Salons, Sushi And Banks, Oh My!


Not all that many years ago the most consistent comment about Park Ridge, especially its Uptown business district, was criticism of the lack of commercial and retail tenants to occupy the vacant storefronts.

Not anymore. Today’s laments now run toward the kinds of businessses: too many salons, sushi restaurants and banks. And those laments are not totally unjustified.

According to an article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“New hair salon proposed for Uptown Park Ridge,” Nov. 25), 16 addresses in the Uptown area are listed as the sites of hair salons or barber shops. We don’t know if that includes the ubiquitous nail salons, but you get the picture.

We also count 4 sushi restaurants in Uptown, not including the grab-and-go sushi available at Whole Foods and Jewel on Uptown’s periphery.

And by our count Park Ridge is home to 13 banks, with the prospect of yet another one going in next to the new Walgreen’s at South Park’s Talcott Terrace shopping center – a prospect that has already met with criticism by residents who have a variety of preferential businesses but no interest in putting their own money where their mouths are.

Then there also are some business owners who don’t like the idea of competition. Or at least not when that competition moves in next door, or even down the block. Those businesses would like our City government to step in and protect them from competition by every way imaginable, including by denying the new competitors business licenses.

But as the interim director of community preservation and development noted: “Competition should not be a consideration” in business licensing decisions.

One of the tenets of capitalism, credited to Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, is “creative destruction” – where new ideas, products and services are constantly rising from the ashes of the old. A classic example is the buggy whip, the manufacturers of which went out of business as horse-and-buggy transportation was replaced by automobiles. More recently, we have seen video stores – which employed approximately 175,000 people a decade ago – extinguished by Redbox, Netflix and streaming video.

The folks who don’t want another bank in South Park, or another salon in the 100 block of Vine Avenue, or another sushi restaurant in Uptown, have every right to object. But those objections should not trump the initiative of entrepreneurs willing to risk their time, money and effort in a new business – whether it be a bank, salon or sushi parlor; and whether it be next door or down the street from a competitor.

From the sound of their comments, some Park Ridge residents (and non-resident Park Ridge business owners?) would prefer that the City engage in a little Soviet-style central planning. You know, the kind where the government puts its public thumb on the scale either by refusing to license competitors or by giving economic “incentives” (i.e., bribes) to certain preferred businesses.

A decade or so ago, a clown-car city council with an uber-clown mayor at the wheel did just that: It wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars giving a few preferred Uptown building owners money for “façade improvements” that produced no measurable ROI (Return On Investment) for the City. And then those same alderdopes fattened the wallets of the Uptown redeveloper by irresponsibly borrowing (i.e., issuing non-referendum General Obligation bonds) tens of millions of dollars which they then irresponsibly “invested” in the Uptown project (also without a referendum) that guaranteed them no additional control of the project and no ROI.

The debt from that non-performing “investment” crushed the City’s finances from 2008 through 2014, and remains a multi-million dollar drain on the revenues the City collects from its taxpayers.

Fortunately, the clowns were swept out of office by Mayor Schmidt and his supporters who believed in letting the free market do its thing. So when the developer working with Whole Foods (Lance Chody, also owner of Garrett’s Popcorn) demanded that the City provide almost $3 million of sales tax revenue-sharing as an “incentive” (a/k/a, a bribe) to do the deal, Mayor Dave and that council wisely called his bluff with spot-on reasoning: If WF needs a multi-million dollar bribe to locate in Park Ridge, they should look elsewhere.

Two weeks later the developer and/or WF folded, leaving Park Ridge and its taxpayers $3 million richer. And since then, WF has been joined by Mariano’s, FFC Fitness, Holt’s, Harp & Fiddle, Shakou and other small businesses willing to take the risk of marketplace competition.

It should come as no surprise that the entrepreneur looking to open the hair salon on Vine is Frank Ernesto, who currently has two businesses on Main Street – Gumba Joe’s and F. J. Ernesto’s – and was a long-time fixture in South Park as the proprietor of Sonny’s restaurant. Here’s a guy who, having made a long term commitment to our business community, suddenly is being vilified for taking the risk of starting yet another business…in an area where his competition is already established.

We need more of that spirit, not less.

As for those who still keep drinking that “Why can’t we get national retailers?” Kool-Aid, a little history lesson is in order.

When that clown-car council was in hot pursuit of Uptown Redevelopment we were told that, if we built that new retail space, the likes of upscale Crate & Barrel, Ann Taylor, The Gap and Barnes & Noble would come. But even before that space was finished, all we had were down-sized Chico’s, Joseph A. Banks and Trader Joe’s. And big-time retailer interest was so low that 15,000 square feet of planned retail space was redesigned into more condos.

Four years ago a mayoral candidate talked about attracting the likes of Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor, Forever 21 and GameStop. None of them came knocking, either.

Now a reported potential mayoral candidate, apparently slugging down the same Kool-Aid, is talking about Pottery Barn.

The bottom line is that these “national retailers” know what markets they want, where they want to be, and why. They decide on Park Ridge, not the other way around. And until they decide they want to be here because here’s where they can make good money, there’s virtually nothing the City can do about it.

Unless you consider offering multi-million dollar bribes a “marketing strategy.”

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Hail To The Champions!


As readers of this blog know, one of our favorite quotes is that of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.”

Tonight that lesson was demonstrated, in spades, by the Maine South Hawks football team, which capped a most unusual season – for Maine South, at least – with the ultimate achievement: The state Class 8A championship.

The Hawks’ hard-fought, uber-exciting 27-17 victory over the Loyola Academy Ramblers avenged their early-season 44-43 loss to the Ramblers with what was a “team” victory in the truest sense of the word.

To paraphrase a line from the Wes Mantooth character in the movie “Anchorman”: “Today we spell ‘redemption’… H-A-W-K-S.”

To the players, coaches and everyone associated with the team: Bravo!

You’ve done Park Ridge proud. Again.

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State Of Illinois And Dist. 207 Playing “Ready Or Not” With Students And Taxes


We tend to pay less attention to Maine Twp. High School District 207 than to its partner in educational crime, Park Ridge-Niles School District 64. But an article in this week’s Park Ridge Journal with the headline “Measuring ‘College Readiness’ No Easy Task In Dist. 207” (11.10.16) provides some unwelcome data that, unfortunately, highlights concerns we’ve been expressing for years.

Once the reader wades through various examples of the State of Illinois’ educational chaos, one significant point becomes clear: Illinois can’t seem to implement any type of uniform testing standards that enable discriminating parents (and education critics) to make meaningful comparisons of school districts, or of individual schools from different districts.

How bloody convenient…for an educational system that has spent decades pandering to the Illinois Education Association by shielding teachers and administrators alike from any meaningful accountability for the ongoing underachievement of their students.

According to the Journal article, the state average of high school juniors (11th graders) ready for the “next level” (Senior year? College?) is 39.2%. Maine South students’ readiness is 43.3%, while Maine East’s is 36.9% and Maine West’s is 35.7%. In other words, less than half of Maine South’s juniors are ready for either senior year or college; and East’s and West’s actually are below the state average.

Should taxpayers who pay approximately one-third of their RE taxes to D-207 find those readiness levels acceptable, especially considering that a District 207 education is reportedly among the most costly in the state at over $17,000/pupil/year?

Only if you like paying filet mignon prices for butt steak.

It’s understandable, however, that those taxpayers paying $5,000 of RE taxes to D-207 for $17,000 (or $34,000, or $51,000, depending on the number of students) of Maine South education might be a bit more sanguine about it than those taxpayers without students getting those benefits, or those taxpayers paying between $12,000 and $16,000 of after-tax dollars to send their kid to St. Ignatius, Loyola, or Resurrection – while also paying their $5,000 to D-207.

Of course, adding those private/parochial students to Maine South’s enrollment would drive D-207’s costs, and the taxpayers’ bills even higher. But that’s a topic for another discussion.

The article also references a “freshman on track” measurement, allegedly gauging student performance after one year in high school. The reported statewide average for that benchmark is a surprising 82.4%, with Maine South freshmen registering a 95% average, Maine East 94%, and Maine West 89.1%.

But let’s stop and think about that for a minute.

Assuming any of these numbers are even marginally credible – an assumption made at your own risk – it would appear that students statewide go from an 82.4% “on track” average at the freshman level down to a 39.2% average for “next level” readiness by spring of their junior year. And at D-207’s flagship school, Maine South, the “on track” to “next level” readiness plummets a stunning 50% – from 95% to 43.3%!

That free fall is occurring despite whatever advantages might come with an enrollment that is 86% white, a mere 8% low income, a tiny 1 % of English learners (formerly ESL/English as a Second Language), albeit with 13% reportedly having some type of “disability.”

Perhaps because of these semi-disastrous scores, it was decreed from on high (Springfield?) that, for 2016 evaluation purposes, any student scoring 21 or above on the ACT is “college ready” – although not necessarily ready for the “next level”? – and the state norm based on this standard was 45% of all seniors. By this alternate one-year measure, Maine South scored a 77%.

Huzzah! Or with props to the late great Leonard Cohen: “Hallelujah!”

So pay no attention to the 23% of Maine South students who don’t meet this latest, and lowest, standard of readiness. Or the 56.7% of them who aren’t ready for the “next level.”

Given the Illinois public education establishment’s fun-with-numbers approach to measuring achievement, we suspect those folks in Springfield will be coming up with yet another set of benchmarks – and generating new false hopes – any day now.

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Election Day 2016: Just Say “No!” To Madigan, Democrats


We do our best to avoid government and politics outside the friendly confines of Park Ridge, if for no reason other than partisan state politics makes us even more nauseous than thinking and writing about Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.

But today is election day and we feel obligated to say something about our local races.

Michael Madigan first took his seat in the Illinois House of Representatives in 1971. Richard Nixon was president. The governor was a one-term Republican named Richard B. Ogilvie, who sponsored this state’s first income tax. And Illinois was among the top 15 most prosperous states in the Union.

Over the next 45 years, while Ogilvie and his RINO successors – “Big Jim” Thompson (1977-1991), “Slim Jim” Edgar (1991-1999) and George “No. 16627-424” Ryan (1999-2003) – eagerly jumped into bed with Madigan to form and perpetuate the “Illinois Combine” that has raped Illinois’ economy and stolen its soul, Madigan remained the single constant.

Elected Speaker in 1983, Madigan has held that position ever since, except for two years (1995-1997) when the Democrats lost their House majority. Meanwhile, he has grown enormously wealthy through a law practice that specializes in getting huge property tax breaks for big business, shifting the tax burden from them onto the rest of us.

During his 31 years as Speaker and the single most powerful official in Illinois, our state has plummeted from its Top 15 ranking to battling California for 49th place.

Yet the sheeple of Illinois have kept Madigan in the Speaker’s chair by consistently electing his Democrat stooges like state representative Marty Moylan to preserve Madigan’s House majority. And they also have enabled Madigan to extend his control to the Illinois Senate through his sock puppet, Senate president John Cullerton, by electing and appointing Democrat stooges like state senator Laura Murphy.

Regular readers of this blog know that one of our favorite quotes, attributed to Albert Einstein, is the definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If Illinois is ever to climb out of its sinkhole 45 years in the making, someday its voters need to stop empowering the one man arguably most responsible for digging that hole.

Today’s that day.

Just say “No!” to Madigan by just saying “No!” to his Democrats.

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Weasels Usually Blame Their Lawyers


Our previous post dealt with some of the lies told to us by our alleged elected “representatives” on the School Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64. Today we are focusing on just one of them, uttered by no less than Board president Tony “Not really the Boss” (because Supt. Heinz really runs the show) Borrelli.

Borrelli said this about the consequences had the Board published the new PREA contract to the taxpayers before the Board approved it: “The District would most definitely be on the wrong side of any adjudication to [sic] either a ULP or grievance of these issues with resulting fines, fees and penalties incurred.”

“Liar, liar, pants on fire” doesn’t begin to capture the outright dishonesty of that comment, which Borrelli attributed to advice from the District’s attorneys – because weasels usually blame their lawyers.

Not surprisingly, Borrelli offered no written opinion those attorneys so taxpayers could know, in the first instance, whether Borrelli is even telling the truth about that advice; and, if so, letting that opinion be subjected to taxpayer scrutiny.

That’s because Borrelli and the rest of his lemming Board members are blatantly anti-transparency and equally anti-accountability. They scurry off into closed sessions more frequently than any other local governmental body, with the possible exception of the Maine Township High School District 207 Board – whose members share D-64’s obsession with hiding the truth from its taxpayers. So the D-64 Board’s hiding behind the alleged advice of counsel is the most convenient, and most cowardly, way to justify such a lack of transparency.

As best as we can tell, Borrelli’s alibi is either an outright lie or bad legal advice – starting with the actual language of the 2012 PREA contract under which the most recent negotiations were conducted which reads as follows:

  1. Progress Reports.   General progress reports may be issued during negotiations to the Association or Board. Public releases must have prior mutual consent until either the Board or the PREA declares impasse or submits to mediation. After a declaration of impasse, public releases or statements may be made without mutual consent provided the other party is given 48 hours’ advance notice. Subsequent releases or statements do not require either party to provide notice to the other party. Final offers must be made pursuant to the requirements of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.

Nothing in that provision even addresses when a tentative agreement, such as the one Borrelli announced on August 22 as having been reached by the District and the PREA, can or cannot be published. And we could find nothing In the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act (the “IERLA,” 115 ILCS 5) – the statute that governs school district employee disputes – which prohibits a school district or an individual school board member from publishing a tentative agreement before it is ratified by the PREA or approved by the Board.

So Borrelli’s alibi appears to be a lie even at its most basic threshold level.

But there’s more.

Even if any of the feckless members of the D-64 Board were to have suddenly grown a spine and mustered the honesty and integrity necessary to publish the tentative agreement to the taxpayers back in August or early September, the consequences to the District would appear to be…nothing!

Contrary to Borrelli’s dire-but-idle warnings of “fines, fees and penalties” clearly intended to squelch any dissent, nothing would have happened unless and until the PREA filed a ULP or grievance against the District. And if the PREA did so, that would confirm what we already suspect: that the PREA and its member teachers were terrified of the taxpayers finding out the sweetheart terms of the new contract before it becomes a done deal.

So what?

Under 115 ILCS 5/15, all the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board can do in response to a ULP filing is to hold a hearing and, if warranted, enter a cease and desist (“C&D”) order basically saying: “Don’t do that again.”


And while the IELR Board can award “an appropriate sanction” which “may include an order to pay the other party or parties’ reasonable expenses including costs and reasonable attorney’s fees,” that sanction appears to be available only if D-64 makes allegations or denials “without reasonable cause and found to be untrue or has engaged in frivolous litigation for the purpose of delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation….” 115 ILCS 5/15.

In other words, there could have been no “fines, fees and penalties” assessed against D-64 (a/k/a the taxpayers) unless the District acted frivolously and/or irresponsibly.

Although frivolous and irresponsible is this Board’s standard M.O., hopefully its attorneys would prevent this Board’s members from either lying or bumbling into sanctionable conduct. And we suspect the foregoing analysis is pretty close to what the District’s attorneys would have furnished Borrelli and the lemmings – assuming they had actually asked the attorneys for a written legal opinion. But we’re betting no such opinion was even requested.

Because Borrelli and the other lemmings on the Board knew exactly what they wanted to do with this new PREA contract and how they wanted to do it. And the last thing they wanted was anybody – not the District’s attorneys and most certainly not its taxpayers – advising otherwise.

Arrogant cowards holding elective office never do.

And weasels usually blame their lawyers.

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