If Wishes Were Restaurants, All Beggars Would Dine (Updated)


Tomorrow night (02.27.18) the City of Park Ridge Planning & Zoning Commission (“P&Z”) will hold a public hearing, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, on whether the owner of the Pickwick Theater Building – Pickwick Enterprises, LLC, reportedly owned by the Vlahakis Family – will be given a “special use” allowing a lease of the former Pickwick Restaurant (also f/k/a “The Pick”) for a Pearle Vision franchise.

We think an eye-care center would be a serious misuse of that space. But that’s beside the point.

What’s most important is whether enough evidence – not mere opinion but actual facts – will be presented at Tuesday night’s hearing to convince a majority of the P&Z commissioners that:

1. The establishment, maintenance and operation of the special use in the specific location proposed will not endanger the public health, safety or general welfare of any portion of the community;

2. The proposed special use is compatible with adjacent properties and other property within the immediate vicinity of the special use; and

3. The special use in the specific location proposed is consistent with the spirit and intent of the Zoning Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan.

Those are the points Pearle Vision and/or the landlord need to prove in order for P&Z to approve the special use.

Point 1 is a virtual given, and a finding on Point 2 also seems likely.

Where a Pearle Vision franchise is most vulnerable, however, appears to be on Point 3, given that the “spirit and intent” of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan is to support uses that will strengthen retail, restaurant and entertainment activities in that area.

FYI: A Pearle Vision franchise reportedly is considered a “service” business rather than a “retail” one. And we don’t see how a Pearle Vision franchise, or any eye care facility, will strengthen the area’s retail, restaurant or entertainment features.

But we also can’t ignore the fact that the last two restaurants in that space have failed; and the space has been vacant since July 2017, after the latest restaurant failed in less than a year.

Does that mean that a restaurant can’t succeed there? We can’t say.

The apparent lack of restaurateurs lining up to lease the space, however, suggests that maybe such a space poses more challenges than the folks carping from the cheap seats think when they question why it can’t house a Gibson’s, a Hackney’s, a Bobby’s Deerfield, a Rick Bayless or Lettuce restaurant, some un-named chain restaurant, an ice cream shop, a bar, a coffee co-op, a bakery, a brewery, an art school, some unidentified “small” or “mom and pop” businesses, or some unidentified “destination.”

Not surprisingly, the folks with all those swell ideas don’t seem to have two nickels to rub together. Or maybe they just don’t want to risk those nickels to turn those ideas into reality.

As the old saying might go in this situation: “If wishes were restaurants, all beggars would dine.”

We suspect that if any of the folks running their mouths had been willing to sign the same kind of lease as the Pearle Vision franchisee, the Vlahakis Family would have accepted it.

But like so many folks who prefer to watch the spending of Other People’s Money (“OPM”) rather than spend their own, the idea folks didn’t. And so the Vlahakis Family had to choose between a Pearle Vision and a whole lot of empty in the most prominent storefront in town.

And how did the all-talk-no-cash folks respond? Some of them chose to rip the Vlahakis Family for being…wait for it…“greedy” because they chose a real live tenant over leaving the space empty in the hope that a dream tenant might materialize.

Worse yet, one of the loudest carpers, Dena Lucy, went so far as to suggest (over this past weekend, as a comment to Terry Flynn’s 02.11.2018 post on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page) that a decision by P&Z in favor of Pearle would be the product of some unspecified “corruption.”

Over the years we have disagreed with some P&Z decisions, occasionally with vigor. But we have never seen any evidence of what could reasonably be viewed as “corruption” – just different viewpoints and philosophies of government.

So we hope Ms. Lucy will show up tomorrow night and provide exquisite details of her “corruption” charge at the beginning of the hearing, so that everyone watching those proceedings can be on the lookout for the “fix” and who’s involved in it

But don’t bet on her doing so. Even in a political cesspool like Illinois, it’s a lot easier to claim “corruption” than to prove it.

Updated 02.28.2017. Last night the P&Z denied a somewhat half-hearted effort by the Pickwick’s landlord and a Pearle Vision franchisee to get a special use permit to run an optical service business out of a space intended for restaurant/retail/entertainment. Apparently the “corruption” that was supposed to swing this deal for the Pearle franchisee and the “greedy” Vlahakis family never materialized.


Should the permit-seekers wish to pursue the matter, their next stop would be an appeal of the P&Z decision to the City Council. From the look and sound of things, however, that doesn’t seem all that likely.

So now we look forward to those unidentified restaurateurs – who allegedly want the space but were beaten to the punch by the Pearle Vision franchisee – coming forward with whatever grand plan(s) they have for that restaurant space.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Florida School Shooting Should Not Panic Park Ridge


One of the more detestable politicians, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, infamously said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

It appears that some Park Ridge residents subscribe to Rahm’s philosophy, judging from the February 15 post by Lauren Hall on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners FB page in response to last week’s St. Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Hall’s opening salvo: “Has safety taken a higher priority yet? Perhaps the one vestibule project was too expensive but now what?”

She appears to be referring to Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, which has installed allegedly “secured vestibules” at its Washington Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools but has delayed their installation at the District’s other schools because one or more School Board members might dare to think that our schools are already reasonably secure; and that the District’s limited resources should be spent on…wait for it…education.

The nerve of them!

We suggest you read that post and the string of comments it provoked, which run the gamut from “[W]hy would test scores be a higher [priority than safety] if our kids are dead?” and “I’m not going to complain about the cost of any safety measure if it may save even one life” to “How do you protect against the kid…who carries a gun into school in his/her backpack?” and “If someone wants to commit an atrocity like [the Florida shooting] a vestibule is a false sense of security.”

After you’ve finished, ask yourself: Will a motivated shooter – which each of these school shooters is – be deterred by (a) the not-really-secured vestibules this blog has ripped on several occasions, most recently in our 07.21.2017 post, or by (b) the School Resource Officers (“SROs”) proposed for Emerson and Lincoln middle schools, which we criticized in our o8.31.2017 post? (And, BTW, that Florida high school had an SRO on duty at the time).

If your answer is “Yes,” then answer the trenchant budgetary question posed by Toni Wolf that appears fairly early in that string of comments:

“What are you willing to get rid of or reduce to pay for vestibules?”

Not surprisingly, virtually all of the commentators ignored that question.

Instead, some applauded the vestibules at Washington and Lincoln for giving the folks manning the school office a clear view of everybody who enters the school. But unless those office folks have Superman’s x-ray vision they can’t see the collapsed-stock AR-15 or the MAC-10 in the disturbed kid’s backpack. Or the AR-15 stuck down the pants of some whacked-out dad showing up for a Science Olympiad. Or the Glock with a 30-round clip (and a spare?) in the Dooney & Bourke tote of a looney mom attending a holiday program.

What might prevent those dangers? Metal detectors would help, assuming they would be manned by competent operators and would actually be used all day, every day – even on rainy ones when the line of kids going through them backs up and stretches out the door, ironically providing a prospective shooter with an inviting target in its own right. Metal detectors also wouldn’t stop a shooter from targeting kids on the playground at recess, or leaving school at day’s end.

Fortunately, despite the wailing and hand-wringing of certain Concerned Homeowners, the chances of any of our children dying (or even being wounded) by gunfire anywhere in our community are probably about the same as the chances of any of them dying from a plane slamming into Maine South, a catastrophe certain residents have been warning about since Flight 191 crashed after take-off from O’Hare in May 1979.

That’s a good thing, although apparently not good enough for the Chicken Little brigade.

One of our more revered presidents (at least in some circles), Franklin D. Roosevelt, famously said: “[T]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Unfortunately, too many of our residents seem almost addicted not merely to fear but to phobia – a phobia that too often seems to be assuaged only by the irresponsible wasting of the taxpayers’ money on snake oil palliatives that enrich fear-mongering security consultants like RETA Security, Inc. that has been advising D-64.

And architects like FGM who happily, and profitably, re-design our schools.

To read or post comments, click on title.

It’s Not The Event But The Cover-Up


In our previous post we wrote about how the Maine Township Assessor, Susan Moylan-Krey, doesn’t really assess anything but nevertheless runs at least a five-person office (herself included), and how she has crossed swords with The Reformers – new Trustees Dave Carrabotta, Claire McKenzie and Susan Sweeney – over whether the non-assessor’s job truly requires the 1,000 hours annually needed to qualify for one of those sweetheart public pensions.

Today we shed some light on how that battle has been waged – not only outside the public’s view, but also outside The Reformers’ view – by Moylan-Krey and Supervisor Lauren Morask, primarily through correspondence with the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (“IMRF”).

After The Reformers refused in August 2017 to certify that the non-assessing Assessor’s position requires 1,000+ hours of work per year, Township “Bookkeeper” Denise Jajko e-mailed the IMRF’s then-general counsel, Kathy O’Brien, to inquire about Moylan-Krey’s appealing the non-certification and getting back on the pension contribution rolls. That inquiry set off a string of telephone calls and e-mails among O’Brien, Morask and Moylan-Krey from September 2017 into January 2018, some of which Township attorney Dan Dowd was copied on.

But guess what?

Nobody apparently advised The Reformers about the appeal until Morask finally provided them with a copy of her November 20, 2017 e-mail string containing the IMRF’s confirmation that Moylan-Krey’s appeal was successful – but not until the January 23, 2018 Board meeting, two months after she received that confirmation e-mail.

In other words, Morask, Moylan-Krey and attorney Dowd withheld from The Reformers all information regarding Moylan-Krey’s IMRF appeal not only during its two-month pendency but, also, for an additional two months AFTER the appeal had been adjudicated in Moylan-Krey’s favor – and her pension contributions had been reinstated at their customary rate of the Township (a/k/a, the taxpayers) matching Moylan-Krey’s monthly contribution by a ratio of more than 2.65 to 1.

Can you say “Unethical, dishonest and sleazy political gamesmanship”?

Of course you can!

Not until one of The Reformers, McKenzie, contacted IMRF and explained how Moylan-Krey’s situation had been concealed from The Reformers – and arguably misrepresented by Morask, et al. – did the IMRF’s new general counsel, in a January 26, 2018 letter, conclude that “all members of the Maine Township Governing Body have not been adequately informed of the IMRF administrative inquiries and decisions”; and that the Board, presumably acting through The Reformers’ majority, can appeal the results of Moylan-Krey’s secret appeal.

The seeming conspiracy of silence by Morask/Moylan-Krey/Dowd reeks so badly on so many levels that it’s hard to imagine how any of them could muster the chutzpah to continue in their respective positions. But from everything we’ve seen, heard and read about those three, they are nothing if not shameless when it comes to preserving their hegemony over the Township fiefdom.

Maybe it’s because Morask has been feeding at the Township trough for 17 years, while Moylan-Krey has spent the last 12 years rubbing elbows with her there. That kind of tenure generates an air of invincible entitlement that may explain why the fact that both of them have full-time private-sector jobs – Morask as a criminal trial attorney and principle in the Law Offices of Laura J. Morask, Moylan-Krey as a RE broker with Century 21 Langos & Christian – did not cause them even a fleeting concern about how incredible it looks for each of them to claim that their Township position requires at least 1,000 hours a year.

Instead, they appear to be blithely doubling down on their claims, challenging The Reformers to prove the negative: That those Township positions don’t require 1,000 hours.

Hopefully, the IMRF and its new general counsel see through that ruse.

And Dowd? He’s been the Township’s attorney since he was appointed – without any bidding or request for proposal – in 1994. Township paychecks have become like an annuity for him since the days when the likes of Mark Thompson, Gary Warner, Bob Provenzano, Carol Teschky and Bob Dudycz owned Maine Township government. Dowd knows on which side his bread is buttered, and by whom.

And he knows it’s not by The Reformers. Hence, his deafening silence about Moylan-Krey’s under-the-radar appeal.

Unfortunately, such perverse tenure virtually guarantees that Morask, Moylan-Krey and Dowd will not just slink away after being caught with their hands in the IMRF cookie jar.

But it should be interesting to see how much of a shelling those three take if/when the IMRF gets around to considering both sides of the Moylan-Krey issue, not just Moylan-Krey’s (and Morask’s) side presented while The Reformers were kept in the dark.

Hopefully the IMRF will demand that Moylan-Krey actually prove, with real evidence and not just the typical bunch of warm-and-fuzzy anecdotes, that the duties of her non-assessing Assessor’s job require 1,000 hours or more to perform, especially given that her office employs at least four deputy non-assessors; and given her self-proclaimed status as “a full time real estate professional.”

The same goes for Morask, whose criminal trial practice would similarly appear to be incompatible with a Supervisor’s position whose duties require 1,000 hours to perform.

As for Dowd, we can’t wait to hear him explain, on the record, whether his failure to report Moylan-Krey’s appeal to the full Township Board – including The Reformers – was the product of dishonesty, blatant favoritism, incompetence, or (with a nod to the late great Mike Royko) “aggravated mopery with intent to gawk.” Whichever explanation it turns out to be, however, this sordid situation is a clear indication that Dowd has outlived his Township annuity.

Exactly how much we taxpayers hear about these IMRF proceedings, however, will depend on whether The Reformers have finally and fully removed their training wheels and are willing to insist upon the kind of transparency and accountability that have been anathema to Morask, et al. and their predecessors for at least the past two decades. 

Meanwhile, attorneys Morask and Dowd should remember one of the lasting lessons of Watergate, as articulated by the late Tennessee Senator (and attorney) Howard Baker:

“It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

Susan Moylan-Krey: The Maine Township Non-Assessor


Only two weeks ago we wrote our first-ever post about the Bizarro World of Maine Township government where (with apologies to Ray Davies and his iconic “Lola”): “Rs will be Ds and Ds will be Rs, it’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world” that, at least here in Illinois, Tribune columnist John Kass has dubbed “The Combine.”

The Combine is populated by politicians like Maine Twp. Supervisor Laura Morask and Assessor Susan Moylan-Krey, two RINOs who support more-and-bigger Township government.

Recently they and their questionable (if not outright profligate) style of government have been challenged for the first time by new trustees Dave Carrabotta, Claire McKenzie and Susan Sweeney, whom we’ve dubbed, collectively, “The Reformers” because they have refused to mindlessly rubber-stamp whatever Morask, Moylan-Krey and the other Township officials shove in front of them.

For example, at the August 22, 2017 Township Board meeting they refused to certify that the Township Assessor position required at least 1,000 hours of work per year, thereby entitling Moylan-Krey to continued participation in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (“IMRF”) pension program. For those of you who may not have been paying attention, the IMRF is one of those Cadillac public-sector pension plans whose defined benefits are guaranteed by Illinois taxpayers because of a sweetheart provision inserted into the Illinois constitution in 1970.

Moylan-Krey stated under oath that the Assessor’s position required 1,000 hours of work. That’s an average of 20 hours/week for 50 weeks a year, assuming two weeks of vacation. In typically non-transparent, unaccountable Illinois bureaucrat fashion, however, she failed to supply any evidence of why 1,000 hours were needed for that position.

Why shouldn’t The Reformers have trusted her sworn statement?

Let’s start with the fact that the Maine Township Assessor does not appear to actually “assess” anything. As we understand it, all property assessments in Maine Township are done by the County Assessor.

If Moylan-Krey doesn’t do any assessing, what exactly are her job functions, and those of her office?

According to the Assessor’s profile on the Maine Township website: “The main role of the Assessor’s office is to serve our residents.” Seriously, it really says that – which is why we embedded it so you could see for yourself, before they change it.

Have you ever seen a more disingenuously nebulous description of what a bunch of bureaucrats do than “serve our residents”? We know we haven’t, and we’ve been paying attention for quite a long time.

But, as legendary t.v. pitchman Ron Popeil might say: There’s more!

In addition to Moylan-Krey, the Township – meaning we, the Township taxpayers – employs at least four other folks with the title of “Deputy Assessor,” according to the Maine Township Staff Directory. That sure seems like a lot of payrollers in an Assessor’s office that does no assessing.

And it gets even better – or worse, depending on your perspective.

Although Moylan-Krey claims that the Assessor’s position that does no assessing requires at least 1,000 hours of work (Remember: 20 hours/week for 50 weeks), and that she personally puts in more than 1,000 hours a year, Moylan-Krey’s “Personal Profile” on the Century 21 Langos & Christian website trumpets her as “a full time real estate professional…fully committed to serving the needs and interests of both sellers and buyers in all aspects of residential real estate.”

So even though Assessor Moylan-Krey doesn’t do any assessing, Broker Moylan-Krey apparently does sell real estate, full time.

Does Century 21 Langos & Christian have a defined-benefit pension plan as good as, or better than, the Township’s IMRF plan? We highly doubt it, which might explain why Moylan-Krey – with the rock-solid backing of Morask – is fighting tooth and nail to have the IMRF over-ride The Reformers’ refusal to certify the non-assessing Assessor’s position as requiring 1,000 hours of annual work.

We’ll tell you more about that IMRF battle in our next post.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Moving In The Right Direction – Albeit Too Slowly – On SRO Program


Contrary to the collective belief of our critics, we actually enjoy writing about our public officials doing good things, or at least not screwing up.

Today is one of those few days we get to do that.

The reason?

A Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article reports that three members of the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 School Board are re-thinking their previous support for what appears to be a highly-suspect plan to put Park Ridge Police officers in both D-64 middle schools on a part-time basis in the guise of “School Resource Officers,” or “SRO”s. (“District 64 board members reconsider placing resource officers at middle schools,” Jan. 30).

Before you get your hopes up that this SRO idea is heading for the ash can, however, we must warn you that while Board vice-president Rick Biagi, member Fred Sanchez and member Eastman Tiu reportedly had this epiphany after reading the well-written 36-page “Report & Recommendations” (the “Report”) about SROs by the law firm of Ekl, Williams & Provenzale (the “EWP Report”), they remain one member short of a Board majority.

We encourage you to read the entire EWP Report so that you can appreciate just how impetuous the Board and Administration appears to have been in their rush to implement an SRO program that: (a) fails to reconcile or even properly consider the conflicting “police” and “educator” roles of the SRO and the nature of any SRO intervention; (b) lacks any specific training requirements for the SROs; (c) lacks not only some of the most basic data to justify adopting such a program but, perhaps more importantly, lacks any data collection plan on a going-forward basis by which to evaluate the program; and (d) lacks even a “Mission Statement” or “Memorandum of Understanding” identifying for the D-64 Administration, the PRPD, the parents of D-64 students and the taxpayers exactly what problems the SRO program is supposed to address.

If the motto of “This Old House” is “Measure twice, cut once,” D-64’s and the Police Department’s motto for the SRO program so far appears to be: “Put away that damned yardstick and pass the chain saw!”

Since the Board previously voiced unanimous support for the SRO program, we can only wonder whether members Mark Eggemann and Larry Ryles might still be drinking the SRO Kool-Aid. But no guessing is necessary for Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and Board secretary “Tilted Kilt Tommy” Sotos, whose comments as reported in the H-A article suggest they both are on their second Big Gulp.

Borrelli, the sock-puppet of Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, continues to laud the SRO pilot program as having “a lot of merit”– without explaining exactly what that alleged “merit” consists of, other than 8-10 hours per week (out of approximately 35 school hours per week) of soft duty in a clean, well-lighted place for whatever police officers are lucky enough to get it.

And Sotos? He still “really support[s] the SRO program” – for reasons also not explained in the H-A article or that can be ascertained from watching the SRO portion of the January 22, 2018 Board meeting video.

But if you think you can tolerate more spun saccharine than you’d find in a cotton candy factory, read the SRO program’s eight “objectives” on page 2 of Heinz’s SRO memo for the D-64 Board’s January 22, 2018 meeting and then ask yourself: “How are they going to measure whether, and to what degree, any of those objectives have been achieved?”

If you answered “by using unverifiable warm-and-fuzzy anecdotes,” you’re a winner.

After reading the EWP Report we still have the same questions and objections we raised in our o8.31.2017 and 12.29.2017 posts, starting with: Is there really a need for stationing police officers in our schools – officers who are bound by oath to enforce child pornography (e.g., sexting-by-minors) laws, drug and underage alcohol laws, and underage smoking/vaping laws – but expecting them to behave like glorified counselors or home-room teachers?

Unfortunately, the three newly-enlightened Board members don’t yet appear quite ready to call for an end to further time-wasting discussions of the misbegotten SRO program even though it becomes clearer and clearer that (as we wrote in that 12.29.2017 post) “the real reason the SROs are being brought in is because the teachers and/or administrators at those schools aren’t willing or capable of maintaining order and discipline when left to their own devices” – especially when D-64 needs to create distractions from things like test scores and other measures of academic achievement (like ratings and rankings) which suggest that the teaching and administrating being done is neither worth its high cost nor competitive with the schools in comparable communities:

“What do you mean our academics aren’t as good as they should be? Look at that wonderful million-dollar secured vestibule…and let me introduce you to our new SRO.”

According to Pages 7-8 of the EWP Report: “[T]here is no data that correlates the presence of an SRO to a reduction in…[shooting] incidents” or “to lower instances of weapons, drugs and violence within a school….”

So instead of wasting more time, effort and money on an unnecessary SRO program, the D-64 Board should focus on improving the quality of the expensive education provided to its students, and especially those special needs students whose treatment by the Administration has sparked what seems to be justifiable concern, if not outrage.

If D-64 middle-school students – basically 13 and 14 year olds – can’t reasonably be controlled by the teachers and administrators during school hours, that’s a failure of the teachers and administrators; and a failure of the students’ parents.

Let’s not compound those failures with s half-baked, wrong-headed SRO program.

To read or post comments, click on title.