Public Watchdog.org

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

12.04.18

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

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

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

We think that’s great!

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

What could be wrong with that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hail and farewell, Jim.

To read or post comments, click on title.

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

11.20.18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read or post comments, click on title.

Former D-207 Board President Ed Mueller: Profile In Courage

11.02.18

For all you readers who haven’t yet voted, this coming Tuesday (November 6) is when the rubber meets the road on the Maine Twp. H.S. Dist. 207 referendum.

That’s the one where Supt. Ken “Sno-Job” Wallace and his 7 Dwarfs (the 7-member D-207 Board of education) want us to vote to enable them to borrow $195 Million – at a total repayment cost, with interest, of approximately $300 Million – and spend that $195 Million plus another $45 Million of cash on hand to do a laundry list of projects on all three schools.

In our 08.24.2018 post and our 08.31.2018 post we wrote about how this grand tax/borrow/spend plan is, basically, a scam by Snow-Job and the Dwarfs to stampede us taxpayers into giving them hundreds of millions without any itemization of the costs of any of the individual projects, or even on a per-school basis, and no prioritization – because they don’t want us taxpayers distinguishing between what is actually needed and what is merely wanted, or between what is grossly neglected maintenance/repair and what amounts to new fluff.

And don’t forget how Snow-Job and the Dwarfs have wasted $115,000 of our tax dollars to hire the public relations services of bond underwriter George K. Baum & Company (“Baum”), public relations pollster Public Opinion Strategies (“POS”) and focus group facilitator/manipulator Minding Your Business (“MYB”) to bombard us with their slick videos, misleading surveys and misleading FAQs, all for the purpose of bamboozling a majority of D-207 voters into voting for this boondoggle.

Meanwhile, during Wallace’s 9-year tenure as superintendent, the rankings of our schools have dropped to the point where U.S. News & World Reports did not even rank Maine South in either 2017 or 2018 because it is so underperforming its demographic profile.

But this referendum isn’t really about money: It’s about honesty and trust. Or, in the case of Snow-Job and the Dwarfs, their dishonesty and untrustworthiness, both of which – along with their gross incompetence and lack of transparency – should  disqualify them from any stewardship of both our children’s education and our money.

For example, do you know that as of June 30 of this year, D-207’s own budget document shows that Snow-Job and the Dwarfs had stockpiled over $126 Million of reserve funds, and that it is projecting to end the current school year next June 30 with $120.5 Million of reserves?

That’s right: Even though folks like Kelly Przekota have complained about the schools “falling down faster than London Bridge” and having to buy her teacher-husband a plastic bin with latches to protect his coat and laptop from cockroaches, and even though the ubiquitous Kathy (Panattoni) Meade has warned parents to purchase gas masks for their kids who use Maine South pool because of chlorine gas buildup, and even though Ashley Hawkes pleads for a roof that doesn’t leak, Snow-Job and the Dwarfs have intentionally, callously and dishonestly ignored those and many other sub-par conditions – and refused to make necessary repairs and replacements – despite accumulating and sitting on over $120 MILLION in reserve funds, $45 Million of which they are throwing into the boondoggle pot!

Why?

Because if Snow-Job and the Dwarfs had actually done the maintenance, repairs and replacement needed to remedy such problems, they wouldn’t have all those scary photos and videos – compliments of the $115,000 propaganda squad – that they’ve been using to hoodwink the stupid, the gullible and the profligate into supporting the referendum.

But don’t take our word for it. Instead, read what former 3-term (12 years – from May 2001 to April 2013) D-207 Board member and 3-time D-207 Board president, Edward Mueller, courageously wrote in his letter to the editor of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate published in yesterday’s on-line edition, which is reprinted here with Mr. Mueller’s permission:

Letter: Past school board president opposed to Maine Township District 207 referendum

As a former member of the Maine Township High School District Board of Education for three terms (almost 12 years) and president for three terms (three years), I would like to go on record as opposed to the referendum.

My experience on the board that runs the three Maine Township high schools makes it clear that vast sums of taxpayer money are squandered. The supposed “tax caps” enacted by the Illinois legislature have become floors. During my last few years on the board, I opposed methodical, rote tax hikes designed to maximize tax revenue under the caps without regard to need, and almost invariably was a minority of one in doing so. My efforts to pass tax rebates were voted down while I was on the board (the reasons for increasing taxes and then rebating a portion thereof are complex, related to the above-mentioned “tax cap” legislation).

I know certain of the sitting board members and I believe that the proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on unneeded physical improvements is an attempt to create a personal legacy, which is utterly divorced from actual need. When I was president, I spearheaded a comprehensive review of the physical conditions of the three schools, which utterly belies the current proposals for more taxpayer money. And please, please don’t believe that the cost will be “only” $350 per household per year. That is an average, based no doubt on fuzzy math, and is not what most people will really owe, if the past is prologue.

I urge the voters to vote no on the proposed referendum. And, voters next April should take a close look at the board members who have routinely approved unnecessary tax increases that make District 207 teachers the highest paid of almost 900 districts/schools in the state of Illinois.

Ed Mueller

Past president

Maine Township 207 Board of Education

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For the past 9 years Snow-Job and the 7 Dwarfs (and their predecessors) have intentionally, callously and irresponsibly neglected the District’s physical infrastructure despite having multi-millions of our tax dollars that could have addressed virtually every actual building NEED. They did so in order to manufacture all these alleged school building “crises.”

And like those folks in Washington D.C. who dishonestly pack 100s of disparate and expensive projects and programs into one bill that nobody can read or understand, and that they can pass without us taxpayers being any the wiser, Snow-Job and the Dwarfs – with the aid of their $115,000 propagandists – have done the very same kind of thing by rolling all these projects into one referendum question.

By voting “yes” you are endorsing incompetent, dishonest, irresponsible, non-transparent and ultimately wasteful government.

GFL with that.

To read or post comments, click on title.

The LWVPR And The “Non-Partisan” Lie (Updated)

10.29.18

On September 27 the League of Women Voters of Park Ridge (“LWVPR”) joined with the American Association of University Women (the “AAUW”) to sponsor a debate between incumbent 55th Dist. state representative Marty Moylan (D) and his challenger, Marilyn Smolenski (R).

Why it takes two organizations to run a debate between only two candidates is a bit puzzling, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Irrespective of the logistical concerns, the LWVPR claims to be big-time ticked off because a portion of a video of the debate taken by somebody associated with the Smolenski campaign – that portion where Moylan loudly denies (untruthfully, it appears) that he has accepted money from Speaker Mike Madigan – is being used in a Smolenski campaign ad. The LWVPR claims that’s a no-no.

Why?

According to letters to the editor by LWVPR president Mary Upson in both the October 22 edition of the Daily Herald and the October 24 edition of The Journal, “[b]oth campaigns asked to videotape the [debate] with the verbal agreement that the video could be used for internal purposes only” [emphasis added]. A “verbal agreement” is a common alternative term for “oral agreement” and is legally enforceable IF mutual assent to its terms, and the terms themselves, can be adequately established.

Unlike written agreements, oral/verbal agreements are disfavored in the law because too often both the mutual assent and the exact terms can be very difficult to prove. So if preventing the use of the debate videos or any portions thereof was so darn important to the LWVPR, one would think that it would demand that both campaigns sign a written agreement to that effect.

But guess what?

At just about the same time Upson was insisting, in her two letters to the editor, that LWVPR had a “verbal agreement” with both campaigns, she also was insisting in two separate comments to an October 22 post on the Concerned Homeowners Group of Park Ridge FB page – that “[b]oth campaigns signed an agreement, one in [sic] which LWV Park Ridge has been using for years.” We have printed that entire FB post and all of its comments, with our various questions and challenges in red because addressing all of them in the body of this post would be unwieldy.

So which is it, Ms. Upson: A “verbal agreement” or a written one “signed” by “both campaigns”?

If it’s a written one, why haven’t you posted the signed versions to prove that you’re not just making up this “we had a deal and Smolenski broke it” whining? Are you and the LWVPR such partisan Democrats that you’re willing to fabricate this whole kerfuffle as your faux-“non-partisan” way to publicly hammer Smolenski for using a clip from the debate video in what you label her “attack ad against Marty Moylan” that actually portrays him as the lying Madigan coat-holder he really is?

But that’s not all.

Ms. Upson, speaking once again for the LWVPR, also complained in those two letters to the editor that “Marilyn Smolenski’s campaign (managed by the Illinois Opportunity Project) offered to share its video with [the LWVPR] to post for community members who could not attend”; and then she beefed that Smolenski’s campaign didn’t provide the copy of its video “despite numerous attempts to contact the campaign.”

Why don’t you name names, Ms. Upson? Which member(s) of Smolenski’s “campaign…offered to share its video”? To whom at LWVPR was that “offer” made? Who from LWVPR made those “numerous attempts to contact the [Smolenski] campaign”? And to whom with Smolenski’s campaign were those attempts directed?

Or are all those assertions just more made-up stuff with which to hammer Smolenski on a purely-partisan basis, for Moylan’s benefit?

Interestingly enough, neither Upson’s letters nor her FB comments say whether Moylan’s campaign made the same offer and followed through on it. And neither those letters nor her FB comments say whether Moylan’s campaign was asked to submit its video for the LWVPR’s website after Smolenski’s campaign allegedly failed to do so.  As of the publication of this post we could find no debate video on the LWVPR’s website or on its Facebook page.

Is your concern about informing those “community members who could not attend” the debate limited to only the Smolenski video and not the Moylan video? Why isn’t what’s sauce  for the gander (Smolenski) also sauce for the goose (Moylan)? Is the LWVPR placing greater demands on the female candidate than on her male opponent?

It sure looks that way.

That being the case, why aren’t Kim “Did you grab my ass?” Jones and her supporters demanding fair treatment for the female candidate – other than because she’s a Republican and they’re all RINOs (or Dems) who are supporting Moylan? Shouldn’t they be asking the LWVPR why it didn’t expect and demand the same video sharing from Moylan that it expected from Smolenski, especially if informing the public is the goal?

Of course they should! But of course they aren’t, and they won’t.

Why?

Because none of them are really “non-partisan.” And most/all of them support Moylan over Smolenski. They just don’t want us average taxpayers/voters to realize it.

Otherwise, the myth of a “non-partisan” LWVPR becomes the lie .

UPDATE 11.01.2018.  True to her word, Ms. Upson has shared with us the “signed…agreement” of Marty Moylan, dated October 13, 2016; and the “signed…agrement” of Marilyn Smolenski, dated September 25, 2018.

As you can see, these are not actual “agreements” but, instead, a set of “Rules” for a candidate forum. They contain no language that identifies them as any sort of legally-binding contract. Additionally, because the Rules themselves contain no language that commits the candidate, by signing, to be bound by them, the candidate’s signature/e-signature does not appear to hold any legal significance whatsoever.

Finally, the only provision of those Rules that deals with video and audio recording is the last bullet point, which merely gives “the sponsoring organizations” a right to record and disseminate the recordings as it chooses.

So we’re left with the LWVPR’s totally incredible, totally uncorroborated, totally evidence-less allegation of some “verbal agreement” by which both campaigns allegedly agreed not to use the videos they took for campaign purposes.

As the late and supremely corrupt Ill. Sec’y  of State Paul Powell used to say: “I can smell the meat a-cookin’.” What the LWVPR has cooked up definitely smells…but it’s most definitely not edible.

To read or post comments, click on title.

The 100s Of Millions Of Dollars Question: Renovated Schools Or Flood Remediation?

09.14.18

Readers of this blog know that we have crossed swords with former 6th Ward alderman/former Park Board member Mary Wynn Ryan on numerous occasions. Ms. Ryan and this blog’s editor rarely see eye-to-eye on local – as well as state and national – governmental and political issues.

And that’s okay: A thriving marketplace of ideas needs competing views, not concurring ones.

So consider today one of those rare occasions when this blog acknowledges the merit of a point raised by Ms. Ryan in a couple of comments she made to a post on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page, in which she suggests that the Park Ridge City Council and the Maine Township School District 207 Board may have reached some sort of accommodation to give the latter first crack at Park Ridge taxpayers’ wallets.

Ms. Ryan is a battle-tested class (and race, and gender, etc.) warrior skilled in the art of identity politics, which explains her analogy of Park Ridge residents to “poor folk, choosing between heat, rent, groceries and medicine” – except that we “poor folk” live in $385,000 (median value, per Zillow) residences; and our choices are between $200-350 million to address D-207’s decades of neglect of its physical infrastructure, or $106+ million to address the City’s decades of neglect of its sewer system.

Ms. Ryan’s analogy is not an apples-to-apples one, however, because the $200-350 million cost of D-207 projects will be spread over a much larger taxing district than the City’s $106+ million of flood remediation projects.

Whether that difference in taxing districts will result in Park Ridge residents paying more for the D-207 projects or more for the City’s projects is unclear to us. Park Ridge generates much higher residential RE tax revenues than does Des Plaines ($245,000 median, per Zillow), Morton Grove ($301,000 median) and Niles ($276,000 median). Nevertheless, we understand that those other communities generate significantly higher commercial RE tax revenues than does Park Ridge.

Not surprisingly, those intra-District residential value differences are not highlighted in the pro-referendum propaganda created by those public relations professionals that Supt. Ken “Snow-Job” Wallace and his 7 D-207 Board Dwarfs hired back in January – at over $115,000 of taxpayer money – to run a pro-referendum political campaign masquerading as “community engagement,” which we wrote about in our 08.24.2018 and 08.31.2018 posts. Snow Job, the Dwarfs and their p.r. pros know that reminding Park Ridge homeowners about how much more they will be paying than their counterparts in neighboring D-207 communities “wouldn’t be prudent.”

But is this really about a choice between neglected schools or neglected sewers?

We think that depends, in no small part, on who the voters are.

Those of us who live in Park Ridge know that 100% of the money spent on local flood remediation would directly benefit Park Ridge residents. But because the D-207 projects will require allocating referendum funding to each of the District’s three high schools – the exact percentages of which we don’t know because Snow Job and the 7 Dwarfs apparently don’t want to tell us – it’s very possible that no more than 1/3 of the new referendum taxes contributed by Park Ridge taxpayers will directly benefit Park Ridge residents.

On the other hand, those Park Ridge residents who live in areas where flooding is not a regular or substantial problem, and/or who currently have kids in D-207 schools or have kids who will be attending those schools in the future, might prefer paying extra taxes for school improvements instead of flooding.

One way to find out whether Park Ridge taxpayers are willing to pay enough extra taxes to remedy both neglected schools and neglected sewers – or to find out whether those taxpayers prefer one of those sets of projects over the other – would be to have both referendums on the same ballot.

But because the City dragged its feet for months on making decisions about what to do with those 8 projects identified in the December 2017 study by the City’s long-time flooding consultant, Burke Engineering – or because, as Ms. Ryan suggests, the City had some understanding with D-207 about not pursuing a flooding referendum that might compete with the schools referendum – the City had no flooding remediation referendum question ready for placement on this November’s ballot.

That deprived Park Ridge taxpayers of a direct choice, this year, between neglected schools and neglected sewers – assuming, for the sake of this argument, that they aren’t willing to pay for both sets of projects.

So the only way for Park Ridge taxpayers to regain such a choice would be if: (a) the D-207 referendum loses in November; (b) D-207 comes back to the taxpayers with the same referendum question, or its smaller Plan B referendum question, on the April 2019 ballot; and (c) the City decides to respect its taxpayers and give them a vote on the whole $106+ million Burke enchillada by putting a funding referendum question on the April 2019 ballot.

Does the City Council have any desire to do all 8 of those flood remediation projects, and to do them over the next 5-10 years? Or is it fine with doing them over 20-40 years as funding from the Storm Water Utility trickles in?

If either of those two possibilities is the case, it’s way past time the Council said so – in public and in no uncertain terms.

Because even if the D-207 referendum fails in November and Snow Job and the 7 Dwarfs respond with another referendum in April 2019, if Ms. Ryan’s suspicions are correct, the Council will continue to wink-and-nod itself silly over these flood remediation projects rather than go for the gold, literally and figuratively, with its own referendum question this coming April.

But first things first.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Why Have City’s Flood Remediation Plans Stagnated?

09.10.18

Does the City of Park Ridge really care about dealing meaningfully with its flooding problems?

We’re beginning to have our doubts.

Last October we published a post about what was then the “new” Christopher B. Burke Engineering comprehensive flood remediation plan. It was designed to provide protection against those 100-year floods that we seem to get at least once or twice a year.

Burke published a more comprehensive version of that plan in December 2017. The price tag was $106 million for eight (8) “prioritized” areas, not counting the $10 Million or so of debt service expense if 20-year bonds were issued to finance the project. Part of that plan included a Storm Water Utility (“SWU”) fee – to be calculated by each property’s size and amount of rain-impervious surface area (e.g., the house’s footprint, concrete patios and concrete driveways) – that Burke suggested be set at $11 per Equivalent Residential Unit (“ERU”).

In that October post we encouraged the City Council to determine taxpayer support for the Burke plan by putting a $100 Million-plus bond issue to referendum on either the March 2018 or November 2018 ballot. And we voiced our concern that the Council – or at least those aldermen whose terms will be expiring next May – might choose to play “Springfield-style politics” and delay such a referendum (and any controversy that it might cause) until AFTER the April 2019 election.

Since then, what has the Council done to advance those prioritized projects or to give the taxpayers a referendum vote on a bond issue and/or the SRU?

As best as we can tell, nothing. Nada. Niente. Τίποτα. Nichts. Ничего. Zip.

Even though the Burke study provided a map that showed how approximately one-half of Park Ridge was “at risk” of sewer back-up from storms as small as a “1-year event (1.2” rain in 1 hour duration)” if residents don’t install their own on-site devices (like check valves and/or overhead sewers), it appears that the Council has been fiddling for the past year while Park Ridge has continued to flood from both sewer back-up and overland water.

Why the delay?

We don’t know. But we have to wonder if former 6th Ward ald. Mary Wynn Ryan might be onto something with her suggestion, in a couple of comments on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page, that there’s a “gentleman’s agreement with the school district [207] not to put a competing ‘ask’ on the ballot in Nov. or April.” She goes on to “suspect a sewer referendum will not be offered while the [D-207] school referendum is in play,” analogizing Park Ridge voters being given a choice between school renovations and flood remediation to “poor folk, choosing between [sic] heat, rent, groceries and medicine.”

Ryan is an unabashed fan of big government and unrestrained tax/borrow/spending who views referendums the way most people view root canal surgery: To be avoided at all costs unless absolutely necessary. While on the Park Ridge Park District Board in December 2012 she helped engineer the District’s $7 million non-referendum bond issue for the second-rate Centennial water park so that there would be no water park referendum competing for the taxpayers’ votes with the District’s $13 million bond issue referendum for the Prospect Park project on the April 2013 ballot.

So if there’s some kind of “deal” by the City  and D-207 to let the latter get first crack at the taxpayers’ pocketbooks, she might be someone likely to know about it.

Although we can find no evidence of any overt “deal,” that doesn’t preclude an informal wink-and-nod understanding between various aldermen and their corresponding D-207 Board members. And that kind of understanding could explain why the Council has done nothing during the past year to put the Burke priority projects to a referendum vote, or to adopt the proposed $11 per ERU or some other rate.

Even all that Labor Day weekend flooding – along with articles in last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Talks planned on stormwater utility fee, future capital projects following Labor Day flooding in Park Ridge,” Sept. 5) and Park Ridge Journal (“Park Ridge Hit Hard By Storms,” Sept. 5), and a rash of social media postings about the City’s inaction on flood control – appears to have done nothing more than motivate Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) to schedule a discussion of funding projects solely with SWU fees at the Council’s September 24 meeting.

Why is all of this disingenuous and/or just plain screwed up?

How about because Burke’s proposed $11 per Equivalent Residential Unit (“ERU”) is projected to yield a mere $2.4 million of revenue annually. That’s not nearly enough to get those 8 identified projects done on anything more than a snail’s pace timetable.

Are all you folks whose basements flooded on Labor Day, or will flood during the next big rain or the next one after that, willing to wait until 2058 for just those 8 priority flood control projects to be completed through funding with SWU fees?

With the November 2018 ballot referendum deadline already blown because the Council members sat with their thumbs up their kazoos for the past year, the next opportunity the City will have to get objectively-measurable taxpayer support for a $100 million-plus bond issue via referendum will be April 2019, when Alds. Moran (1st), Wilkening (3rd), Melidosian (5th) and Joyce (7th) presumably will be running to retain their seats around The Horseshoe.

And if we’re right about D-207’s master plan of using the November 2018 referendum as a type of stalking horse for a smaller, gentler Plan B referendum question on the lower-turnout, easier-to-win April 2019 ballot, the Council might very well let D-207 have another unchallenged shot at the taxpayers if its November boondoggle fails.

Will the Council respect the taxpayers enough to put a $100 million-plus anti-flooding funding referendum on the April 2019 ballot so those 8 projects might get done within the next decade instead of the next four decades? That would appear to be a no-lose proposition given that, even if that referendum were to fail, the Council could go forward with its current 40-year SWU-funded plan.

Or will the Council continue to kick the flooding can farther down the road, either to give D-207’s bigger bonding referendum questions first dibs on the taxpayers’ pocketbooks, or because it just doesn’t care that much about flooding…but isn’t willing to say so?

To read or post comments, click on title.

A Few More Thoughts On Mayor’s Veto Of 104 Main Street Special Use

07.11.18

What do Andrew Duff, Owen Hayes II, John Bennett and Ellen Upton have in common?

All four of them showed up at last week’s Park Ridge City Council meeting to speak against Mayor Marty Maloney’s veto of Pusheen, Inc’s special use for the ground-floor space in 104 Main Street. That veto came after a (4-2) majority of aldermen voted on June 4 to grant the special use, which was approved 7-0 by the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission (“P&Z”) back on April 24.

You can read our take on Maloney’s veto in our June 28, 2018 post.

That Duff and Hayes would show up and argue in support of the special use was expected.

Duff is the owner of Pusheen Corp. and his company already occupies the upper floor of 104 Main. He claims he wants the ground floor of the building so that deliverymen don’t have to hall boxes up to the second-floor.

How thoughtful.

When Hayes addressed the Council last week he initially introduced himself as just the “manager” of the 104 Main building. But beginning at the 27:56 mark of that Council meeting video he reveals himself as “not the owner but a part owner” of the property – as well as both a manager and an owner of other Park Ridge property.

That’s a bit curious because, according to Page 3 of the minutes of the April 24 P&Z meeting, Hayes identified himself as the “real estate agent representing the owner of the [104 Main] property,” as he also did in an April 13, 2018 e-mail to the City’s Senior Planner, Jon Branham. Compare that to the special use “Applicant Disclosure Statement” dated March 15, 2018, in which he lists 104 Main LLC as the property’s owner, while listing only himself in response to the request for “the name of every…[LLC] member.”

Should we just chalk that up as another one of those “Certs is a candy mint; Certs is a breath mint” moments in local government, or is there more to it than that?

For those who have been following City government for a decade or more, you might remember Hayes as the agent and…wait for it…undisclosed owner of the former Foot and Ankle Surgeons building at 515 Busse that he tried to flip to the City as the site of a new cop shop back in 2004. Had he succeeded, he would have netted a tidy $200,000 profit for only a few days of ownership, as you can read about in our 11.15.2007 post and our 08.14.2008 post

We also have heard rumors, seemingly corroborated by Hayes’ statement to the Council during last week’s meeting, that he is the agent and/or owner (full or part) of various other commercial properties in town. A cursory check of a random sampling of Uptown and vicinity properties shows that their ownership is often hidden – albeit legally, we might add – by title being held in the name of a partnership or LLC, like it is with 104 Main LLC. Consequently, some of the City’s property-related forms (like the special use “Applicant Disclosure Statement”) require disclosure of the “real” owners, not just the legal title holders.

But don’t get us wrong: We’ve got nothing against Hayes personally. He’s a nice enough guy who has been active in the community for many years. And there’s nothing wrong with making an honest buck, whether it be in real estate or any other business – even at the taxpayers’ expense – if fully disclosed. Hayes, however, seems more than a little preoccupied with keeping his (and others’) property ownership under the radar, even when he’s seeking special treatment from the City for one of those properties.

Although Hayes’ ownership of 104 Main explains his advocacy for the Council’s over-ride of Maloney’s veto of the special use, we must confess to being puzzled by Bennett’s appearance and the condescending tone he took from the very beginning of his comments at the 51:57 mark of the meeting video in lecturing/arguing for an over-ride of Maloney’s veto.

As a P&Z member he was one of seven at that commission’s April 24, 2018 meeting who voted – wrongly, as we pointed out in our 06.28.2018 post – in favor of Pusheen’s special use. At that point his work should have been finished. So his appearance before the Council was tantamount to a trial judge showing up before an appellate court panel and arguing that his decision should be affirmed.

That just doesn’t happen, even if nobody appears to have told Bennett.

But the most curious appearance was Upton’s, which immediately followed Bennett’s.

She introduced herself as a former 1st Ward alderman (from the late 1990s, as we recall) who chaired the Uptown Advisory Task Force that promoted the creation of the Uptown redevelopment project – although she conveniently left out her support of the City’s multi-million dollar bonded-debt “investment” in that project that is still on track to cost taxpayers millions of dollars because the revenue generated from that project has rarely come close to covering the debt service on the bonds the City issued to help out the developer. She also was a member of the City’s Ad Hoc Zoning Ordinance Re-Write Committee that made major revisions to the Zoning Code back in 2006, and also may have updated the Comprehensive Plan.

To the best of our knowledge and research, however, she has not addressed the Council on zoning issues ever since. At least not until now.

Is she that much of a Pusheen fan, or did she have other intentions?

If Hayes, Bennett and Upton are so committed to helping Park Ridge’s Zoning Code and/or the Comprehensive Plan move into the 21st Century, we encourage them to formally propose that the Council create another Ad Hoc Zoning Ordinance Re-Write Committee – and we encourage them to volunteer to become members of it.

But until that happens, the current Zoning Code and the current Comprehensive Plan provide the guidelines by which special uses are supposed to be measured. And as we’ve said about various other local ordinances, rules and plans: If you don’t like them, change them. Don’t just ignore them.

Or try to weasel your way around them.

To read or post comments, click on title.

 

Mayor’s Veto Of Pusheen Special Use: Right Decision, Right Time, Right Reasons (Updated)

06.28.18

If you check out any Facebook page discussions about Park Ridge you are likely to find people lamenting the lack of “retail” – and/or their favorite restaurants (e.g., Chick-fil-A) – in town. Often these laments bear a sarcastic “This is why can’t we have nice things?” tone.

So you might think that Mayor Marty Maloney’s recent veto of the City Council’s approval of a special use permit enabling Pusheen Corporation to expand its offices into the first floor of the former Wells Fargo Home Mortgage office at 104 Main Street would be greeted with an outpouring of support.

After all, his veto message correctly notes how that block of Main – home to the successful Harp & Fiddle and Beer on the Wall – is highly visible from the METRA tracks and has attracted train riders from outside Park Ridge to come and patronize not only those establishments but, also, our other local businesses in ways the proposed ground-floor Pusheen offices will not.

But judging by the negative comments (as of 06.27.2018 @ 9:30 p.m.) to a story about Maloney’s veto on the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate’s Facebook page, Pusheen apparently deserves “most-favored-tenant” status. And although those comments might be modest in number, they must be viewed in the context of the deafening silence coming from those allegedly pro-retail tub-thumpers at the Chamber of Commerce.

What gives?

Let’s start with the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission (“P&Z”) and the City Council, both of which seem to be falling over themselves to end-run the Zoning Code and Comprehensive Plan for Uptown in order to give Pusheen the special ground-floor office it wants – even if that means foregoing future opportunities to attract retail or restaurant/bar business to that space.

Remember, first and foremost, that a “special use” is a use not contemplated in our Zoning Code for that space. In other words, it legalizes – even if only temporarily, as in Pusheen’s case – what otherwise would be a prohibited non-conforming use. Consequently, the burden is on the applicant to demonstrate a good reason to grant the special use, not on the City to demonstrate a good reason to deny it.

Think back to when a Pearle Vision store tried to locate in the first floor of the Pickwick Building. P&Z Commissioner Jim Argionis pointedly noted (in the minutes of P&Z’s February 27, 2018 meeting) that such a use, albeit retail, “did not fulfill the spirit and intent of the Comprehensive Plan” – an observation in which Commissioners Chris Zamaites, Jim Coogan and Lou Arrigoni concurred; and which produced a 7-0 rejection (Commissioners Baldi and Hanlon MIA) of the special use needed by Pearle.

But a funny thing happened on the way to P&Z’s consideration of the Pusheen special use application on April 24, 2018, a mere two months later.

The City’s Senior Planner, Jon Branham, issued a memo of that same date acknowledging (at pages 2-3) the existing zoning requirements for 104 Main and the Comprehensive Plan’s recommendations of “retail, restaurant, entertainment [and]…[p]edestrian-oriented commercial service and office uses” for the ground floor of that building. He further noted (also on page 3) that a special use should not be recommended unless evidence presented at a public hearing supports “each of the [three] following conclusions” – one of which being that “[t]he special use in the specific location proposed is consistent with the spirit and intent of the Zoning Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan.”

But when you get to Branham’s proposed “Findings of Fact” (as page 6 of the memo), there is no mention of the “retail, restaurant, [and] entertainment” requirement for a special use permit. Instead, one of the findings is that Pusheen’s proposed use of the ground floor would be for “a pedestrian-oriented business.”

Can you (in the infamous words of the late Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell) “smell the meat a-cookin’” yet?

If not, check out page 2 of the minutes of the April 24, 2018 P&Z meeting, where Chairman Joe Baldi asks Pusheen owner Andrew Duff “if there will be any walk-in business” on the ground floor of104 Main, to which Mr. Duff responds that “there would be no walk-in business.”

Translation: Pusheen don’t need no stinking “pedestrian-oriented business” to get its special use for that ground-floor space.

Despite no retail, no restaurant, no entertainment, and the tenant’s admission of no walk-in business, a 7-0 majority of P&Z Commissioners (Arrigoni, Baldi, Bennett, Coogan, Hanlon, Mills and Zamaitas – Argionis and Giannetti MIA) approved the special use.

Can you smell it now?

Not yet? Then listen to the City Council discussion of the Pusheen special use before it was approved by a 4 (Alds. Wilkening, Shubert, Melidosian and Mazzuca) to 2 (Alds. Moran and Milissis – Ald. Joyce MIA) vote at the Council’s June 4, 2018 meeting, starting at the 17:20 mark of the meeting video and running through the 26:00 mark.

Seemingly looking for some way to justify the special deal for Pusheen, Melidosian tried to get Pusheen’s Duff to commit to putting a Pusheen store on the first floor of 104 Main. To his credit, Duff would not – leaving Melidosian with nothing but an “empty storefronts” faux-justification for approving the special use, even though “empty storefronts” is not one of the considerations for granting a special use.

Wilkening and Mazzuca also copped to that easy-but-irrelevant “vacant storefronts” alibi before they, along with Shubert, voted to give Pusheen its special deal.

Can you smell it now?

FWIW, we dislike empty storefronts as much as the next person. But we believe in the need for a Zoning Code and a Comprehensive Plan, as well as the need for the predictability of precedent in how zoning issues are treated by the City.

P&Z’s rejection of the Pearle Vision “pedestrian-oriented business” should have been precedent for its rejection of the Pusheen non-“pedestrian-oriented business.” But it wasn’t, even though the still-empty storefront at six corners could be viewed as much more problematic than the vacant ground floor of 104 Main.

Perhaps those P&Z members and that Council majority forgot that the building that now houses a successful Holt’s was vacant for several years after Pine’s men’s shop moved out. Or that the building that now houses a successful Harp & Fiddle was vacant for a couple of years after the drug store moved out. Or that the building that now houses a successful Shakou was vacant for several years after the Pioneer Press moved out. Or that even the building that now houses a successful Beer on the Wall was vacant for several years.

The City wisely stayed the course and held true to both the Zoning Code and to the spirit and intent of the Comprehensive Plan. And because those storefronts were allowed to remain vacant rather than sold out to boring office space, we now have a much more vibrant and thriving Uptown, especially adjacent to the METRA tracks.

Maloney’s veto shows that he sees and understands how this works. And so do Alds. Moran and Milissis. The other five aldermen: Not so much.

If the Council over-rides Maloney’s veto at the July 2 meeting, 104 Main Street will continue to contribute no entertainment value toward that newly-vibrant dining/drinking/entertainment area.

What an over-ride will do, however, is feed the suspicion that if you know the right people in the right places, you can get a special deal/special use, irrespective of the Zoning Code and the Comprehensive Plan.

Just like Pusheen is on the verge of doing.

Update 07.03.18. Last night three aldermen – John Moran (1st), Nick Milissis (2nd) and Charlie Melidosian (5th) – prevented the over-ride of Mayor Marty Maloney’s veto of the City Council’s approval of the Planning & Zoning Commission’s award of the special use to Pusheen Corp.

Moran and Milissis had previously voted to reject the special use, but it was Melidosian’s conversion that carried the day.

Now let’s see if Pusheen’s owner takes his ball and leaves. Or what 104 Main’s owner, Owen Hayes II, does, or doesn’t.

Meanwhile, if City Staff (Jon Branham), the P&Z Commissioners, and certain aldermen don’t want to enforce the Zoning Code as written and/or wish to disregard certain elements of the Comprehensive Plan in order to hand out special deals (e.g., special uses), let them start the process for changing those Code and Plan provisions –with the appropriate notice and publicity so that the public and existing business owners can meaningfully participate – instead of arbitrarily enforcing or disregarding them.

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Live From Maine Township Hall…It’s Tuesday Night!

04.24.18

On January 24 of this year we published our first ever post about Maine Township’s inept (or corrupt?) government, pointing out how three new Township trustees – Republicans Dave Carrabotta and Susan Sweeney, and Democrat Claire McKenzie – were attempting to reform Maine Township government since their election a year ago.

We labeled them “The Reformers” and published 3 more posts after that – on 02.08.2018, 02.13.2018 and 04.02.2018 – each one citing more ineptness (or corruption?) from a taxing body that pretty much institutionalized bad government over the past couple of decades.

Our favorite battle being fought by The Reformers so far is their war on pension benefits for Susan Moylan-Krey, the Maine Twp. non-Assessor with four “deputies” – each getting a salary, benefits and constitutionally-guaranteed pension – who don’t actually “assess” anything! Not assessing anything leaves Moylan-Krey free to be a full-time real estate broker with Century 21 Langos & Christian (according to that firm’s website), which makes her non-assessor gig with the Township more like moonlighting.

While we could write more about the non-assessor, today’s post is about Township Supervisor Laura Morask, who continues to try to run the Township Board with an iron fist despite controlling only two of the five votes: Hers and that of Trustee Kim Jones.

The most brazen example of that may have occurred at last Tuesday (April 17) night’s “special” Board meeting, where Morask attempted to anoint the Ancel Glink law firm as the successor to the Township’s longtime lackey…er, we mean attorney…Dan Dowd, who abruptly “retired” after it looked like he may have been helping Morask and Moylan-Krey screw with The Reformers by getting Moylan-Krey back on the pension track after she had been kicked off.

But first a little background.

Under state law Morask has the right to appoint the replacement Township attorney with the advice and consent of the Board. She made it known that she wanted Ancel Glink, irrespective of what The Reformers might think or whom they might prefer. But she still needs Board majority consent, and The Reformers represent that majority.

When Morask asked for a motion to appoint Ancel Glink (at the 6:05 mark of the meeting video), Sweeney jumped in with a motion to defer any vote in favor of more consideration of Ancel Glink and the Board’s other options; and Carrabotta promptly seconded it (at the 6:38 mark).

Amazingly (but not surprisingly), Morask ruled that motion out of order. Her reasoning:

“Because there’s a current motion pending that I was about to make.”

Yes, she actually said that…although not before oddly looking to her left (at the 6:44 mark) as if seeking assurances from some off-camera consiglieri. And, curiously enough, Clerk Peter Gialamas and Highway Commissioner Wally Kazmierczak also looked in that same direction at about that same time.

Was Tom Hagen in the house?

Morask didn’t get around to actually making her Ancel Glink motion until the 11:10 mark of the video, which was promptly and predictably seconded by Jones. But even though two Ancel Glink attorneys were present to accept Morask’s blessing – and bask in her gushing about how Ancel Glink is “the cream of the crop” and “the best” township attorneys in the business – a lengthy debate ensued about “best practices” versus Morask’s power of appointment.

Although Morask would not retreat from her insistence on her power to appoint, she ultimately agreed to continue the matter to the next Township Board meeting – which is TONIGHT, 7:30 p.m. at Township Hall,1700 Ballard Road, Park Ridge.

Morask’s anointing of Ancel Glink is back on the agenda, in case you’re wondering.

An RFP is the absolute best way to engage attorneys for ANY local governmental body. But we don’t know how quickly the Board will be able to conduct an RFP process, especially if Morask insists on retaining her power of appointment rather than going along with such a process.

But hiring a Township attorney, at least for the purpose of the Board’s appealing the kinked-up, secretive reinstatement of Moylan-Krey’s pension participation – engineered and/or concealed from The Reformers by Moylan-Krey, Morask and Dowd after The Reformers’ refused to certify that the non-assessor’s position requires at least 1,000 hours of work per year – needs to be done ASAP because the deadline for filing such an appeal is almost here.

That could mean another hot time in the ol’ Township Hall tonight – especially if Moylan-Krey reprises her rant from last Tuesday night’s meeting (from 1:03:21 to 1:06:28 of the video) in which she ripped The Reformers’ actions as “bullsh*t” occurring at “every friggin’ meeting,” then let loose with a John McEnroe-worthy “Are you serious?” before ending with an “I’m done” and an “I can’t come to meetings if there’s no attorney here.”

If you’re planning on attending we recommend popcorn and/or Junior Mints (“They’re refreshing!”). And maybe a Big Gulp to wash them down (but stay away from the Kool-Aid!).

Given her non-assessor status, Moylan-Krey’s presence at Board meetings would appear to be unnecessary, other than as a way for her to run up hours toward the 1,000 total she claims are needed to perform her non-assessor duties…AND to qualify for a pension for when she’s done non-assessing Township property.

If that’s the case, maybe it’s time for some addition by subtraction.

To read or post comments, click on title.

A New Library Director, If We Can Keep Her

04.10.18

Recently the Park Ridge Library Board of Trustees unanimously (Trustee Mike Reardon absent) approved the hiring of Heidi Smith as the new director of the Library. Smith is currently the assistant director of the Waukegan Public Library.

Smith, a Highland Park resident, will be paid $110,000 and receive health insurance and pension benefits.

She will assume her new position on April 16, relieving the three interim co-directors – Laura Scott, Anastasia Daskalos and Angela Berger – who have done an outstanding job holding down the fort since the sudden retirement last June of the Library’s long-time director, Janet Van De Carr, who was paid $140,000+.

The serendipity of Smith’s availability and selection is noteworthy for a few reasons.

After Van De Carr retired, the Library Board hired John Keister – who runs a recruiting service for library bureaucrats – to find a new director. Keister promptly persuaded a majority of the Board (with the notable exceptions of Trustees Joe Egan, Char Foss-Eggemann and Mike Reardon) to run the search process in closed-session semi-secrecy, thereby producing two “finalists” that the taxpayers could finally be trusted to know.

One of those finalists, Jeannie Dilger, withdrew her name almost immediately after becoming a finalist in order to take the director position at the Palatine library, a position for which Keister was simultaneously recruiting her – reportedly without telling our Library Board. We wrote about that seeming lack of integrity on Keister’s part in our 12.15.17 and 12.26.17 posts.

And Keister’s other finalist, Aaron Skog, mysteriously withdrew his name almost immediately after a public meet-and-greet on November 27 of last year.

That commenced a round of hand-wringing from the likes of Go Green gadfly Amy Bartucci, who talks and acts like taxpayers exist for the government’s benefit; and who seems to consider public employment as the work of the angels, notwithstanding the good pay, job security and Cadillac constitutionally-guaranteed pensions that can be taken years earlier than the rest of us can collect our modest Social Security benefits. We wrote about Bartucci’s strange obsession with Library Board member meeting attendance in our 03.05.2018 post.

With Keister’s first flight of candidates having either crashed and burned or flown the coop, the Library Board authorized Keister to tender four new candidates from his stable of usual suspects.

Two of those, reportedly, were just plain unqualified non-starters who may have been thrown into the mix by Keister solely to create a plausible field of four candidates. And a third suspiciously pulled his name the moment he was designated a finalist – although the fact that he lived with his family way out in DeKalb suggests that he may have been little more than a stalking horse for the candidate whom Keister wanted the Library Board to accept: Ms. Smith.

This blog’s editor attended both the November 2017 meet-and-greet for Aaron Skog as well as the March 15 meet-and-greet for Ms. Smith, and Smith looked and sounded like a far better choice than Skog. So that’s a good thing for our Library.

But let’s not be naïve here.

The serendipity of Ms. Smith’s availability appears to have been the product of her being passed over for the top job in Waukegan in January, despite the strong endorsement of Waukegan mayor Sam Cunningham. Instead, the WPL board imported an Hispanic candidate, Selina Gomez-Beloz, from the Crown Point, Indiana library where she had served as director since 2014. Given that more than 50% of Waukegan’s population is Hispanic, with many having ESL needs, we can see how identity politics may have shaped the WPL board’s decision.

But we have to wonder whether the Park Ridge Library directorship is merely a resume-builder for Ms. Smith that Keister can use in a couple/few years to better market her to other libraries for another fee and even greater influence over the Chicagoland public library hiring market that he already seems to dominate.

In light of that possibility, we are reminded of when Benjamin Franklin was asked about what form of government was being proposed for the United States, and he answered: “A republic…if you can keep it.” His point was that a republic, although less factional than a democracy, was still a demanding form of self-government – the success of which would depend on an informed and committed electorate.

If Ms. Smith is accepting the directorship of our Library in order to position herself for her (and Keister’s) next move, the Library Board and we taxpayers need to be wary of any “new” Library programs and initiatives instituted by her more for their resume enhancement value than to meet the legitimate needs of our community. And the Library Board also needs to start thinking about ways to retain her, assuming she does a good enough job to deserve retention.

Because when you live in Highland Park, there are a number of public libraries requiring shorter commutes than the one to Park Ridge, starting with Deerfield, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Northbrook, Glenview, Winnetka, Wilmette, Buffalo Grove, Vernon Area and Indian Trails (Wheeling).

With that caveat, however, it looks like Ms. Smith has the potential for being a welcome breath of fresh air for a Library bureaucracy that had embraced a this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-it performance benchmark for much of the past decade, if not longer. And for that reason we encourage all Park Ridge residents – and especially Park Ridge Library users – to welcome Ms. Smith with open arms.

And with wide-open eyes.

To read or post comments, click on title.