more than dismissively telling them to go look at a year’s worth of videos, minutes and Board packets?

No.

Instead, you asked: “How does using bonds differ from going to referendum?”

Seriously, Tilted Tommy?

Fortunately, starting this Monday, taxpayers will have two real attorneys on the Board who not only will be able to explain the difference between “using bonds” and a “referendum” but, also, are much more likely to take the oath they swear that night far more seriously, and honor it far more diligently, than you have. And, unlike you and your fellow pawns of Supt. Heinz, they will bring with them an uncompromising demand for a level of transparency that you and your cronies loathe.

Then we’ll see if you can demonstrate any “growth.”

Robert J. Trizna

Editor & Publisher

To read or post comments, click on title.

Is Tonight’s $20 Million Bond “Hearing” Another D-64 Charade?

04.24.17

For the past few years taxpayers of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 constantly have been told how D-64’s financial management has been so wonderful that the District won’t have to go to referendum this year, as was expected back in 2007 when the last D-64 funding referendum was passed.

So a recent article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 board members OK plans for $1.2M project at Lincoln Middle School,” 04.04.17) got our attention. Not because of the headline, even though wasting $1.2 million of taxpayer money on not-really-“secured” vestibules for yet another D-64 school is hardly sound fiscal management. Or effective “security,” for that matter.

What pinged our radar was tucked away in the last paragraph of that H-A article: School officials are holding a “public hearing” at tomorrow night’s School Board meeting regarding the Board’s “plan to sell $20.7 million worth of working cash bonds (“WCBs”), allegedly to fund “mandated health and life-safety repairs to district facilities” – which bonds reportedly will be issued “in stages over the course of several years.”

For those of you unfamiliar with school finance, the purpose of WCBs is pretty much what the name indicates: To provide short-term working cash to cover a district’s temporary cash flow needs or operating, deficits. It’s not to do long-term capital improvements, including those masquerading as “health and life-safety repairs.”

So why, pray tell, does D-64 need almost $21 million of short-term borrowing for “working cash”?

Didn’t D-64 Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli – after obtaining permission from Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, of course – assure us just last Fall that (as quoted in a H-A article, “School board president: District 64 exceeding financial projections made prior to 2007 referendum,” Oct. 7, 2016) “the district is operating in the black and not operating within a deficit spending pattern”?

Didn’t financial guru Luann Kolstad proclaim – as reported in that same Oct. 7 article – that, as of June 2016, the district’s operating fund balance was $48.1 million, or 60 percent of annual operating expenses, which is twice the District’s 30% target and means D-64 already is sitting on $24 million more taxpayer dollars than they say they need?

Can you say “slush fund”?

What we didn’t know until reading the article in last week’s H-A (“District 64 projects include maintenance work, vestibule, library makeover,” April 18), however, is that at its March 13 meeting the D-64 Board voted to issue $9.25 million of “debt certificates” – thereby pushing the slush fund balance to over 70% of the District’s reserve target.

Why didn’t we know it?

Because this opaque School Board, with the able assistance of propaganda minister Bernadette Tramm, didn’t publicize it.

And our clueless local press apparently didn’t understand it or care enough about it to do its job: The first mention of “debt certificates” was in that April 4 H-A article, three weeks after the March 13 meeting at which the Board voted to issue them. And no “official” evidence of that vote appeared in print until last week, when the draft minutes of that March 13 meeting were finally posted on the District’s website as part of tonight’s Board meeting packet.

According to a fact sheet published by Stifel, a financial services firm that advises governmental bodies as well as businesses and individuals, debt certificates are a pricier type of financing that requires no voter approval or even a Bond Issue Notification Act (“BINA”) hearing. So it should come as no surprise that this secretive-bordering-on-dishonest D-64 Board would look to borrow $9+ million using debt instruments that don’t require taxpayer approval or even require a public hearing like tonight’s, which they are required to have for the issuance of WCBs.

And in typically deceitful D-64 Board fashion, the minutes of that March 13 meeting fail to mention the discussion during that meeting of the likelihood that the interest on those debt certificates will cost District taxpayers at least an additional $2.7 million of interest at the expected rate of 3.36% – something you would have to watch the meeting video (from the 51:36 mark to the 58:55 mark) to discover – thereby pushing the total cost of these debt certificates up to approximately $12 million over their 15 year life, paid off at the rate of $800,000 per year starting next fiscal year.

What is more problematic, however, is how this Board may have cheated D-64 taxpayers out of any opportunity to force a referendum on the WCBs.

That’s because the Board also voted on March 13 to declare its intention to issue the $20.75 million of WCBs. WCBs require a devious legal device known as a “Back Door Referendum” that puts the burden on the taxpayers to get petition signatures from 10% of the District’s 33,263 registered voters – or 3,326 – within 30 days of publication of a notice of that intention. Otherwise, no referendum need be held.

If you listen closely to the District’s bond advisor’s colloquy with Borrelli (at from the 1:00:08 mark to the 1:04:50 mark of the meeting video), you will hear her describe what sounds like a “plan” to publish the required BINA notice, which starts the 30-day back-door period running, immediately after the authorization vote.

Not surprisingly, you won’t find that information in those meeting minutes, either. But they do report that, just like with the debt certificates, the $20 million WCB authorization passed unanimously – only with far less discussion.

Which means that if the District published its notice of intent on, let’s say, the Ides of March (03.15), the 30-day back-door period ran out on April 14; and the WCB authorization has become bullet-proof from referendum.

Which makes tonight’s “public hearing” on those WCBs a mere technical requirement that has been turned into just another meaningless charade by a D-64 Board whose members operate on the theory of “the taxpayers be damned.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

A Big Win For Yesterday’s Victors, An Even Bigger Win For H.I.T.A.

04.05.17

Eight years ago mayoral candidate Dave Schmidt sparked the flame of good government when he promised to bring H.I.T.A. – Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability – to a City administration that was bereft of those principles. He also pledged to put taxpayers first because there would be no City government without the taxes they provide.

Since then that flame has grown stronger and burned brighter, finally becoming a torch that illuminated the workings of City government through initiatives like televised meetings, the online posting of meeting materials in advance of meetings, and reducing closed sessions to the barest minimum.

Yesterday that torch was officially passed to a new generation of leaders with the election of Marty Maloney, a staunch Mayor Dave ally and an even stauncher proponent of H.I.T.A., as mayor of Park Ridge.

His election alone, by a margin of roughly 70% to 30%, would have been enough to keep Park Ridge on the H.I.T.A. path and moving forward in all other respects, especially because it was accompanied by the re-election of pro-H.I.T.A. aldermen Nick Milissis, Marc Mazzuca and Roger Shubert.

But that wasn’t the half of it.

The voters of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 made their voices heard with the election of vocal H.I.T.A. proponents Rick Biagi and Fred Sanchez to that Star Chamber Board which, by our unofficial tally, leads all units of Park Ridge local government in the number of closed sessions it holds, and in the obfuscation that comes with them. At the same time those voters just said “No!” to three candidates whose most notable – and controversial – qualification for office was that they all were married to D-64 teachers and shamelessly wanted to put themselves in the untenable position of voting on their wives’ raises and working conditions. Or recusing themselves, thereby effectively reducing the Board to the bare mininum of four members required to do business.

That was about as anti-H.I.T.A. as you could get, and the voters wisely rejected such shamelessness.

Over at the Park Ridge Park District, Harmony Harrington, Jim Janak, Rob Leach and Jim O’Donnell – although not espousing H.I.T.A. by name – advanced many of its principles in their successful campaigns to oust two decidedly non-H.I.T.A. incumbents and their two unofficial running mates.

The same can be said for successful Maine Twp. High School District 207 candidate Linda Coyle, who we understand was, ironically enough, a law school classmate of Mayor Dave’s.

All told, yesterday may have been the single greatest across-the-board good government day Park Ridge has had in decades – in no small measure because it was a victory, first and foremost, of principles instead of just personalities.

But make no mistake about it: Yesterday’s victories didn’t make everybody happy.

There are still residents, some of them very brazen and vocal, with special-interest axes to grind and a related lust for spending OPM (“Other People’s Money). These residents will continue to denigrate H.I.T.A. as a kind of code word for “conservative” (shudder) or “Republican” (double shudder) guys and gals.

That’s just sour grapes from folks who can’t accept the voters’ repudiation of the dishonest and failed tax, borrow and spend policies of local governments past and present.

So don’t be surprised if those naysayers try to demean yesterday’s results by decrying the “low turnout” – which was 28.29% for the mayoral race, down from the 34.87% of 2013. A similar decline in voters was also the case for the other races as well.

But it was the late Rev. Theodore Hesburgh who stated: “Voting is a civic sacrament.” So those who refused that sacrament deserve whatever damnation they may subsequently complain about as being visited on them by yesterday’s winners.

The H.I.T.A. revolution, while started by Schmidt and advanced by the aforementioned winners, hasn’t been the work of any one person, or even several people. Instead it has been the work of hundreds of Park Ridge citizens who initially believed that local government could be made better than it was, more cost-effective than it was, and more respectful of the taxpayers than it was. But where H.I.T.A. really gained traction was when those same people came to realize that making local government better in those aforementioned ways actually was an achievable goal.

Schmidt’s election in 2009 and his re-election by an even larger margin in 2013 proved that. So did the elections and re-elections of Alds. Maloney and Dan Knight in 2011 and 2015, respectively, as well as the election and/or re-election of Alds. Mazzuca, Moran, Milissis, Shubert and the other aldermen who served on the Council these past several years.

Now it’s time for Maloney and the rest of yesterday’s victors to emerge from the long H.I.T.A. shadow Schmidt created and start creating shadows of their own by walking their campaign talk.

And doing so in bright sunlight.

That will be most challenging for Biagi and Sanchez at D-64, where there is a longstanding anti-H.I.T.A. bias and culture, and where they likely will have to confront Board president (and closed-session aficionado) Tony “Who’s the Boss?” Borrelli and his puppetmaster, Supt. Laurie “I’m the Boss!” Heinz, right out of the gate. Whether Biagi and Sanchez can get any support from Board members Mark Eggemann and Tom Sotos – heretofore regular rubber-stampers of Borrelli’s closed-session motions and uber-secrecy about the PREA contract and Heinz’s contract extension – remains to be seen. So do the proclivities of newbies Larry Ryles and Eastman Tiu.

Over at D-207, Coyle will find herself surrounded by Board members afraid of their own shadows – and, therefore, possessed by a vampire-like fear of sunlight likely engendered by the desire to avoid any accountability for Maine South’s continuing and heretofore ignored decline in the rankings of Illinois high schools.

These local races, however, need to be viewed in the context of our state government which, over the past 40 years, seems to have grown as ethically bankrupt as it has grown financially bankrupt. That state of corruption won’t be reversed overnight.

But maybe, just maybe, the torch of good government passed last evening to these new Park Ridge leaders can also light the way for the officials of other communities to raise their games and adopt H.I.T.A. as the overarching principle of good government in their own communities – which can, in turn, start a grassroots turnaround statewide.

If so, it’s you voters who showed up yesterday to put your own imprints on local government – by means of the candidates you elected – who will deserve the credit.

Well done, voters!

To read or post comments, click on title.

Our Recommendations For The D-64 And D-207 School Boards

04.03.17

Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and Maine Twp. High School District 207, cumulatively, consume in the neighborhood of $200 million of our tax dollars…each year – or around 70% of our entire property tax bills.

And growing.

Yet over the past several years many/most ratings and rankings show a decline by the schools of both districts – with D-207 flagship Maine South now ranked as low as 45th in Illinois, according to the 2016 U.S. News & World Reports rankings. As we noted in our 04.22.16 post, that’s down 16 slots from 2012.

Worse yet, the “College Readiness” of Maine South’s students is a meager 40.8%, trailing not only the likes of New Trier, Stevenson, the Glenbrooks (North and South), Deerfield, Highland Park, the Hinsdales (Central and South) but, also the likes of Wheeling and Elk Grove – despite comparable-or-higher teacher and administrator salaries, and comparable-or-lower student to teacher ratios.

And off-the-record conversations with a few long-time Maine South teachers suggest that a key reason why Maine South’s performance is declining is because the kids coming into South – the majority of whom are D-64 grads – aren’t high school ready.

But to listen to the D-207 Board and administration, and the Maine South administration, everything’s just ducky. Or peachy, if you prefer. And that’s the same bag of heifer dust being scattered about by the D-64 Board and administration – even though both D-207 and D-64 have some of the highest-paid teachers and administrators in the state, and have among the highest costs per pupil.

Those high costs and salaries might be justified if the performance demonstrated real value to the taxpayers who are footing the bills. But higher taxes and lower performance is an unsustainable model for the long-term attractiveness of Park Ridge.

D-207:   Four (4) seats are being contested by 5 candidates: Incumbents Carla Owen and Jin Lee; and challengers Aurora Austriaco, Linda Coyle and Dan Gott.

We didn’t endorse Owen or Lee when they ran in 2013, and you can read why in our 04.01.13 post. Since then, all that has changed is that Maine South has slid further in the rankings, so we can come up with no conceivable reason why they deserve re-election.

Unfortunately, because the current lineup of candidates will leave on odd-man/woman out, we would encourage the voters to leave Jin Lee without a chair when the music stops – if only because (a) he has expressed an almost total disregard for the taxpayers; and (b) he’s trying to institute a “global educational” initiative, including matching up one or more D-207 schools with schools in Korea and elsewhere, without any suggestion that such globalism will stop the ranking slide or increase the levels of student college-readiness.

Of the 3 challengers, Linda Coyle is the star by far. An attorney who has served on both the Park Ridge Planning & Zoning Commission and the D-207 Community Advisory Council, she consistently has demonstrated sound thinking and a firm grasp of taxes-to-value analysis that is currently MIA on the D-207 Board. And her belief that the D-207 board “must spend the taxpayers’ money carefully…[while] ensuring that each dollar is directed at providing the strongest learning environment possible for our children” is a refreshing change from Jin Lee’s spend-without-results compulsion.

D-64:     Seven (7) non-incumbents are vying for four (4) seats created by the departures of Bob Johnson, Vicki Lee, Dathan Paterno and Scott Zimmerman.

Given their D+ performances (and a grade of F when it comes to transparency), It’s hard to conceive of their replacements being anything but an improvement. Amazingly (and sadly) enough, however, three of those challengers – Greg Bublitz, Norman Dziedzic and Michael Schaab – are almost guaranteed to be as bad or even worse, by virtue of the fact that they are all married to D-64 teachers. So if they are elected, they will get to vote not only on the 2020 teachers’ contract but, also, on various other conditions of employment and even teacher disciplinary issues that arise in the interim.

Whether that’s just the appearance of impropriety or an outright conflict of interest might require a lawsuit to actually establish. But for the reasons we discussed in greater depth in our 03.07.17 post and our 03.15.17 post, we see no sane reason why D-64’s already-H.I.T.A. (Honesty. Integrity. Transparency. Accountability)-challenged School Board should be burdened with either of those potential integrity breaches.

The other 4 candidates are Rick Biagi, Larry Ryles, Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu, all of whom are preferable to the “3 Hubbies.”

Of those 4, however, the stars clearly are Rick Biagi and Alfred “Fred” Sanchez, both of whom are attorneys, strong proponents of H.I.T.A. and strong proponents of maximizing educational value for our tax dollars. They also are staunch opponents of the D-64 Board’s regular abuse of secretive “closed session” meetings.

Biagi is completing his second 4-year term on the Park Ridge Park District Board, where he twice led the Board as president. Both he and Sanchez are founding members of the Park Ridge Holiday Lights Fund committee. Both of them have children currently attending D-64 schools, as well as children who have graduated from D-64 schools, with Sanchez himself being a D-64 grad.

Only by electing candidates like Biagi and Sanchez can we hope to improve the quality of education for D-64 students while also improving the value of D-64 to its taxpayers.

DISCLAIMER: The editor of this blog serves with Biagi and Sanchez on the Park Ridge Holiday Lights Fund committee.

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Voting One’s Self-Interest Is Not “Integrity” (And A COLA Is Not A Raise?)

03.15.17

Our post about the 3 Hubbies running for the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board garnered some decent attention from commenters on this blog. But it also got a number of commenters from Matt Coyne’s posting a link on a couple of the local Facebook pages: Chris Buckely’s “Park Ridge Citizens Online” and Kathy (f/k/a Panattoni) Meade’s “Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group.”

Three comments from the Concerned Homeowners page deserve special mention because they illustrate how seemingly intelligent residents can be painfully superficial, or simply clueless, when it comes to local elective office and local politics. Or maybe they’re simply campaigning for their preferred candidates and superficial or clueless is the best they can do.

We’ll start with local real estate broker William Cline, who admitted in his Concerned Homeowners comment to being “pretty fed up with crap like this” – clearly referring to our post about the 3 Hubbies’ conflicts of interest in running for offices where, if they win, they will be able to vote on raising their wives’ salaries and benefits (and, indirectly, their wives’ constitutionally-guaranteed pensions) when the current contract expires in 2020. And while waiting to vote on that new 2020 contract they can vote on other issues that also might benefit their wives.

Cline also termed as “crap” our questioning the 3 Hubbies’ integrity “without mentioning a single issue.”

Apparently Cline can’t grasp the concept that running for a public office where you get to vote on your wife’s salary for the next four years IS “a single issue” – one that just happens to raise a significant question about the candidates’ integrity.

Fortunately, our post provoked one of the 3 Hubby candidates, “Norm!” Dziedzic, to respond on his own campaign Facebook page by giving us (and Cline) yet another “issue” that shows the inherent problem with him and the other two Hubbies (Bublitz and Schaab) running for the D-64 Board. According to “Norm!”:

“I will also openly and honestly say that I don’t believe a cost of living increase is a raise.”

Now that’s an interesting thought. If it’s not a “raise,” “Norm!”, what do you call it when an extra 1.5% to 3.25% of your wife’s $107,579 annual salary (that’s between $1,614 to $3,496 of extra cash) shows up in her pay envelope, unrelated to her performance or her 8-month work year?

A tip? Walking around money? A bribe? Or just “Ka-ching, ka-ching, baby!”?

Neither Mrs. Bublitz nor Mrs. Schaab will pick up quite as much from their non-merit COLAs, since they reportedly make a mere $92,802 and a paltry $89,411, respectively, for their 8-month work years.

And those COLA raises require no extra hours or effort, which is why Cline’s defense of the 3 Hubbies’ conflicts of interest by suggesting they could improve their household incomes more by “working a little extra with the spare time they would have by not running,” reveals just how clueless he is.

Unfortunately, we can’t say anything better about Hulting’s “there are much easier ways to make some extra bucks that [sic] giving hours of time and effort on a school board,” and Holmes-Hamilton’s referring to school board service as being “an unpaid long term volunteer position” that “takes countless hours away from family and work”

The time commitment for those offices is not some closely guarded secret, nor is the fact that there is no salary or stipend for that service. And nobody is forced to run for those offices against their will.

So if you don’t want the long hours and no pay, the solution is simple: Don’t run! And if you do run and win, don’t whine about all the reading, or the long hours, or the lack of pay.

As someone who ran and won hotly-contested elections for the unpaid Park Ridge Park District Board in 1997 and 2001 and who faithfully attended lengthy Board meetings and various other District events for 8 straight years without complaint, I can say without a moment’s hesitation or reservation that serving one’s constituents by holding public office is an honor and privilege – not some kind of chore or forced labor.

And that’s the way it should be viewed by every candidate for elective office who is fit to hold that office.

The bottom line is that the 3 Hubbies’ marital status, standing alone, calls into question their integrity by putting themselves – and their constituents – in a no-win position: Either the 3 Hubbies will vote their wives’ (and their households’) economic self-interests, or they will recuse themselves and thereby deprive their constituents of whatever knowledge and other value they allegedly might bring to the Board.

As the estimable Samuel Johnson once observed: “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, but knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”

From their candidacies it appears that the 3 Hubbies have a distinct preference for dangerous and dreadful. And from the tone of their comments it appears that Cline, Hulting and Holmes-Hamilton concur.

Presumably they’re hoping a majority of Park Ridge voters do, too.

Robert J. Trizna

Editor & Publisher

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Three Shameless D-64 Candidates Fail “Caesar’s Wife” Standard Of Integrity

03.07.17

The ancient historian Plutarch, in his Life of Julius Caesar, related how Caesar divorced his wife Pompeia solely because of rumors of her adulterous behavior – believing that her standard of conduct should be such that it not be susceptible to even the mere suspicion of untoward behavior.

That is the origin of the “Caesar’s Wife” proverb of avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.

Unfortunately, that proverb appears wasted on three of the seven candidates for the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 school board: Greg Bublitz, Norm Dziedzic, Jr. and Michael Schaab. We’ll call them the “3 Hubbies.”

Each one of them has a wife who is a teacher at D-64 and, therefore, presumably a member of the ironically-named Park Ridge Education Association – a teachers union whose only education-related purpose is to put more money and benefits in the pockets of D-64 teachers while minimizing teacher accountability for student achievement.

If all three of them are elected, they will represent 3 of the 4 votes needed to approve the next PREA sweetheart contract in 2020. In other words, the 3 Hubbies will be in a position to vote on a contract that will increase their respective household incomes by thousands of dollars – while likely raising their respective property taxes only a few hundred dollars.

On Wall Street, that’s what is called an “arbitrage”: a risk-free investment opportunity based on the differential between cost and gain.

They also will represent 3 of the 4 votes needed for any other D-64 Board action addressing such important issues and policies as teacher discipline, accountability, work hours, scheduling and other matters where their decisions could directly benefit their wives and, indirectly, themselves.

In a December 23, 2016 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“3 school board candidates married to District 64 teachers”), the chairwoman of the Illinois Council of School Attorneys Executive Committee warned that while, in her non-binding opinion, it is not an outright conflict of interest for the spouse of a teacher to sit on the board of the spouse’s school district, it is advisable – but not required – that they abstain from voting on such issues as contracts.

Advisable, but not required.

According to the H-A article, Bublitz said that his “first inclination would be to recuse [himself],” suggesting that recusal would be his “commitment.”

That’s an unenforceable “commitment” that Bublitz can ignore with virtual impunity if he chooses not to stand for re-election in 2021 – like the four current Board members (Vicki Lee, Bob Johnson, Scott Zimmerman and the Screeching Dathan Paterno) who rubber-stamped the latest secretly negotiated, secretly discussed four-year sweetheart PREA contract and are walking away from it without a care in the world.

Schaab reportedly said he “probably would have to recuse [himself],” although he wasn’t ready to offer even Bublitz’s unenforceable “commitment.”

And Dziedzic – whose “Norm” campaign signs either are borrowing from the “Cher” school of first-name branding, or seeking the nostalgia vote in harkening back to the t.v. show “Cheers” – isn’t even pretending that he might recuse himself, relying on the non-binding opinion that there is no legal conflict of interest.

Back in Caesar’s time, and not all that long ago in this country, the appearance of impropriety of a husband or wife running for a public office where they could put public money directly into their spouse’s pocket – and, thereby, indirectly into their own – would be enough to discourage people of integrity from seeking such positions. Unless, of course their name was “Boss” Daley and they were shameless enough to steer millions of dollars of government insurance contracts to their kids while blithely excusing such unethical behavior with: “If a man can’t put his arms around his sons and help them, then what’s the world coming to?

Since the 3 Hubbies are obviously shameless and apparently lacking in Caesar’s Wife-style integrity, their candidacies present D-64 voters with the following questions:

  1. Can they be trusted to actually recuse themselves from the PREA negotiations and voting on a new contract for their wives three years from now?
  2. Do they bring anything to the D-64 Board of sufficient value as to over-ride the substantial risk that they’ll vote their wives’/their own pocketbooks – before riding off into the sunset in May, 2021, with no accountability to the taxpayers?
  3. Does it make any sense to elect candidates who either will negotiate and vote on their wives’ salaries and benefits, or will recuse themselves and thereby deprive their constituents of the unbiased representation they deserve?

Fortunately, there are four other candidates – Rick Biagi, Larry Ryles, Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu – for the four D-64 Board vacancies, and none of them are afflicted with either the same conflicts (de facto if not de jure) or the same Caesar’s Wife-style impropriety that’s infecting the 3 Hubbies’ candidacies.

That leaves it up to you D-64 voters to decide whether you are content with the prospect of the 3 Hubbies selling out the D-64 taxpayers to put extra cash in their wives’ (and their joint?) bank accounts, and/or selling out the D-64 students in order to further reduce the already minimal accountability of the PREA teachers for our underperforming schools.

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Selection Processes Distinguish City Democracy From D-64 Oligarchy

02.24.17

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)

02.21.17

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.

Why?

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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