Public Watchdog.org

Building $50 Million Surplus On $78 Million Of Debt Borrelli’s “Greatest Achievement”

03.12.19

In our post “Is Tonight’s $20 Million Bond ‘Hearing’ Another D-64 Charade?” (April 24, 2017)), we criticized the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board for issuing $9.25 million of high-interest, non-referendum “debt certificates” in March 2017 and then, a month later, approving the future issuance of $20.7 million worth of working cash bonds (“WCBs”) without adequate notice to the taxpayers.

We pointed out that $9.2 million of debt certificates were issued while the District’s reserves were already 60% above its target amount: 30% of annual expenses. We also noted that Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli appeared to be pushing through that borrowing before four new members – a potential Board majority of Rick Biagi, Larry Ryles, Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu that might not share Borrelli’s love of non-referendum debt – were to join the Board in May, 2017.

Our critique prompted a rare Watchdog comment from Board member (and dependable Borrelli stooge) Tom “Tilted Kilt” Sotos, a comment that so marvelously illustrated Sotos’ cluelessness as a school board member that we turned it into its very own post on 04.28.2017 (“D-64 Bd. Member Sotos: Trizna Failed To Do My Job On WCBs”).

But that was when Tilted Kilt Tommy still had two more years left on his first 4-year term of office and would jump like a playful puppy whenever Borrelli and/or Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz commanded.

Now, however, Sotos is running for re-election against two men (Steven Blindauer and Sal Galati) and a slate of women campaigning as the “MOMS for D-64 School Board!”, so we suspect somebody may have told him he needs to stop acting like Borelli’s and Heinz’s lap dog if he hopes to win another four years on the Board.

That’s likely why, a few weeks ago when Borrelli tried to push the Board into issuing an extra $11 million in bonded debt to fund this summer’s construction projects, Sotos suddenly became the taxpayers’ BFF by joining a “consensus” of Biagi, Sanchez and Bob Johnson (yes, Johnson…can you believe it?) in rejecting Borrelli’s idiocy and deciding to use some of that stockpile of cash (a/k/a, the $50 Million “slush fund”) to cover this summer’s construction costs.

According to a February 12, 2019 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 opts not to borrow money for construction projects, instead will pay with available funds”), Borrelli bragged about that $50 Million “surplus” being “the greatest achievement that this and prior boards have been able to achieve,” no doubt because of his presidency over the past six years .

Not surprisingly, what Borrelli failed to mention during his verbal victory lap was that much of that $50 Million “surplus” has been built up through the District’s accumulation of over $78 Million of…wait for it…DEBT, all of which appears to have been rung up on Borrelli’s watch.

But don’t take our word for it: Check out the “Long-Term Debt” section of the District’s financial report contained in the packet from the Board’s December 10, 2018 meeting.

There you’ll discover that almost $9 Million is still owed on the non-referendum General Obligation bonds issued back in 2014; and another almost $9 Million is still owed on those high-interest, non-referendum Debt Certificates issued in April 2017, on which the District will pay over $3 Million of interest during the expected lifetimes of those certificates.

So why was Borrelli pushing another $11 Million of bonded debt like he was Ron Popeil pitching a Showtime (“Set it and forget it!”) Rotisserie?

We don’t know and, frankly, we no longer care: With his departure from the Board already scheduled for this May – a long overdue addition by subtraction – his motives, however stupid or self-serving they may be, are mercifully irrelevant.

We encourage you to watch the entire discussion of Borrelli’s mostly arrogant, sometime comic efforts to ram through more District debt while keeping his $50 Million slush fund intact, starting at the 1:13:20 mark and running through the 2:03:31 mark of that 02.04.2019 meeting video.

If you don’t have the time or the stomach for all of Borrelli’s bloviations, however, we suggest you check out his attempt to bamboozle his fellow Board members with a bunch of back-of-the-envelope calculations (conveniently – for him – missing from the meeting packet) from 1:15:02 to 1:17:20, followed almost immediately by District finance chief Luann Kolstad’s refutation (“So there’s really no need to rush to issue [bonds]”) from 1:17:35 to 1:18:08; and Borrelli’s explanation, from 1:27:03 to 1:29:14 of the meeting video, of how issuing more bonds might not actually “increase” taxes but merely “extend” prior increases as the new bonded debt replaces the expiring older debt.

Chalk that up to more Borrelli sophistry.

Where the video starts to get interesting is when Biagi calls out Borrelli and the pre-May 2017 board for a lack of honesty, integrity and transparency in connection with the issuing the debt certificates and the approval of working cash bonds in the Spring of 2017, first from 1:29:45 to 1:30:38 and again from 1:50:40 to 1:52:30 of the meeting video.

Those comments chafed Johnson’s chaps, causing him to launch into a feeble-but-rambling defense of his and that prior board’s rubber-stamping of all that additional debt in Spring 2017 – from 1:55:37 to 2:00:12 of the video – before his spine seemingly calcified and he dared to indicate to Borrelli that he would not be supporting more District debt at that time.

Once Borrelli realized he had failed to stampede anybody but Eggemann into backing more bonds, he launched into Biagi – starting at 2:00:36 and continuing through 2:03:24. Borrelli staunchly defended his integrity and joined in Johnson’s defense of the transparency of all these debt matters, suggesting that taxpayers had no excuse for not knowing all they needed to know about the District’s finances and how to legally object to any of the debt rung up by the District.

In one sense, Borrelli and Johnson are right: There were “so many discussions” (per Johnson) by the  Board about the District’s finances and its debt, many of which we have watched. But we can’t recall even one of them mentioning any of the really important information – such as the $78 Million of District debt, the $3 Million-plus in interest those debt certificates will cost the taxpayers, the District’s $50 Million cash reserve slush fund, or the process and timing for taxpayers to legally object to the WCBs – that might have made those discussions something more intelligible to the average listener than a lot of yada, yada, yada.

And it should come as no surprise to anybody who has observed Borrelli’s and Johnson’s tenures on the Board that neither of them had the decency to admit that those high-interest debt certificates, unlike WCBs, could not even be legally challenged by the taxpayers – which we would submit is the exact reason Borrelli, Johnson, Sotos, Mark Eggemann, Terry Cameron, Vicky Lee and Scott Zimmerman unanimously voted to issue them at the March 13, 2017 meeting.

Too bad we can’t put the $3 Million-plus of interest from those boneheaded certificates on their personal tabs.

Fortunately, Cameron, Lee and Zimmerman are almost two years gone; and Johnson is joining Borrelli (and Eggemann) in a march to the exit this May. Heck, with a little luck and a decent turnout of informed voters, Tilted Kilt Tommy will be sent packing along with his comrades-in-harms.

Happily, we get to end this post on a humorous note thanks to Borrelli himself, who prefaced his attack on Biagi by grandly stating that, as Board president, he has “served as a figurehead for this Board….”

“Figurehead” is one of the things we haven’t called Borrelli during his tenure as Heinz’s sock-puppet (something we have called him, in our posts of 04.28.2017 and 02.02.2018). So it’s gratifying to see that, in his waning days on the Board, Borrelli has finally accepted the truth about his presidency.

Hopefully that truth will set him free.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Time For Heinz To Go

02.25.19

We won’t lie: We were not unhappy to hear back in December that Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s Superintendent Laurie Heinz had accepted the same position at Palatine School District 15.

When she arrived as an untested rookie superintendent from her position as an assistant superintendent with Skokie School District 68, we “sincerely wish[ed] her well” in our 02.07.2014 post: “Here’s Hoping New Supt.’s Performance Matches Big Contract.” The “big contract” referred to the guaranteed 3-year deal with a starting compensation package valued at $243,000 – approximately the same as the senior/“seasoned” superintendent she was replacing.

The 3-year deal was supposed to give Heinz a sufficient warm-and-fuzzy for the jump from assistant at Skokie to the big chair in Park Ridge. And Board president Tony Borrelli – at that point not yet having been disabused by Heinz of the notion that he was the D-64 “boss” – was already hailing Heinz as “someone who will provide direction, find answers” and help D-64 develop into “one of the highest performing districts in the state of Illinois.”

We doubted she could do that, but we acknowledged in that 02.07.2014 post that, if she did, “she will be worth every penny” the D-64 taxpayers would be paying her. But we did add one caveat that now appears to be prescient, but really wasn’t:

“But make no mistake about it: Ms. Heinz is a mercenary. She does not hail from Park Ridge, nor does she live and pay taxes here. The superintendent’s position is simply a career move for her, not a long-term commitment to this community.”

Not surprisingly, that warning was totally lost on a clueless Borrelli and his six fellow board dwarfs who, a year later – after discussing Heinz’s first year’s performance in a series of closed sessions where the board could hide its questions, comments, opinions and reasoning from the taxpayers – voted unanimously on a one-year contract extension (thereby keeping Heinz’s contract at a guaranteed 3-years) worth more than $250,000, including a $4,000+ raise and additional benefits. We wrote about that in our 06.22.2015 post and our 07.06.2015 post.

By that time Borrelli was smitten like a schoolboy, willing to give Heinz whatever she wanted on the theory that she was such a superstar that no expense should be spared to keep her at the helm, notwithstanding her lapses in judgment, her manipulation and concealment of information (with the assistance of propaganda minister Bernadette Tramm), and the lack of any objectively measurable gains in student academic achievement vis-à-vis comparable districts.

About a year later he and Heinz earned their respective “Who’s The Boss?” and “I’m The Boss!” sobriquets, reflecting the total domination Heinz had achieved over Borrelli who, in turn, exercised similar domination over all of his fellow Board dwarfs until May 2017.

All that is background to the main point of today’s post: Heinz should be relieved of her duties NOW!

Actually, she should have been relieved of her duties the moment the Board discovered that Washington School principal Stephanie Daly and Franklin School Principal Claire Kowalczyk were leaving D-64 and joining Heinz at Palatine D-15.

In the real world (a/k/a, the world of private-sector employment, as contrasted with the fantasyland of public employment), management personnel like Heinz, Daly and Kowalczyk would have employment contracts that contain restrictive covenants that customarily: (a) limit what employment could be accepted if the employee terminates his/her employment; and (b) prohibits the employee from recruiting fellow employees to his/her new employer.

But since D-64 is a public-sector fantasyland instead of the real world, neither Heinz nor the two principals have such restrictions in their contracts. And while Borrelli and his board dwarfs rubber-stamped Heinz’s guaranteed 3-year deal and its annual one-year extensions at the end of the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, they never demanded a reciprocal guarantee from Heinz that she’d remain at the District for the duration of her contract.

Without such restrictive covenants in her contract we can’t begrudge Heinz for proving the truth of our February 2014 warning that she’s nothing but a “mercenary.”

Irrespective of contractual restrictions, however, real-world employees – especially upper-level management employees like Heinz – have common law “fiduciary duties” and “duties of loyalty” to their employer throughout the duration of their employment with that employer. Those duties include acting honestly and with the utmost good faith and loyalty in performing the employee’s job. In the real world of private-sector employment, that means not recruiting away your current employer’s personnel for the benefit of your future employer.

If that’s what Heinz did with Daly and/or Kowalczyk, she should be fired immediately “for cause”; i.e., breach of her fiduciary duty and/or her duty of loyalty to the District.

But even if she didn’t recruit those principals to D-15, there’s no reason to let a mercenary with one foot out the door pointed toward Palatine continue to run the District. As best as we can tell, after five years of top-shelf compensation she has come nowhere close to Borrelli’s fantasy of making D-64 “one of the highest performing districts in the state of Illinois.” So why keep her?

We now know that Heinz is expendable because she has told us so with her resignation. There is no need to treat her otherwise, or to let her hang around as an under-achieving lame duck.

Admittedly mixing our metaphors: The sooner the stable is cleaned, the more welcoming it will be for the fresh horses.

To read or post comments, click on title.

SPED Major Factor In Picking New Sup’t., Choosing D-64 Board Candidates

02.13.19

A recent “candidates’ forum” hosted by parents of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 students with “special needs” was held at the Shawarma Inn in South Park.

In attendance were 6 (Steve Blindauer, Sal Galati, Gareth Kennedy, Rebecca Little, Carol Sales and incumbent Tom Sotos) of the 8 (Lisa Page and Denise Pearl MIA) candidates for the D-64 School Board. Six of the 8 candidates also submitted written responses to questions posed in advance to them by the organizers of that forum. Sotos and Pearl did not do so.

When discussing the shortcomings of the District’s special education (“SPED”) program, the candidates and the assembled parents repeatedly cited “communication” and “trust.” But that’s the lowest-hanging fruit: Inadequate communication and a lack of trust have been among the bigger problems not just for D-64 SPED parents but for all D-64 parents throughout the 6-year reign of Board President Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and the 5-year reign of Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, aided and abetted by D-64’s minister of disinformation, Bernadette Tramm.

But it was more than poor communication and a lack of trust that created a SPED program so dysfunctional under former SPED director Jane Boyd that an outside consultant (Lisa Harrod of LMT Consulting) had to be brought in last Spring to audit it. She and her team concluded that, in additions to neither SPED parents nor SPED teachers trusting the Heinz administration, SPED services had actually declined over the previous two years.

We wrote about that in our 06.22.2018 post.

Because students with special needs are the most vulnerable of D-64 students and are very dependent on the SPED program’s educational quality, a dysfunctional SPED program would appear to be more problematic than, say, a dysfunctional Channels of Challenge program. Yet for the better part of the last three years many/most(?) SPED parents were virtually invisible at School Board meetings.

That changed in N0vember 2017, when SPED parents showed up to object to the District’s misguided plan for moving 5th grade SPED students into middle school a year early. Many SPED parents also objected to the District’s plan to install part-time School Resource Officers (“SROs”) in the District’s middle schools.

Although a few of the candidates at the forum identified the hiring of a new superintendent as one of the challenges the D-64 Board is facing, none of them listed any specific SPED-oriented qualifications, abilities and philosophies a new superintendent should possess – at least judging from the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“District 64 school board candidates call for improved communications with parents, community,” Jan. 28) and from the candidates’ written responses.

Why not? Haven’t they learned from the Heinz/Boyd debacle how important it is to have a superintendent who is fully-engaged in the process of providing SPED services?

Let’s face it: SPED costs a lot more per student than the District’s regular curriculum. And teaching special needs kids can be very challenging. Because of the confidentiality related to information about all students, SPED parents also tend to feel isolated. And, frankly, many (most?) teachers and administrators do not care about their special needs students nearly as much as they want SPED parents to believe they do.

But don’t take our word for that last point: Check out the minutes of the D-64 Board meetings from 2016 and 2017 and we’re pretty sure you’ll find no mention of any of the problems with the SPED program that the consultant identified last Spring. We’re also pretty sure you’ll find no mention of SPED teachers appearing at Board meetings asking the Board for help with the problems that the consultant indicated were not being addressed by the various school principals, by Boyd, and by Heinz.

This isn’t anything new: Back in the 1990s the editor of this blog had a special needs child who received very uneven SPED while a student at Field. Every IEP meeting was a dog-and-pony show by several teachers and administrators replete with edu-speak, SPED-speak, charts and graphs clearly intended to pass off activity for achievement. And for too long they succeeded – until the lack of progress became so obvious they could no longer deny or spin it.

That led to the scheduling of a due process hearing.

After weeks of posturing and bluster from the District’s then-head of the SPED program, and less than 12 hours before the hearing was to begin, the District offered a settlement: A full summer (several thousand dollars’ worth) of in-home SPED services to make up for the lackluster services provided during the previous school year. So a fourth grader lost his summer vacation and the taxpayers were forced to pay extra for the District’s incompetence, intransigence and duplicity. Meanwhile, the SPED teachers and administrators responsible for that travesty got to enjoy their summer and continued to draw their public paychecks without one iota of accountability.

Not surprisingly, we’ve heard a number of sadly similar stories from current D-64 SPED parents. And we’ve heard that there is an inordinate number of due process hearings that have been held over the past year or that have been requested.

Although most D-64 candidates have expressed various SPED-related ideas they would like to bring to the D-64 Board if they are elected, those ideas are going nowhere unless they can be understood, critically evaluated and approved by the new superintendent. Which means that the new superintendent must be as committed to the SPED program as he/she is to the educational programs for every other student – and that he/she is aided by a competent and equally committed District SPED director instead of another Heinz and Boyd tandem.

That’s why it’s good to see that more SPED parents have finally become publicly engaged and vocal in fighting for their kids’ rights to the appropriate public education the IDEA requires. They need to remain engaged in the SPED program itself. And they need to demand that the D-64 Board select a new superintendent who truly understands the importance of SPED not only to the parents of special needs kids but to the taxpayers and the community as a whole.

Otherwise, the District will continue to spend money fixing problems of its own making while wasting boatloads of money on lawyers fighting parents in due process hearings that could be much better spent on providing quality SPED services.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Grau Needs Secrecy To “Talk Honestly” About Janak’s Replacement

01.29.19

Back in our July 7, 2014 post we criticized the Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 for hiding its deliberations on the appointment of a new Board member in closed session – “where the horse-trading and deal-making will go on” – because such closed session deliberations concealed from taxpayers not only the other Board members’ “reasons for and against each candidate” voiced during those deliberations but, also, “which reasons came from which of the six board members.”

Since then, the City of Park Ridge has held open deliberations on replacing two aldermen (Dan Knight and Bob Wilkening). Even D-64 changed its ways, conducting an open-session vetting and deliberation process this past November in appointing Bob Johnson as the short-term replacement for Eastman Tiu.

So it was good to see, at the January 17 meeting of the Park Ridge Park District Board, that a 3-1 majority of the commissioners present (O’Brien and O’Donnell MIA) expressed their desire to conduct the vetting and deliberations about the applicants to fill the Board seat of the late Commissioner Jim Janak in open session.

That commissioners Harmony Harrington and Rob Leach would support open-session vetting and deliberations was expected. But after watching Board president Mel Thillens spend his first 7-2/3 years on the Board running into closed session and hiding from the taxpayers every chance he got, it was refreshing to see him finally take a stand for transparency and accountability, even if he only has a mere 4 months left on what is his final term.

He even got the rationale right, noting that because “the public doesn’t get a chance to vote” on the applicant it deserves to hear the commissioners’ reasons for choosing one applicant over the others.

Better late than never, although much better early than late.

The one commissioner saying “no” to transparency and accountability was, not surprisingly, Commissioner Cynthia “Cindy” Grau, who wanted to discuss the merits of the various applicants away from the public’s eyes and ears. Her argument: She didn’t want the successful applicant to know which, if any, commissioners may not have supported the appointment, or made critical comments about that applicant.

“I don’t know that we could talk honestly in public,” Grau objected. “You couldn’t say what’s truly on your mind.”

Yes, Grau actually said that.

Since her election almost four years ago she has been a steady voice for the “Ubi est mea?” (A Latin phrase meaning “Where’s mine?” coined by the legendary Mike Royko as the unofficial motto of Chicago) special-interest crowd that wants their Park District amenities free of charge; or, failing that, with a heavy subsidy from all those non-user taxpayers who already pay to build and maintain the District’s parks and facilities.

SIDEBAR: That “Ubi est mea?” crowd consists of those people we have labeled “freeloaders” as shorthand for: “those residents who are always looking to leverage maximum benefits for themselves, their families and their friends by shifting the costs of those benefits onto the backs of their fellow taxpayers.” But if you prefer the Merriam-Webster online definition of “freeloader” – “a person who is supported by or seeks support from another without making an adequate return” – you also get synonyms like “bloodsucker,” “leech,” “moocher,” “sponger” and “parasite,” the last of which we use to describe vagabonds from lower-taxed places like Chicago who come to Park Ridge to use our better and/or free and discounted facilities and programs.

Grau has practiced “Ubi est mea” for her own benefit as well, supporting free use of facilities and programs for commissioners as a “perk” (short for perquisite) of being a commissioner, even though the office of commissioner is one that, by law, is unpaid.

We remind our readers that the policy of the State of Illinois is that The People’s business should be done openly and transparently, for maximum honesty and accountability. That’s why we have the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”).

Although IOMA permits a limited number of exempted matters to be discussed in closed session, it does not require it. To the contrary, IOMA permits all matters, including those certain exemptions, to be discussed in open session. So whenever our public officials choose to go into closed session, you can bet dollars to donuts that it’s because they are trying to conceal what they are saying and doing from us taxpayers.

Since 2011 the de facto leader of the Park Board’s closed-session brigade has been Thillens. Now that he finally appears to have discovered H.I.T.A. (“Honesty,” “Integrity,” “Transparency” and “Accountability”), however, Grau looks like the Park Board’s new hide-and-seek leader who’s afraid to “talk honestly in public.”

Somehow we doubt that quote will make it onto her yard signs or flyers between now and Election Day, April 2, 2019.

So you’ll just need to remember it when you go to the polls to vote for Park Board candidates.

To read or post comments, click on title.

 

 

Trustee Jones Can’t Get No “Assgate” Satisfaction From EEOC

01.21.19

After a couple of posts about the Park Ridge City Council’s incompetent procurement mismanagement – and its outright disregard for the City’s procurement rules on a $280,000 body cam purchase – we decided our readers need some comic relief.

And where can you find more comic relief in local government than Maine Township, where the clown-car full of Township officials keeps circling that clown-car known as Maine Township.

We know, we know: We said we were done writing about that Lilliput of local government. And we are.

But after our multi-part “Assgate” series we feel duty-bound to continue to track the further developments in its continuing saga, in this case the fully-expected dismissal by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) of Trustee Kim Jones’ (RINO, Park Ridge) complaint against Trustee Dave Carrabotta (Moron, Niles) for allegedly groping, brushing, swiping, touching, ogling or just thinking about Jonesie’s “ass” (her word). Check out the December 12, 2018 article by the Maine Township RINOs’ unofficial public relations flak, Todd “The Wet Sprocket” Wessell, published in his very own Park Ridge Journal newspaper, titled: “No Recourse For Jones-Carrabotta Issue, Trustee Told.”

According to that article, Jones claims the EEOC – as well as state and Crook County officials – told her that “[L]ocal officials are not a protected class” when it comes to sexual harassment. So, according to Jones: “[P]eople like Dave Carrabotta can sexually harass other elected officials with impunity”; and that her only alternative was to sue the Township and Carrabotta.

Remember, folks: That’s solely according to Jones. We’ve seen or heard nothing from the EEOC itself to corroborate anything The Journal is reporting. And after the woeful lack of evidence supporting her accusations against Carrabotta, her credibility is somewhere between that of the Little Boy Who Cried “Wolf!” (before the wolf showed up) and Chicken Little .

As of the date of the article, Jones was undecided on whether to file such a suit. Frankly, we really wish she would.

After all, she and Carrabotta have already cost the Township’s taxpayers over $38,000 because of Jones’ unproven (and, most likely, fabricated for purely political reasons) accusations that Carrabotta did something improper in her vicinity, which prompted Carrabotta’s moronic demand for a closed-session Board meeting followed by a Township-funded (a/k/a, a taxpayer-funded) investigation.

So we’d like to see both of them start spending bundles of their own cash as a consequence of Jones’ petty politics and Carrabotta’s idiocy.

Maybe some of Jonesie’s cheerleaders – Laura Morask, Susan Moylan-Krey, Wally Kazmierczak, Pete Gialamas, Rep. Marty Moylan (Dem., Madigan’s vest pocket), Sen. Laura Murphy (Dem., Cullerton’s vest pocket), or RINO groupie Jean Dietsch – could chip in for her attorneys’ fees and costs so that Jones won’t have to shoulder that burden solo. Since Jones got all that free legal advice about confronting Carrabotta and filing the complaint that started the investigation from her friendly neighborhood Township attorney, Keri-Lyn Krafthefer (whose firm conveniently pocketed that $38,000+ to conduct the investigation), it’s about time for Jones to start paying her own way.

Meanwhile, Carrabotta – who reportedly has been paying a private attorney for advice – could look to Trustees Susan Sweeney and Claire McKenzie for donations, considering how they foolishly indulged Carrabotta’s fit of pique and voted for both his arguably unlawful closed session meeting and his stupid Ancel Glink investigation.

McKenzie, however, may not be so inclined to contribute to the Carrabotta defense fund now that she is rumored to be angling for a Crook County Circuit Court judgeship and will likely need the intercession of Jonesie’s BFF, Marty Moylan, if she wants Boss Madigan to bless her candidacy. That also might explain why McKenzie seems to have abandoned her fellow “Reformers” and is siding regularly with Morask and Jones on Township Board votes.

But much as we would like Jones to continue this Township farce with a lawsuit of her own, if only for its perverse entertainment value, we’re pretty sure that won’t happen. Whatever political masterminds (using that term loosely) have been steering Jones through this goat rodeo (Morask? Kazmierczak?) up to now have to realize that they’ve already milked these unproved accusations for all they were worth.

And the last thing they want is an actual court decision that might expressly find that Jones made all of this up, aided and abetted by the speculation and hearsay of Morask, Moylan-Krey, Kazmierczak and Gialamas.

Besides, now that Morask and Jones have lured McKenzie over to the Dark Side, the RINOs no longer need to push Carrabotta off the Board so they could replace him with RINO Kelly Schaefer (which was the only reason behind Assgate from the jump): They can now regularly outvote Carrabotta and Sweeney whenever the latter two attempt to act like “The Reformers” we believed them to be back when they had their 3-2 vote majority and were actually relevant.

So it looks like reform is dead at Maine Township.

Now, who’s going to tell Carrabotta and Sweeney?

To read or post comments, click on title.

No-Bid Body Cam Contract: Typical Illinois Bad Gov’t, Park Ridge Style (Part 2)

01.14.19

It took us awhile, but we finally finished Part II about how the Park Ridge City Council helped Police Chief Frank Kaminski (1) make a mockery of the City’s procurement requirements by (2) authorizing a no-bid, sole-source 5-year, $282,000 purchase of Axon body cameras for our police officers.

Back in April 2018, Kaminski told the Council he was going to test only Axon body cameras despite his failure (refusal?) to follow the City’s procurement rules. And he did it in the face of a warning by Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) that “nobody said that we’re going to waive our procurement rules to do this.”

Unfortunately, Mazzuca, et al. didn’t have to say they were waiving anything, because Chief K recognizes empty warnings from toothless wannabe-politicians when he hears them.

So when this body cam issue finally came up for a Council vote at the November 26, 2018 Finance & Budget COW meeting, the discussion that evening – running from the 2:57:34 through the 4:04:50 mark of that COW meeting video (including a 45-minute sales pitch from 3:05:15 to 3:50:35 from Axon’s Vince Valentine) – bounced between stupid, ridiculous and infuriating.

You can watch the entire video if you want, but we don’t advise it: We already have and it’s not worth the time. But if you want a few of the lowlights, try these:

  Ald. Marty Joyce (7th) endorsing Axon body cams (starting at 3:35:22) because Crook County and the City of Chicago both use them. Apparently the pervasive incompetence, wastefulness and corruption of those two cesspools of government is lost on Joyce: Otherwise, the fact that Axon was the body cam of choice for Toni Taxwinkle and The Rahmfather should have been reason enough to put the brakes on this sole-source deal.

  Ald. Charlie Melidosian (5th) claiming (from 3:50:40 to 3:54:36) that “[his] world is H.I.T.A.” (the acronym, originated by the late Mayor Dave Schmidt, for “Honesty,” “Integrity,” “Transparency” and “Accountability”) before endorsing Chief K’s choice of Axon body cams as “defendable” (How’s that for a ringing endorsement!) despite a procurement process that was anything but “H.I.T.A.”

*   Ald. John Moran (1st), who may have suffered whiplash (starting at 3:59:20) from voting against the sole-source procurement (while mumbling about needing “more information”) and then almost immediately flipping his vote in favor of Axon because he didn’t want to be seen as being against body cams.

But that night’s poster child for bad government was Mazzuca, who was able to fuse tediousness, whininess and spinelessness into a seamless ball of fecklessness.

It was in our 05.08.2013 post that we first described Mazzuca as “the kind of guy who, armed with an MBA from the University of Chicago, can spend an hour drilling down into a potato chip.” While that can sometimes be useful in obtaining information, all too often Mazzuca’s chip drilling has produced little but a worthless pile of crumbs, as it did back in 2013 when he drilled himself silly before (Surprise!) rolling over for Chief K’s cop shop renovations.

The past was prologue on November 26, as Mazzuca badgered both Axon’s spinmeister and Chief K with more observations, comments and questions than the rest of the Council combined – which he followed with a litany of time-wasting gripes (starting at 3:54:40) about the history and inadequacies of Chief K’s procurement process.

But when it came down to actually having to vote on the Chief’s body cam sole-sourcing, Mazzuca grabbed his ankles and announced that he would vote “reluctantly…and I cannot emphasize ‘reluctantly’ enough” to approve the sole-source deal, before finishing with gratuitous shots at the Chief for “sloppy execution,” “foot dragging” and “excuses.”

That’s what’s called (borrowing a famous headline from the Boston Globe about a Jimmy Carter speech): “Mush from the wimp.”

Interestingly, even such mush was enough to provoke the ire of Chief K, who seems unwilling and/or incapable of tolerating anything but praise of himself and his department. So the Chief went after Mazzuca in a high-dudgeon defense of his integrity (starting at 3:57:59) before daring the Council to “fire [him] today!”

Dramatic, yes, but about as meaningless as the mush that provoked it: Only City Manager Joe Gilmore can fire the Chief. And for reasons known only to Joe Gilmore, he consistently provided alibis for the Chief’s eight-month trampling of the procurement rules.

Once the Council cast its unanimous 7-0 vote on November 26, the second vote required for final approval of the Axon contract, scheduled for the December 3, 2018 Council meeting, appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

On December 3rd, however, Mazzuca sprung a motion to defer the vote until the Council could review the Axon contract that the Chief failed (refused?) to deliver to the aldermen until minutes before that night’s meeting. Moran seconded that motion but, not surprisingly, it lost by a 3 (Yes: Mazzuca, Moran and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie. And despite some additional mealy-mouthed complaints from Mazzuca and Moran, they dutifully grabbed their ankles and voted to pass the unread Axon sole-source contract by 6-0.

Fortunately, this episode of bad government lasted only ½ hour, from the 1:17:59 to the 1:49:35 mark of the December 3 meeting video.

But the no-bid, sole-source procurement charade turned into a cynical political travesty at the December 17 Council meeting (from 13:20 to 36:50 of that meeting video) when Moran made a half-hearted motion (“I don’t even expect it to [pass].”) for reconsideration of the Council’s December 3rd unanimous approval of the Axon contract.

Why did he make a motion that he did not expect would pass?

Moran claimed that he had done “some research” since the December 3rd vote (Nothing like an elected official waiting until after the deal is fully cooked before finally doing his job.). And in response to what seemed like an orchestrated “tell me more, tell me more” inquiry from Mazzuca (at 18:48), Moran noted that Kaminski never produced what he described as a “Department of Justice report” about the Elgin body cam vetting process and the wonders of Axon that he supposedly relied on in deciding to sole-source from Axon.

Moran also suggested that the information provided by Axon about purportedly unique features like 12-hour “battery life” and unique “interfacing” ability may not have been totally accurate, thorough and/or complete – notwithstanding its wholehearted endorsement by Chief K and CM Gilmore, and its previously unquestioned support by Moran and the rest of the Council.

All of those points could have, and should have, been raised during the seven months (between April 11 and November 26) that the aldermen sat on their thumbs, as could Melidosian’s abandonment (starting at the 30:05 mark of the video) of his previous support of Chief K’s “defendable” sole-source decision and his proposal for a full-blown competitive bidding process.

Predictably, this eleventh-hour gambit proved to be too little, too late – failing by another 3 (Yes: Moran, Mazzuca and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie.

As best as we can tell, Moran’s do-over motion failed because he, Mazzuca and Melidosian did absolutely no lobbying of Wilkening, Shubert, Joyce and/or Milissis to change their own misguided sole-source votes.

So why no lobbying?

We suspect it’s because the Triple Ms were more concerned about creating some plausible CYA for themselves, and not about how badly they had botched the body cam procurement. So they pulled the kind of crass political stunt we’ve come to expect from the Madiganocrats and RINOs down in Springfield, and on the Crook County Board: Having let Kaminski ignore the procurement requirements and than having grabbed their ankles on two successive Axon votes, even a failed do-over let’s them argue that they tried to correct their mistake but didn’t get the support of any of their colleagues in the Council majority.

You might want to remember this the next time any of these three invoke the name, reputation or record of Mayor Schmidt, or claim to be proponents of H.I.T.A.

Because in passing this hinky deal those three didn’t have a thimble-full of H.I.T.A., or one calcified spine, to share among themselves.

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No-Bid Body Cam Contract: Typical Illinois Bad Gov’t, Park Ridge Style (Part 1)

12.27.18

Over the past 30-40 years Illinois has gone from being one of the most prosperous states in the Union to such a socio-economic failed state that Googling “Illinois failed state” will yield pages of articles explaining just how bad off our state is, and how seemingly hopeless is its future.

Illinois did not get that way by one catastrophic event. Instead, it got there because of thousands upon thousands of individual acts of incompetence, stupidity, dishonesty and/or waste by those people – at all levels of government – whom we have elected to represent us; and by those we employ with our tax dollars to conduct those various governmental units’ day-to-day operations.

Today’s post discusses one of those individual acts of incompetent, stupid and dishonest government that recently was committed here in Park Ridge: Our own City Council’s award of a no-bid, sole-source, 5-year, $282,000 contract for police body cameras that made a mockery of both the City’s procurement ordinance, City Code Section 2-9-9, and its Council Policy Statement No. 18.

That body cam procurement process – totally dominated by Police Chief Frank Kaminski – was so screwed up that, were it an episode of “Friends,” it would be titled: “The one where the Council lets Chief K ignore the City’s procurement rules and give a no-bid, sole-source contract to his favorite vendor.”

And, yes, “Joey” and “Phoebe” would have featured roles.

The express purposes of Policy Statement No. 18 include: to “[p]rovide public confidence in City procurement processes” and to “[e]nsure that procurement activity is more accessible and visible to the public.” That Policy also contains a statement of “Procurement Ethics” emphasizing that any interaction between City officials and suppliers be “fair and transparent” so that suppliers are selected “on the basis of meeting appropriate and fair criteria.”

The principle behind such a procurement process is simple: An honest and transparent process means that taxpayers don’t have to rely on the honesty, integrity and judgement (or worry about the lack thereof) of the public official(s) doing the procurement. They can trust the process because they can see how it’s operating every step of the way.

That’s why Policy No. 18 prohibits sole source procurement for non-emergency purchases – like body cams – except under the four limited circumstances listed on page 5 of the Policy, and at subparagraph (C)(5)(c) of Code Section 2-9-9. Both of those require that “[p]rior to presenting the [sole source] request to the Finance Committee, the Department requesting the sole source procurement shall prepare a fact-based, written justification for the Finance Committee to review that addresses each applicable criteria set forth above.” In this case, that would have required the Park Ridge Police Department to identify all of the Department’s “business needs” for body cams, and then produce a “fact-based, written justification” for why only one particular source satisfies those needs.

But try as we might, we can’t find a shred of evidence that Chief K presented the Council with any list of his Department’s “business needs” for body cams, or with any “fact-based, written justification” that only his vendor of choice (Axon Enterprise, Inc.) met those needs, before the Council’s April 11, 2018 budget workshop – at which Chief K did not ask the Council’s permission to sole source with Axon but, instead, brazenly decreed the fait accompli that “we’re going with Axon” on a no-bid, sole-source basis; and that he would be “piloting” only Axon’s cameras.

Despite the significant concerns about announcing the Axon sole-sourcing expressed by Mayor Marty Maloney and Ald. John Moran (1st) at that workshop, none of the aldermen – including Moran and finance committee chair Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) – had the temerity (a/k/a, the spine) to demand that Chief K produce his list of the department’s “business needs” for body cams, or his “fact-based, written request” to do the Axon deal as a no-bid, sole-source one.

But don’t take our word for it: Watch the relevant nine minutes of the April 11, 2018 meeting video (from the 32 minute mark to 41:10) and you will see and hear Kaminski admit that he was solicited by Axon and that he was going to do a 4-month pilot program involving only Axon cameras. You’ll also see and hear City Mgr. Joe Gilmore cover Chief K’s derriere by citing their “research of multiple vendors” – without either Gilmore or Chief K identifying even one of those other vendors, or providing even one page of documentation that such “research” actually was done.

And not one of the aldermen challenged either the Chief’s decision or Gilmore’s apparently non-existent research.

That’s because, as we’ve noted in the past, Kaminski is the most formidable “politician” (a term we consider an epithet rather than a compliment) in City government, if not in all of Park Ridge local government. And he’s not one bit shy about using those superior political skills and his badge to manipulate and even intimidate our aldermen in ways that no self-respecting elected official – especially one who claims to be committed to honestly and competently representing his/her constituents – should ever stand for.

But stand for it the aldermen did, notwithstanding Mazzuca’s toothless “warning” to Chief K at the end of that segment of the budget workshop that “nobody said that we’re going to waive our procurement rules to do this.”

They didn’t have to say it, however, because the Chief knew he already owned the Council on sole-sourcing the body cams from Axon. Which is why, despite no formal vote having been taken at that April 11 workshop, the Axon body cam purchase became a “done deal” that very day– even if some of the folks around The Horseshoe were too clueless to figure that out; and the few who did lacked the spine to do anything more than kick the can down the road, as reflected by Mazucca’s insipid “we’ll take this up at a different COW…and make sure that everything is crystal clear about how to move forward with body cameras.”

The Chief’s no-bid, sole-source Axon deal appears to have remained unofficially done until seven months later when, at the November 26, 2018 COW, the Council unanimously passed the first reading of the resolution approving the contract. In what appears to be Chief K’s first “written justification” of the no-bid, sole-source purchase from Axon, his November 26 “Agenda Cover Memorandum” reads like an advertisement for Axon body cams – presumably because it substantially relies on Axon’s standard-form “Sole Source Letter” attached to it.

We’ll go into the details of the charade by which the April 11 unofficial “done deal” became official in our next post.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Park District Once Again Gives Taxpayers A Break – And “Freeloaders” A Fit (Updated)

12.04.18

Back when this blog’s editor began his eight years (1997-2005) as a member of the Park Ridge Park District board, the District ran every program, activity and facility like a 6 year-old ran a sidewalk lemonade stand

So he attempted to do something considered “revolutionary” at that time: Despite having four sons in all sorts of Park District activities and programs, he lobbied for a fee structure that would actually cover their costs instead of having the taxpayers subsidize him, his family members, and other users of the programs, activities and facilities. And by 2005 the District’s staff had learned the meaning of the term “fully-loaded costs” and actually had started to consider them in its pricing structure.

Since then, subsequent boards and administrations have continued the trend of pricing user fees to more closely reflect the actual costs of the District’s amenities. The result: According to a recent Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“Park Ridge Park District budget proposes fee increases…”, November 5), user fees now account for around 50% of the District’s $20 million annual budget, with property taxes contributing only 42.5%.

We think that’s great!

That growth in user fees appears to have enabled a majority of the current Park Board – Commissioners Harmony Harrington, Jim Janak, Rob Leach and Mel Thillens – to reject the administration’s proposed 2.1% increase in the property tax levy while accepting a variety of user fee increases the administration also proposed for the 2019 budget year.

What could be wrong with that?

Plenty, if you’re Kathy (Panattoni) Meade, the poster child for Park Ridge’s freeloader community.

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SIDEBAR: We adopted the term “freeloader” 3 years ago – in our 10.21.2015 post – as convenient shorthand for what otherwise would take us 31 words to describe: “Those residents who are always looking to leverage maximum benefits for themselves, their families and their friends by shifting the costs of those benefits onto the backs of their fellow taxpayers.” Ironically, that post highlighted the freeloader mentality of the aforementioned Ms. Meade, who back then was complaining about that year’s increase in Park District user fees. Go figure!

*               *               *

Based on Ms. Meade’s many public comments (made primarily on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page where she is one of the admins), she and her family are heavy users of Park District programs and activities. That’s likely why she ripped into the Park Board around this time last year for…wait for it…proposing user fee increases, introducing her beef by asking: “ARE YOU F-ING KIDDING ME!?!?!” That prompted us to publish two posts on the topic, on 11.07.2017 and 0n 11.14.2017.

Not surprisingly, therefore, her post in response to the H-A article and critical of the Park District for raising user fees instead of “raising taxes by $11 per household” – an increase she claims she would “gladly pay” to keep her out-of-pocket user fees from going up – is like deja vu all over again. For people whose goal is to suck more out of government (and fellow taxpayers) than they pay into it, paying an extra $11 of RE taxes to save $20.00 (or $200.00) in user fees is a no-brainer, Freeloading 101.

But replacing user fees with property tax increases appears to work even better for Meade than her comments let on.

That extra $11 of taxes is what the Park District claims the owner of a $458,000 home would pay. But according to Zillow, the median Park Ridge home value is $390,000. And because Zillow values Meade’s house at $339,000 while RE/MAX pegs it at $322,000 – that $11/year of extra taxes would end up being only $8 for her.

Frankly, we don’t begrudge even freeloaders trying to get a bargain so long as they don’t do it on the backs of their fellow taxpayers. But what really torques us is when they try to do so while wrapping themselves in the mantle of faux-altruism – as in “I’d gladly pay $11” more in property taxes – while concealing their unenlightened self-interest in saving 10 or 20 times that amount.

We’ve never been fans of automatic annual tax increases like the ones Illinois Democrats have been running up during the 30-plus years that Speaker Madigan and his stooges have run Illinois into the ground, so we appreciate the Park Board majority’s desire not to raise taxes – so long as they are being responsible stewards of the District’s assets and not compromising the timely maintenance, repair and replacement (“MRR”) of the District’s buildings and grounds merely to pander to certain taxpayers.

That’s why we confess to being a tad uncomfortable with the H-A article’s report of  Commissioner Jim O’Brien concern “based on current projections of excess revenue – that [the District is] not going to have enough money to maintain the stuff we have.” O’Brien didn’t provide the kind of back-up information that might objectively justify such a concern, as you can see from the November 1, 2018 Board meeting video, starting at the 1:51:00 mark. It should also be noted that O’Brien’s concern was immediately challenged by Commissioner Rob Leach at the 1:52:20 of the video.

And we became a tad more uncomfortable upon hearing Commissioner Jim O’Donnell complain (starting at the 1:59:08 mark of the video) that the District was borrowing money “to do the maintenance-type stuff that we have to do” – even though he, too, failed to provide data that would support his argument.

Being penny wise with the levy can be pound foolish if it results in MRR being neglected – as we recently learned from Supt. Ken Wallace’s and his rubber-stamp school boards’ 9 years of irresponsible (and intentional?) neglect of MRR for all 3 Maine Township High School District 207’s school buildings, which will now end up costing taxpayers $345 million, $100 million of which will be wasteful, non-deductible interest payments.

We surely don’t need that kind of irresponsibility and mismanagement at the Park District.

But assuming the Park Board majority is doing its job, we applaud increases in user fees that allocate the fully-loaded operating costs of activities, programs and facility usage to the people whose use causes those operating costs. And if those programs, activities and facilities provide sufficient value (and the market permits it), we wouldn’t mind seeing user fees set at levels where they might even generate a PROFIT to the District that could be used to cover unrelated costs.

If that gets rid of the freeloaders who view Park District programs, activities and facilities as a kind of discount all-you-can-eat buffet, so much the better.

UPDATE 12.06.2018. We are saddened to hear of the sudden death of Park District Commissioner Jim Janak on Tuesday, December 4. Jim was a fine man who was just embarking on his public life and service to our community, having been elected to the Park Ridge Park District Board of Commissioners in April 2017 and having recently joined the  committee of the Park Ridge Holiday Lights Fund.

During his 1-1/2 years on the Park Board he was a dependable voice and vote for honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability. Although we disagree with Mr. Joel that “only the good die young,” we mourn the loss to our community of not only the person Jim was at the time of his death but, also, the person he undoubtedly would have become had he been given more than 38 years.

Our condolences go out to his wife, Stacie, and his children Finnegan and Addison. A fundraiser has been established for the Janak Family, with online contributions being accepted at: https://www.facebook.com/donate/1873636402735337/

Hail and farewell, Jim.

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A Two-Fer Tuesday: City Water & Choosing The New Tiu

11.20.18

Today we’re giving you a two-fer: A regular-sized discussion of the City of Park Ridge’s water increase and a BONUS discussion of the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board’s replacement of recently-resigned Board member Eastman Tiu.

City Water And Sewer Rate Increase. Last week the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reported on the Park Ridge City Council’s November 7 vote to raise its water and sewer rates effective January 1, 2019. Not surprisingly, some people are already beefing about the increase of 14 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used, as well as a smaller increase based on the size of the user’s water meter.

This post is directed at the group of beefers who are trying to resurrect that three year old brain cramp: The City buying its water from Evanston instead of Chicago, which we last wrote about in our 04.21.2015 post, our 07.13.2015 post and our 10.12.2015 post, all of which pointed out the many risks, and no guaranteed commensurate benefits, of what we called the Evanston Water Option (“EWO”).

To say that buying water from Evanston is a dumb idea is an understatement, in the first instance because just the estimated 30-year cost to the City’s taxpayers of building the Evanston water delivery infrastructure was $90 million – and that was when the City was exploring a joint EWO with Niles and Morton Grove and would only be paying a fraction of the cost. If the City were to go it alone, the cost presumably would double or even triple. And that would be for only one water transmission line, not the current redundancy of two lines that we have with Chicago.

No wonder one of the promoters of that EWO boondoggle three years ago was Kathy (Panattoni) Meade, the unofficial queen of Park Ridge freeloaders – and one of the ringmasters of the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page – whose principal life goal appears to be finding ways to stick all City/Park District/D-64 taxpayers with the lion’s share of the costs for whatever services and amenities she wants for herself and her kids.  

Fortunately, the City balked at the EWO until Niles and Morton Grove decided to do a cheaper (for them) deal with Skokie for Evanston water, in which Park Ridge could not join because the water capacity of the Evanston/Skokie/Morton Grove/Niles venture could not support a fifth participant, especially with water demands like ours.

But the cost of the infrastructure needed for a switch to Evanston water is not the entire story. Another important consideration was, and is (as we understand the deal), that the City’s per-gallon rate for Chicago water is exactly the same as what Chicago residents pay, not counting the different additional fees that both Chicago and Park Ridge charge their respective residents in connection with water and sewer service. So, at least in theory, Chicago can’t gouge Park Ridge on water costs in order to subsidize the cost of Chicago residents’ water.

That’s significantly different from the situation being played out in both the federal and state courts between Evanston and its long-time water customer, Skokie, after their latest water contract expired on December 31, 2016, and Evanston tried to double the 1,000 gallon rate. The Circuit Court lawsuit by E-Town was filed in September 2017, while the federal court lawsuit by Skokie was filed in June of this year.

As anybody who has read this blog knows, we’re all about user fees: To the extent a user fee can reasonably be calculated and allocated to individual users for the cost of any government-supplied necessity or amenity, it should be done and the result charged to those users instead of hanging more taxes on all taxpayers.

Ideally, the user fees for water and sewer provide not only an appropriate way to cover the costs to the City of providing those services to its residents but, also, a way to cover at least part of the related costs of maintaining the water and sewer infrastructure. But increased costs presumably also generate a very desirable collateral benefit: More intelligent, disciplined (and, therefore, reduced) water usage by our residents.

So we would have expected those Go Green Park Ridge folks – Amy Bartucci, Cindy Grau, Andrea Cline, et al. – to be all over Arpad Glomski’s November 14 post about the water rate increase on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page, supporting those fees with their commentary. But guess what?

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Unless you count a brief colloquy between Cindy Grau and Meade, in which they both appear to lament user fees for water and sewer, while Meade lets her freeloader flag fly by her outright mocking of the concept of people paying “their fair share.”

Apparently “green” means something more to the Go Greenies that just what is found in nature, at least when it comes to keeping the “green” in their own pockets.

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Choosing The New Tiu. Last week D-64 Board member Eastman Tiu tendered his resignation from the D-64 School Board, which has stirred quite a commotion on the Parents of D-64 Students FB page, a “closed group” FB site administered by Helen Gossel Pasley and Carol Sales. “Closed group” means that non-members can’t see the posts and comments, unlike with other community FB pages such as the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners FB page and the Park Ridge Illinois Online FB page, or with this blog.

The main event so far has been an unscheduled 10-round bout between activist Alice Dobrinsky (in the dark blue corner) and D-64 Board member Tom “Tilted Kilt” Sotos (in the plaid-with-cleavage corner) about how transparently the D-64 Board will conduct the whole selection process for Tiu’s replacement.

As tends to be the rule rather than the exception whenever Sotos engages in these bouts, he tends to be over-matched; see, e.g., his  09.19.2016 bout with resident Jayne Reardon over the Board’s refusal to disclose the secret terms of the closed-session negotiated 2016 PREA contract, in which Reardon left him so bloodied and incoherent that his corner man, Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli, stopped it after only 9 minutes – starting at the 1:03:20 mark of the meeting video and finishing with the TKO of Sotos at the 1:12:21 mark.

Without wasting valuable time describing another TKO of Sotos, this time administered by Dobrinsky, we’ll cut to the chase: The whole process of replacing Tiu should be conducted exactly the way the estimable Joan Sandrik, another resident who has previously used Sotos as a punching bag, suggested in her comment on D-64 Students:

“Post the vacancy, accept applications, schedule interviews (in an open forum), deliberate (in an open forum), make the selection (in an open forum), swear in the new board member, ba-bam. Done. There. Now what’s so difficult about that?”

Not a damned thing, unless you’re a secretive demagogue like Borrelli, or a Borrelli lackey and apologist like Sotos. Or any other Board members who reflexively run and hide in closed session whenever its arguably legal – and who can’t spell H.I.T.A. even if you spotted them both consonants and let them buy both vowels.

To read or post comments, click on title.

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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