Public Watchdog.org

Every Week Needs To Be “Sunshine Week”

03.16.09

According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, this week (March 15 through March 21) is “Sunshine Week” – a time to celebrate our right to know what our various governmental bodies are doing, and why.

This special week, although created and celebrated by the news organizations who are supposed to keep us ordinary citizens informed about our governments and the people who run them, should be even more important to those of us who live here in what the Chicago Tribune recently labeled the “State of Corruption” because of all the graft and corruption that permeates government at all levels, much of which is embodied in secret deals that favor special interests while driving up the cost of government for the rest of us.

Not surprisingly, there are Pollyannas who will actually insist, with a straight face, that there is no graft and corruption here in Park Ridge.  And the most prominent of those is our very own mayor, Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, who brags that his is the most open government in the history of Park Ridge.

Of course, Frimark conveniently fails to mention that his is the first Park Ridge administration to receive a “Worsty” – a dubious achievement award given out by the Illinois Press Association to those governmental bodies and officials who ignore the requirements of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”).  The Frimark Administration earned its 3rd Place “Worsty” for trying to hold what should have been a public meeting (involving the interviewing of city manager candidates) at the private Park Ridge Country Club, where Frimark is a member. 

But that “Worsty” is little more than the tip of the iceberg regarding the extent the Frimark Administration will go in its attempts at subverting IOMA and keeping the doings of Park Ridge government concealed from the voters. 

For example, Frimark himself held “private” discussions with the owner of the American Insurance building at 720 Garden, which Frimark wanted to buy as the site for a new police station even though the City had not yet committed to building a new station or had agreed on the specific size of such a facility.  And when the City’s appraisal came in at approximately $400,000 less than the owner’s appraisal, Frimark was critical of the City’s appraisal and requested a new one.

But when Ald. Dave Schmidt (1st Ward) blew the whistle on those secret dealings by going public with them – something he had every right to do under IOMA – Frimark and his Alderpuppets made a grand show of “condemning” Schmidt, even though they knew in advance that such a “condemnation” had no legal effect because Schmidt’s conduct was completely lawful under IOMA.

Frimark was also involved in the behind-the-scenes negotiations of a planned $2.4 million tax windfall to his campaign contributor, Napleton Cadillac, for which he also cast the deciding “yes” vote; and in the behind-the-scenes negotiations to give the developers of the Executive Office Plaza development, his campaign contributors Norwood Builders and Bruce Adreani, a variance to build 8 units more than our Zoning Code allowed.  Neither of those secret dealings saw the “sunshine” until right before it came time for the vote on them, too late for the public to react in a meaningful fashion.

And on a more basic level, take a look at the names of all the people whom the mayor has appointed to serve on the various City boards and commissions.  Unless you know any of them personally, chances are you know nothing at all about them – not even the ward they live in or their occupations – because nothing about them is posted on the City’s website.  Not much “sunshine” there, either.

We applaud the ASNE for formally identifying a “Sunshine Week” to honor and advocate for more openness in government.  But for the people of Park Ridge to get honest government, we need “Sunshine Week” every week of the year.

2 comments so far

Are you saying that Mayor Frimark is lying when he says his is an open government?

Yup… who out there knew or knows that Ms. Carrie Davis has been promoted to Director of CP&D. Just kind of happened.



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