Public Watchdog.org

“Politician-itis” An Insidious Disease

12.29.12

What kind of disease infects seemingly normal people after they get elected to public office, causing them to say and do really ridiculous things?

We don’t know, but we suspect it involves the novelty of being able to tax, borrow and spend millions of dollars of other peoples’ money (“OPM”) with virtually no consequences – along with the novelty of being told by bureaucrats claiming to be “professionals” that such taxing, borrowing and spending OPM is what the officials “were elected to do.”  And maybe also the pats on the head from certain special interests who tell these officials how smart and wonderful they are for…wait for it…taxing, borrowing and spending.

We’ll call it “politician-itis” until we hear a better explanation.  But it is frustrating.

Take the Park Ridge Recreation & Park District, for example.

We have endorsed the work of Board President Rick Biagi on various occasions, most recently for his sole dissenting vote against the PRRPD’s whopping 5.97% increase in its tax levy for 2012.  On a board made up of sheep who contentedly rubber-stamp whatever Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle tosses their way, Biagi has stood out as the only critically thinking voice for the average taxpayer.

So it was disappointing to read his comments about last Thursday (12.20.12) night’s Park Board vote on the new aquatic facility at Centennial Park, where he threw in his lot with the rubber-stampers for a 6-0 (Commissioner Jim O’Brien MIA) vote to approve spending $7.1 million ($6.3 million to be borrowed over 15 years, adding another $1 million-plus of interest to the tab) on a third-rate outdoor aquatic facility that won’t even include the lazy river feature most desired by the District’s 682 survey respondents in its “Phase I” (assuming there’s ever a “Phase II”).  And all without the decency of giving the voters a voice in the decision via an April referendum.

That will make this Centennial pool project the first new aquatic facility proposed for the District in the past 18 years that has not been the subject of a referendum.  Chalk that up to a Board and an executive director who can barely conceal their fear of, and contempt for, the taxpayers – which is the primary reason they pushed through this decision just five days before Christmas, with the attention of the vast majority of taxpayers focused elsewhere.

According to the article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“$7.1 million pool plan is a splash with Park Ridge Park Board”), Biagi compared the Board’s pool decision to replacing the roof on the Community Center: “If you want to redo the roof on the Community Center, that’s not a question to go before the voters. That’s what this board was elected to do.”

Seriously, Mr. Biagi?  The new Centennial aquatic facility is little more than a roof redo?  Seriously?

The H-A story also attributes to Biagi the view that, if the District were to place any advisory referendum on the ballot, it shouldn’t ask the voters about a specific project like the new $7.1 million Centennial aquatic facility but, instead, should ask them whether the voters want outdoor pools in Park Ridge at all.

We sure hope he was misquoted by the H-A, because that’s an intellectually dishonest question if we’ve ever heard one – especially given that the District already has existing pools at Hinkley and South Park that, to our knowledge, nobody ever has asked to have shut down or removed.  There’s such a quantum leap of logic from spending millions of dollars on one new expanded pool facility to the question of whether there should be any outdoor pools in Park Ridge, that the mere juxtaposing of those two issues sounds positively daft.

But assuming Biagi was quoted accurately, we question how he can justify his vote locking the taxpayers of Park Ridge into the new Centennial pool facility that can be expected to last 30-40-50 years before getting an answer to his “no pools for you” question.  And if that was such an important question, why didn’t he think of putting it on the November ballot – before his and his Board’s vote on the new Centennial pool project effectively rendered that question moot?

C’mon, Rick, aren’t you better than those mindless rubber stamps that surround you?  Aren’t you too smart to be manipulated by bureaucrats whose only goal is to tax, borrow and spend more of the taxpayers’ money for their own personal aggrandizement, resume-building, and bragging rights at their conferences and conventions?

Or was what we saw as your principled vote on the tax levy a few weeks ago just blind squirrel theory or, worse yet, an outright sham?

To read or post comments, click on title.

21 comments so far

Guilty as charged. Those were, in fact, my comments as quoted by the PR H-A, although there was a bit more that I said that puts them into context.

During the lengthy Centennial Pool debate on the 20th, I raised the issue of placing an advisory referendum on the April ballot. Thereafter, each Commissioner expressed their displeasure and disagreement with placing any referendum question for this project on the ballot. If I made a mistake that evening, it was in not actually making a formal motion…which would have died for lack of second. I suspect, however, that such a symbolic gesture on my part would still not quell your concerns.

As I sit here today, I still support the concept of placing an advisory referendum on the ballot to gauge whether the citizens of this town are willing to spend $7.1 M to replace the Centennial Pool facility. However, I disagree with framing the question in the context of a particular plan design. What I (also) said on the 20th, and stand by today, is that such a question provides little, if any, guidance to the elected body.

Suppose the question read something like, “Do you support the District in spending $7.1M to replace the Centennial Pool facility with one as depicted in the plans proposed by the District on x date”. If a majority of the voters responded “no” to this question, the Board could interpret that answer in one of the following ways:

1) No outdoor pools at all
2) No 6 lane pools, only 8 lane pools
3) No pools with a dual slide structure
4) No pools with a 23ft slide structure
5) No pools unless they have a 36ft slide structure
4) No pools with a single diving board
5) No pools with a single drop slide into deep water
6) No pools with zero depth
7) No project that doesn’t include two zero depth pools
8) No pools unless the project includes a lazy river
9) No pools unless the project includes a new bathhouse
10) No pools unless the placement of the two pools is flipped
11) No pools unless the placement of the slide is rearranged
12) No 25ft 6 lane pools, only 25m 6 lane pools
13) No project that isn’t an exact replacement of the current two pools
14) No project that exceeds $7M
15) No project that exceeds $6.5M
16) No project that exceeds $6M

…and so on.

In my opinion, those are all valid questions that should be addressed once we’ve established that we do, in fact, want to replace the Centennial Pool facility. Once we establish that fact, then, in my opinion, the proper vehicle for addressing those various concerns is by holding public hearings and forming an advisory task force made up of experts and concerned citizens (both of which we did, specifically at my direction).

We had somewhere between 100 and 200 people turn out for the three public meetings I chaired (I was traveling for business during the first town hall meeting so I can’t speak to the comments or attendance at that meeting). The one consistent comment that I heard throughout the three meetings is that the pools do, in fact, need to be replaced. Where people differed (greatly) was on exactly how we do so. It is for this reason, that I came to the conclusion that an advisory referendum on the blueprints we had before us would not prove helpful to me in rendering my vote for or against the project.

In the end, I stand by my vote to support the project because I believe that failing to act does a greater disservice to the taxpayers…but that is just my opinion. In the end, I will be able to walk away and face my family and friends knowing that, in my heart, I felt I was doing the right thing for Park Ridge. I make no excuses and am fully prepared to take whatever criticism is due.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just because people agree with Staff’s assertion that the current pools are on life support and may not make it through next season doesn’t mean that a majority of them want to spend millions on another outdoor pool at Centennial.

We aren’t sure, however, we get where you’re coming from: You write that “once we’ve established that we do, in fact, want to replace the Centennial Pool facility,” but you’ve done nothing to allow the voters to answer that question.

If you’re saying you support “placing an advisory referendum on the ballot to gauge whether the citizens of this town are willing to spend $7.1 M to replace the Centennial Pool facility” – so long as the referendum isn’t limited to the particular pool plan the PRRPD Staff and Board has spent the last several months developing and promoting to the public – then why didn’t you propose THAT referendum?

Rick Biagi has been the only commissioner out there trying to be transparent with his perspective on the pool. I think he has strived to communicate and obtain the views of as many folks living within Park Ridge by holding those extra forums where the issue could be discussed.

I think he voted based on obtaining more information than had the whole project just been slammed through the process without open forums.

I think you can be critical of the Park Board, but not of Rick’s efforts to be transparent, open to a fault, and honest in all of his communications about the project. He showed leadership and courage in delaying the vote to have the forums for the benefit of the residents.

While you are sticking to your principles that there was a need for a referendum, Biagi went above and beyond what the rest of the Commissioners did. Had Biagi not been on the Board, the whole pool issue would have been slammed through without any discussion.

I know Biagi; Rick is a friend of mine; and you are no Rick Biagi.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And you’re no Jack Kennedy. So we’re closer to “even” than you are.

Rick Biagi has been a long-time friend of this blog, and vice versa. And we’re well aware that, if not for Biagi, Mountcastle and her Park Board Munchkins would have pushed this decision through without hearings of any kind. It was Mountcastle and her Munchkins who tried to substitute a 682-person survey for a referendum – which is what anti-democratic bureaucrats always try to do because, to quote former Park Ridge city manager “Tiny Tim” Schuenke:”I’d rather persuade 8 aldermen than 8,000 voters.”

Unfortunately, Rick appears to have trusted Mountcastle and bought into that quasi-fraud instead of pushing for a referendum right out of the blocks. And a referendum is the sine qua non when it comes to spending this kind of money for a facility that has a 30-40-50-year community shelf life.

As I recall, at the meeting on the 20th, I did discuss the idea of a referendum question that asked whether the Board should be authorized to spend $7.1M to replace the pools. However, I still think that the answer to that question provides little guidance to the Board. Does a “no” vote mean that we should spend $6.8M instead…or maybe $5.9M…or does it mean we shouldn’t spend anything on the pools at all? That is why I keep coming back to what is, in my opinion, the most germane question…should we or shouldn’t we have outdoor pools? I can live with a “no” answer if that is what the community wants (and that is precisely the question that I lobbied for at the meeting). If the answer to that question, however, was “yes”, then we could engage in further public hearings and advisory task force meetings to discuss specific plans for the project and move forward under the Board non-ref bonding authority.

Some folks who posted previously on this blog accused me of threatening the public with such a question (i.e., do we or don’t we want outdoor pools), but I really don’t see it as a threat…instead, I see it as the seminal question that needs to be answered (and was, for better or worse, answered by a majority of the Commissioners on the 20th).

EDITOR’S NOTE: C’mon Rick, stop moving the target.

You didn’t ask any referendum question BEFORE your Board and Staff spent months on half-cocked surveys and developing this current third-rate Centennial plan that you just voted on. If it’s good enough for you guys to vote on, why isn’t it good enough for the voters to vote on – just like every previous pool plan was for the past 18 years?

We know the answer and so do you: it’s because the voters said “no,” and that’s what you folks don’t want to hear. So you solve that “problem” by taking away the voters’ voice. That’s pitiful, and shameful.

“Should we or shouldn’t we have outdoor pools?” – when we already have Hinkley and South Park pools – is sophistry, if not a flat-out dishonest question, because it implies that a “no” answer would require the district to close down Hinkley and South Park pools. Nobody’s asking for that.

The Park District has made Centennial the ONLY issue, and trying to run away from that now with too-late, grand-but-spurious “outdoor/no outdoor” pool questions sounds both dishonest and cowardly – to be expected from Mountcastle and her Munchkins, but disappointing coming from you.

As both a pool/park user and taxpayer, I was appalled at this entire process. The board and the taxpayers were manipulated into this terrible decision that will have a long lasting negative impact on the financial strength of the park district/taxpayer. The process was rigged from the start. Where was the Park District’s due dilligence ? Why else would there not be several options to the project. Ie.repair existing pool structures, replace existing structures as is, construct a new water park. These options and estimated costs were never presented in a documented manner. Most people agree repair was not an option. I believe we all get that. The pools needed to be replaced. The perception was it’s the water park or nothing. The pools need to be replaced, the shame of it is that the current configuration provides
90 to 95 % of the real aquatic needs not wants of the users. The water park is overkill. So $7.1 million will be spent, park district debt and its associated debt service cost will be increased all on something that will be used 1/4 of the year and destroying valuable green space. (As a side note, it was interesting to hear the comments of one commissioner who said that the area of trees by the playground was not being used. He did not understand that green/wooded areas are to be enjoyed and provide visual appeal to the walkers/joggers/strollers who use the park on a daily basis throughout the 365 day year). Having won this one, what will happen when the ice area needs to be redone or funds have to be acquired for the youth campus. I ‘m afraid that a lot of political capital was spent on this project. Capital that will have much more far reaching negative impact the park board and park district operations in the future.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was a “special interest” project manipulated by the executive director using the techniques the bureaucrats are taught at their conferences and conventions that WE, the taxpayers, pay them to attend.

While we think that any multi-million dollar investment for 3 months of annual use is borderline demented, if the voters are willing to vote for it then that’s the way it goes. But the conspiracy of Mountcastle and the Munchkins is noting less than a fraud on the taxpayers – which we will all be paying for over the next 15 years, and stuck with for the next 30-40-50 years.

Point well-taken. It is certainly not my intent to imply that I am fishing for an answer that would give me cover to vote to close South Park and Hinkley. Maybe the better question then would’ve been, “Do you authorize the Board to replace Centennial Pool at cost not to exceed the Board’s non-referendum bonding ceiling?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Now you’re talking, Mr. President! We would love to see that one on the April ballot. Too bad Mountcastle and the Munchkins won’t let it get there.

I agree with Anonymous 12.29.12 @ 8:29 pm that Mr. Biagi is the only reasonable voice on the Park Board. But I am troubled by his being comforatable with his decision because he can “walk away and face my family and friends.”

That would be fine if he was elected only by his family and friends. But he was elected by taxpayers like me who have never met him but expect him to look out for our interests every bit as much as, or more than, those of his family and friends.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Agreed.

But to his credit, at least he shows up here under his own name to explain and defend his actions, unlike the rest of the Munchkins.

10:05:

Your position on this issue is clear but I do not feel your post is fair.

You focus on the part about family and friends and imply that his decision process is only focused on what is best for his family and friends. The problem is you completely ignore the part of his post that says “knowing that, in my heart, I felt I was doing the right thing for Park Ridge.” You may disagree with his feelings on this matter but he very clearly states best for PR, not best for just family and friends. Whatever your feelings on this matter, it is wrong to simply pick part of a quote that makes him look bad while ignoring the words that follow in the very same sentence.

As an aside, he does not just have to face is family and friends. He faces all of us when he is elected or voted out of office.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When Jefferson wrote “When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property,” we doubt he was talking about simply facing – and being accountable to – the taxpayers/voters once every 4 years.

Public officials – the holders of the “public trust” – need to be accountable to their constituents on a daily basis; and they need to remain accountable for what occurred on their watch until they draw their last breaths.

Rick- Don’t be bullied by referendum Rob and his nimbys. As a resident, I EXPECT the pools to replaced and improved. “Friends of the Park” is anything but. He wants to hold back an improvement, because he may see a slide on his stroll in the park? Get a life FOP. Also, anyone that calls it a waterpark is like calling this editor a journalist.

What scares RT and the nimbys (as termed by this editor) is that they awoke the people that want to invest in Park Ridge. We showed up at the meetings and are sick of the people who have called Park Ridge home for decades who seem so dedicated to see a great place crumble.

We elect representatives to make solid long-term investments in our community.
Rick- Thank you for your response on this board, and please keep making our parks and pools better. You have our support. We WANT nice parks and pools.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nobody wants “to see a great place crumble.” We just don’t want to see money wasted on a third-rate aquatic facility usable only 3 months a year…UNLESS the majority of voting taxpayers vote in favor of it via referendum.

Little wonder, however, that such democratic principles are anathema to parasitic special interests who delight in government – in this case, Mountcastle’s Munchkins – draining money out of the entire base of taxpayers for the special interest’s amusement without a vote.

OK, which is it: The decision was “slammed” through in thoughtless haste or or was the result of three-plus months of surveying and studying, which you find without value? Bob, you just don’t get it. There are those who say if the Second Coming cost $5 a head on a referendum, it would fail. Does that mean it’s a bad idea? Yes, to one entirely run by the ideology that everything must go to referendum because all elected officials are ipso facto jerks, dupes and thieves. Which were you? There are others who think the referenda on the pools failed because a) The $24,000,0000 project was for OAKTON, which already had a waning attendance level and was too costly by Park Ridge standards; and b) The $9,000,000+ one failed — but by a much narrower margin — because it was still too costly but not by much. There is no conspiracy, much as you avidly seek one: The current $7,000,000 project to rebuild and replace with some modernization (including much infrastructure mandated by the evil City gub-mint to prevent flooding) is just a bit over a million more than replacing the old pool as is (with all the unattractive deficiencies but with all the costly City mandates.)Do you really think the Board acted unwisely in choosing the slightly costlier UPGRADE that will keep people spending money in Park Ridge instead of taking it to Niles, DesPlaines, Elk Grove, etc.? You’d be the first to freak out if they picked the penny-wise, pound-foolish option. And as to whether there’s a need for outdoor pools at all; you are the disengenious one in accusing Biagi of making that a bogus issue. When you keep harping on why bother when it’s millions and only used for 3 months, the issue of why water at all is very relevant. To which I can only say, the average American wedding costs $24,000 and lasts 5 hours. The average Christmas decorating extravaganza costs thousands and lasts a few weeks. The average cruise (coming back to your age cohort) costs thousands and lasts a few days. The average elective surgery costs thousands or tens of thousands and the doctor and staff work a couple of hours. It all depends on what you value, eh? And one more thing: Stop harping on the 642 or whatever surveys on which the Board’s decision was PARTLY based. Go back to your high school stats class: It is a statistically viable number of responses on which one can reliably project the opinion of a much larger group of residents. The only serious beef here is the NIMBY objection to a garish, monstrously tall slide. The Board has promised to make a neutral-colored, well-camouflaged, moderately sized slide. You may have been duped by the ineffectual and self-serving past managers into ignoring some basic holes in the dyke, but the current board is damned fussy about decisions and is not being misled by the staff. Frankly, staff would probably say this board is like herding cats, which is, I’m sure you agree, exactly how it should be. Next time, when they agree with you on a topic, as they did about closing Oakton, try to remember not all are duped into decisions just because they disagree with you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since your comments suggest you are one of Mountcastle’s lesser Munchkins, we will address them from a remedial government perspective – which basically consists of the admonition: “Stop lying!”

Stop lying about the integrity and transparency of this process when it is clear, from the survey and all the design work, that the Staff was putting all these pieces in place well before it launched its pre-holiday public relations blitz/charade to stampede the public with this third-rate but expensive “pound foolish option.”

Stop lying about this blog or anyone else having “the ideology that everything must go to referendum” when every Park Board over the past 18 years but this one has sought and obtained, via referendum, the taxpayers’ advice on major projects such as this.

Stop lying about the statistical viability of 682 responses to the survey – conveniently created under the auspices of the new pool designers – when the PRRPD ignores the fact that the survey, no matter how half-baked it is, clearly shows that more of those respondents wanted real restrooms in the parks, as well as a combination of more indoor aquatics and an expanded workout area in the Community Center, than wanted the new outdoor Centennial pools.

Stop lying about how those 682 survey responses “can reliably project the opinion of a much larger group of residents” when no projections would even be necessary to determine whether the more than 8,000 voters who will go to the polls in April want a $7 million outdoor aquatic facility at Centennial.

Stop lying about “the only serious beef here” being NIMBY objections to a “garish, monstrously tall slide” when the real “beef” by the taxpayers is to wasting $7 million on a third-rate 3-month/year facility that will define that part of Centennial Park for the next 30-40-50 years.

Stop lying about this Board’s agreeing with us “about closing Oakton” when every Munchkin but Biagi (and maybe O’Brien?) would still be pouring $80,000 a year of taxpayer funds down that drain if the County Health Dept. hadn’t shut the place down and demanded $90,000 worth of repairs before it would be allowed to open for the season a few years ago.

Stop lying about how “the current board is damned fussy about decisions” like this when, in reality, it stuck its head in the sand about Centennial’s deteriorating condition for the past few years rather than doing legitimate due diligence – through various referenda if necessary – to get a true sense of what the entire community might want at Centennial.

Stop lying about how past Boards were “duped by the ineffectual and self-serving past managers into ignoring some basic holes in the dyke [sic]” when those boards went to referendum twice within the past 7 years – once on a new Oakton and once on a new Centennial – in consideration of the ongoing decline in the condition of the current Centennial pools.

Stop lying about this Board’s “shop local” motive for blowing over $7 million to “keep people spending money in Park Ridge” by swimming at the new Centennial when neither this Board nor this Staff has any kind of hard-number business plan showing how the new pools will even cover their annual operating costs, much less the debt service they will be ringing up for the next 15 years.

And stop lying by disingenuously comparing the cost of the pools’ 3-month season to the cost of the “average wedding,” the “average Christmas decorating extravaganza,” the “average cruise” or the “average elective surgery” when the money for those kinds of expenses isn’t being squeezed involuntarily out of the taxpayers under color of law. Such a ridiculous argument is even more pathetic that it is silly.

We’re willing to trust the voters with the referendum question framed by Mr. Biagi in one of his comments earlier today: “Do you authorize the Board to replace Centennial Pool at cost not to exceed the Board’s non-referendum bonding ceiling?”

Why aren’t you and your fellow Munchkins?

Maybe we shouldn’t order salt or plow the snow this year. I mean, it’s only for 3 months a year.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We really wish you had signed your name to that novel idea so that we could forward it to City Hall with the recommendation that you receive the kind of public commendation it so richly deserves.

Here are some interesting numbers. In 2005 4239 residents voted down the waterpark. In 2006 5723 residents voted down the water park again. (I realize this is not an apples to apples comparision, but it is an indicator). In 2012 682 residents responded to the survey out of 3500. If you are interested in serving the public interest which set of numbers do you use ?

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re this Park Board, you use the set of numbers that gives you the answer you want.

7:43:

You have it wrong. What we need to do is have a referendum on whether or not we should order salt.

I mean why aren’t we willing to trust the voters on this issue???

EDITOR’S NOTE: Another brilliant idea from another anonymous genius. Once again, send it along to City Hall with your contact information and we’ll look forward to seeing your picture on the cover of the H-A, or maybe in the police blotter.

12.30.12 5:36-I want to thank the editor for responding to your nonsensical comments. Comparing PRPD spending of taxpayer money to what an individual citizen chooses to do with there own money makes no sense whatsoever.

There are voting taxpayers of PR who oppose this project who are not neighbors of the waterpark. We oppose it because it costs too much money for the very limited time it can be used. You argue that it will keep PR citizens from spending their recreational waterpark money in another town. Just how many people are you talking about? How much forgone revenue is out there as it relates to pool admittance fees? Will this waterpark pay for itself? What hapens when it does not. More taxes or higher fees for using the PRPD.

The waterpark is not a $7,000,000 project it is a $10,600,000 project when you add in the next phase which includes the lazy river that 390+ survey respondents said they wanted. About $1,400,000 of the project is to tear down trees to create 80 parking spots and to deal with flooding issues in the park. So we have a $9,200,000 waterpark that should have gone to referendum.

Your figure of $6,000,000 for replacement of the pools as is is from where. The PPRD board admitted that they failed to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities when they did not even consider any other alternatives for the site – including replacing the pools in the same footprint. When asked this question at one of the dog and pony shows the PRPD board held to make us think they care about the taxpayers opinions, a figure of $4,000,000 was used. So the PRPD decided to spend $9,200,000 instead of $4,000,000 for an outdoor waterpark usable about 90 days of the year barring any rain or cold weather.

Some taxpaying citizens are opposed to this waterpark because the PRPD already has $4,537,939 of outstanding debt as of the Dec. 31, 2011 audited financial statements. Add in the $6,300,000 of debt for the waterpark and back out retirements of debt and the PRPD will have about $8,800,000 of outstanding debt at the end of 2013 generating millions in interest cost. With an annual budget of just over $12,000,000 this amount of debt seems irresponsibly high.

Consider this debt load when the PRPD comes around in April 2013 and asks the taxpayers if they can borrow another $13,000,000 to buy a park. A park at which the Our Parks Legacy group is already telling the PRPD board what are acceptable uses of the park. First on their list – NO LIGHTS so no night time activity. So the PRPD wants to indebt the taxpayers to a total of $21,000,000 plus on an annual budget of $12,000,000? Irresponsible-especially when the PRPD generated only about $271,000 of profit in 2011.

Some taxpayers are opposed to this waterpark because it is not a priority for the town. There is really only one source of revenue for the taxing authorities on PR – the homeowner. Every service the PRPD provides is a want not a need. Our tax dollars need to be prioritized and an outdoor limited time use waterpark should not very high on the list.

Mr.Biagi stated that 100 to 200 people turned out for the three public meetings that were held in Nov and Dec-conveniently right during the heart of the holiday season when people are busy and distracted. But how many of those people showed up because Mr. Biagi sent out a threatening email to some taxpyaers saying that there is really only one question in his mind. Either PR wants an outdoor waterpark or not. His email stated in essence that if the taxpayers of PR did not support this waterpark idea then when the pools at Centennial fail then they will be demolished and there will be no pool at all at Centennial. So of course the taxpayers came out and shouted build the water park. They were threatened by the PRPD board president with potentially having no pool at Centennial at all.

Friends of the park stated it correctly. The PRPD played the taxpayers of PR as fools. There was never intend on their part to really ask the taxpayer what to do with the pools at Centennial. Gayle Mountcastle convinced the board a survey was all that was needed to be done to provide support for her resume building waterpark project. She followed the playbook-keep the cost under the referendum amount and vote on it in December. But the board’s responsibility is to question the paid staff and to look out for the taxpayers they represent. Think Dixon Illinois and their trusted employee.

SMR you are being unfair to Mr. Biagi. Anyone who knows him knows his and other board members’ concerns about just what specifics a vote on the current plan would indicate were reasonable and responsible. He went to some length on this blog to explain all of the various misguided data that a referendum vote confined to the current project might yield. Suggest you read it again. But whether you agree or not, all of you, stop listening to hate radio that says your elected officials are all fiends from hell. This is the United States of America, and your elected officials are your neighbors. Wishing you a happier new year in the democratic republic we all cherish.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If these elected officials wasted their own money the way they waste the taxpayers’, they wouldn’t be our neighbors because they couldn’t afford to live here.

Mr. Biagi, in his 8:09 a.m. post from yesterday, drafted a fine referendum question: “Do you authorize the Board to replace Centennial Pool at cost not to exceed the Board’s non-referendum bonding ceiling?” Unfortunately, the Munchkins’ contempt for the taxpayers and their fear of an unwanted outcome will keep that question off the ballot.

How foolish are we in Park Ridge ? Think about it. We have two water parks on both sides of town, one in Niles, one in Des Plaines. At the most it’s a ten minute car ride. Given this proximity, why does our Park District and citizenry need the debt, costs, risks, destruction/disruption of the existing park facilities ? I have taken my two children to Des Plaines twice. They loved it ! When I offered to take them a third time they declined. Been there done that, we are just as happy to swim at Centennial. Let Des Plaines and Niles have their costs, risks, debt and operating issues. We should look at those water parks not in envy but in relief that we don’t have to worry about the overhead associated with their operation. It’s almost a free ride folks!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly, but it’s even dumber than that, FOTP, because the new Centennial Pools will be a cheaper, cheesier, less-exciting version of what’s in Des Plaines – kind of like the “Edsel” of non-“water parks.”

Mr. Biagi ought to make a motion to reconsider his vote on the project with the recommendation that if such reconsideration is successful the Board should consider a non-binding referendum such as he restated.

2:07-I am being fair to Mr. Biagi. Please reread the email he sent out to those on his mailing list. I found it at http://www.parkridgepatch.com. In this commentary he states:

“In my mind, the sole question for the taxpayers of Park Ride is quite simple…do we or don’t we want outdoor pools in our city. If we don’t want them then the board should be planning for the demolition of the Centennial pools within the next year, given the significant mechanical and physical problems the current 58 year old pools face.

However, if the citizens feel that outdoor pools are an important fixture in our City, then we need to move forward on plans to bring a modern aquatics facility to Centennial Park.”

That reads like a threat to me. And it must of to those on his email list who got it because about 25 people stood up and spoke in favor of a pool at Centennial because they were led to believe there might be no pool at all. And if that is indeed the sole question for the citizens of Park Ridge then why didn’t Mr. Biagi and the rest of the PRPD board put the question to a referendum.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To be fair, Mr. Biagi was the only Board member even to suggest the possibility of a referendum, a suggestion the other 6 Munchkins treated like he had proposed devil worship. But he lost any influence over that issue when he didn’t call for a referendum as soon as the PRRPD got its report that the current Centennial Pools were toast – giving Mountcastle and the Munchkins a chance to start getting their non-referendum traction by spending money on surveys and designs.

Friends of the Park- Please change your name. You openly advocate AGAINST the park. I think it would be funny if they built 10-story condos outside your window on the site…then you can look at brick, instead of a tiny slide within a huge park.

I noticed today at Brickton Park, that some people look outside their yards and see SLIDES (ahhhh….the horror). Yes, right outside of their yards!! Poor homeowners. I mean who would think of such things, living NEXT TO a park. They aren’t even a matching color. How can they “stroll” through the park and enjoy themselves. I say we have a referendum to take them down. The kids can find slides somewhere else.

FOTP- You are the loud minority that needs realize that you are what’s hurting P.R. Instead of your wasting our density, I’d love to have someone who wants to invest in Park Ridge…and not to continue to enrich our neighboring towns lives. I guarantee if I run into you at Walgreens, you are equally as repugnant as you are in your opinions of this town and on this board. I feel bad that your children (that you say you have), have to look up to a person who lives in a town that he hates. I hope you teach them a better sense of community vs what you opine.

I give the Park Board credit. They have been demeaned by a few loud, rude, jerks for months, while just trying to help our city out. They volunteer their time ( a lot of it), only to have an obsessed “blogger” and his 3 or so of his friends post vicious, baseless attacks on them from their grey lives.

Leaders lead. A referendum for something within their power would be an easy way out for the gutless and a waste of time.

Speaking of gutless…read this bloggers posts. They are littered with personal attacks and name-calling. If he had an actual articulate thought, he wouldn’t have to be so low and creepy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Actually, we’d be willing to bet it’s folks like you who are the “loud minority…hurting P.R.” by your selfish demands, foolish tax-borrow-and-spend mentality, and the positively nitwitted idea that this kind of aquatic facility is an “investment” rather than an encumbrance on valuable public land. Unfortunately, we’ll never get to find out, Mountcastle’s Munchkins are terrified of an up/down referendum vote even though they could legally disregard it…IF they had more even a thimble of political courage among them.

Any fool can spend other people’s money, a fact that is proved day in and day out in Washington and Springfield – and that is being proved once again here in Park Ridge.

Since you’re such a tough guy/gal, however, why continue to hide your identity with all these anonymous comments? This “gutless” blogger will debate this Centennial Pool plan, advisory referendums, or any other local issue(s) with you any time, any place (within Park Ridge) – and give you 24 hours to draw a crowd.

Let us know when you grow a spine.

7:05-FOTP is indeed that-a friend of the park. A sane taxpayer worried about the economic future of this town rather than someone who wants what he/she wants right now even if we do not have the means to pay for it. Instant gratification and at what price. This waterpark plan has been rammed through by a PRPD staff and board who have failed in their responsibilities for which they are paid for and for which they were elected. This is a more than $10,000,000 plan and should have gone to referendum.

Let’s hope there are more FOTP who come out and speak against and vote against in April 2013 a PRPD referendum that wants to add another $13,000,000 to its already high debt load to buy a piece of land across from a park on an extreme end of PR whose use will be dictated by the Our Parks Legacy folks-another special interest group.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The way this project has been manipulated by Mountcastle and her Munchkins illustrates, at the local level, the 1833 lament of Supreme Court Justice and Constitutional scholar Joseph Story about our republican form of government generally: “Republics…fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.”

And the reason the “profligate” Munchkins don’t want an advisory referendum is because they are afraid that (to paraphrase Nelson Algren in “Chicago: City on the Make”) the voters might think there’s something fishy about the PRRPD giving them a water park with no tax increase.

Anonymous…I do not advocate “against the park”. I agree the pool needs to be replaced. I firmly believe that objective could be accomplished at costs considerably less than the $7.1 (first phase) to $13 million (for the second phase). Take note, that a documented replace as is option was never considered. Look at the design and footprint. If it were simply looking at a slide I would agree with you, but its not. A new parking lot is going to be built. A playground (with at least 10 or more years of life left) is going to be demolished,along with the Boche Ball courts, campfire site and finally a picnic area. Have your children ever used the playground and sanbox ? It is a shaded area, park district dollars were spent to update and fence off the area. Also that area is used constantly by a wide range of families. The current pool configuration takes care of 90% to 95% of the swimming needs. My children were life guards at Centennial. From a saftey standpoint the current isolated zero depth kiddy pool is a parents dream. Why, it is isolated and fenced, parents can easily watch their chidren, especially because there is only one entry and exit point. Their smaller children don’t run the risk of being caught up in older children’s games possible at the new waterpark. I’m not trying to stop progress but rather trying to preserve a quality/richness of enjoyment for the park.

Realize this, Park Ridge will never be a haven for recreation, nor should it be. What is great about Park Ridge is our location which gives us access to tremendous recreational area. Lake Michigan, the forest preserves with almost unlimited bike and running paths. Folks we are landlocked with high real estate taxes. We don’t have an available cornfield that can be purchased and recreationly developed. Ask yourself this Do we really need a Water Park and its associated costs and overhead located in the middle of a residential area ? It just does not make sense.

Finally if progress and property values (as I have heard board members state) in Park Ridge are defined by the presence of a water slide/waterpark,folks we are all in trouble.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, FOTP. There’s nothing you or anybody else can do to make this project into any kind of a winner, because it’s too cheap, cheesy and bland to be a long-term attraction for anybody other than the folks who already use the current Centennial pools.

And we have seen no evidence whatsoever that anything the Park District does or builds measurably increases our property values.

Three words for the Board –

NO NEW POOL.

No debate. Just don’t do it. It’s a BAD IDEA.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, it’s a GREAT IDEA…for people who not only can’t think outside the box, but can’t even think within the entire box. But the Park Board is already committed to this boondoggle, so focus your attention on the project they couldn’t do without a referendum.



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