Council Video Shows Shakedown Begets Negotiation, Not Rejection


For over a decade we’ve been investigating, researching and writing about the incompetence, stupidity, greed, dishonesty and outright mopery of our local elected and appointed officials, as well as our well-paid bureaucrats. On occasion, we’ve even sung their praises when they actually acted like sentient, rationale, responsible People’s Representatives and done something good, or just didn’t screw up.

Unfortunately, two nights ago our City Council, during a COW meeting, put on a display of aggravated mopery with intent to gawk, if not worse, that needs to be seen to be believed.

That’s when the Council discussed giving hundreds of thousands (maybe even a million, or more) of taxpayer dollars in “incentives” to the proposed purchaser of the Mr. K’s property on Higgins and/or the proposed developer/operator of a hotel proposed for that site.

The festivities start at the 1:17:04 mark of the meeting video.

CP&D Director Jim Brown kicked off those festivities by effectively reading from his Agenda Cover Memorandum that was already posted on the City’s website. He casually mentioned his and City Mgr. Joe Gilmore’s meetings with the owner and developer, as well as a 04.24.2019 “letter from the developer” that mysteriously didn’t qualify for an attachment to his memo.

That was followed by Gilmore introducing what apparently was the theme of the night: No matter what kind of deal the City might cut with the property owner and/or developer, it would be “cash flow positive” from Day 1.

Say “Cash flow positive”…from Day 1. Say it again and again. Consider it City Hall’s new mantra, at least as to this project.

We haven’t done the math to check if Gilmore is right – primarily because neither Gilmore nor Brown have provided sufficient data from which anybody could make such calculations. In fact, Gilmore actually admitted that those rosy projected revenues to the City are hard to quantify – causing Brown to engage in what appeared to be a bit of CGA (“Cover Gilmore’s Ass”) by claiming that the prospective owner and developer offered to provide the City their pro forma, which is basically just a collection of self-serving projections and guestimates.

If those kinds of things really matter, however, why didn’t Brown already have the pro forma? He didn’t say.

Resident Joan Sandrik, along with Alds. Nick Milissis and Roger Shubert, tried to stem the rising incentive fever by reminding the Council of the Whole Foods sales tax abatement demand made by that property’s developer as an “or else” condition on Whole Foods coming to Park Ridge, and how Mayor Dave Schmidt and that 2012 council successfully called the developer’s bluff, thereby saving the City’s taxpayers over $2 million.

That prompted Brown to start explaining how the Whole Foods situation  was “different” from this hotel deal. But if you’re watching the meeting video you’ll never hear his explanation: The video’s sound drops out at the 2:12:13 mark, and the screen goes blue 7 seconds later. By the time the sound resumes at approximately 2:14:15 and the video 20 seconds after that, Brown’s explanation is long over. So we have no idea what kind of differences Brown identified.

Shades of Rose Mary Woods, lite!

Two true highlights of this meeting, however, deserve special mention.

The first is the fact that while Brown, the developer and the prospective property purchaser kept referring to this hotel as a “boutique,” none of them identified what brand, or “flag,” the hotel would bear; e.g., Hyatt, Marriott, Hillton, La Quinta, etc. And when they described the hotel as having a “pantry” instead of a restaurant, and room rates between $145 and $160 a night tops (with the City staff guestimating $115-$120), it sounded more like a Days Inn than The Talbott.

Yet NOBODY around The Horseshoe – not the mayor, not a single alderman, not a single staff member – dared to ask the developer or the owner, on the record, what name or brand their “boutique” would bear. Did they all know but weren’t saying for some unknown reason, or did they not even care?

The absolute pinnacle of absurdity, however, occurred fairly early on, when somebody (we think it was Joyce) asked the prospective owner and the prospective developer why incentives were a necessity for them to do the deal. Amazingly, the prospective owner explained that the property was worth only $2 million but he had agreed to pay the Mr. K’s owners $3.3 million!

Yes, friends, you heard that right: The City is considering bailing out, with our money, someone who is knowingly overpaying for the Mr. K’s property by a whopping $1.3 million, or 65%!!!

If even one of the elected officials around The Horseshoe had an iota of common sense, and a spine stiffer than Silly Putty, they would have responded to the prospective owner with:

“You, sir, are either an idiot or a scam artist who thinks WE are a bunch of idiots who will sell out our taxpayers to bail you out of a totally boneheaded business deal. Go away and don’t come back until all you want from us is a zoning change.”

But that’s not the way this City Administration rolls.

Instead, the prospective owner’s admission set off a round of babbling by those around The Horseshoe about how the City might go about satisfying itself that the incentives really were a “necessity.”

Mayor Dave and that 2012 council knew how to do that: Just say “No!” But apparently that’s too final and too harsh for the gentle souls currently inhabiting The Horseshoe.

So Moran proposed a “feasibility study.” Joyce said he wasn’t opposed to incentives. Melidosian gave the project a “thumbs up.” And Mazzuca could only wonder how the hotel might fit into that neighborhood in his ward 50-100 years from now.

That means we’ll likely see a string of new rosy-but-fuzzy propositions, projections and proposals designed to make sure this developer (who has never done even one project in Illinois) and this owner – along with the owners of Mr. K’s – end up getting a healthy helping of taxpayer money.

Because in what is becoming a surreal world of City government, when it comes to spending public funds in questionable ways, the question no longer appears to be “if” but only “when” and “how much.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

It’s Shakedown Time At City Hall


It was political philosopher George Santayana who famously said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This post is for the benefit of the current members of the Park Ridge City Council and City Staff who either never knew, cannot remember, or just don’t care about the City’s relatively recent past as they address one of the more important items on tonight’s (May 28) Council agenda: Taxpayer subsidies to the developers of a proposed “boutique” hotel on the current Mr. K’s property down on Higgins.

We don’t object to a hotel – “boutique” or otherwise – in Park Ridge or on that property. What we do object to are money-grubbing developers and money-grubbing property owners who seem confident they can shake down our City officials into handing out what amount to bribes as incentives to certain development projects in our community.

Shake them down how?

According to the Agenda Cover Memorandum of C.P. & D. Director Jim Brown, how about with seven years of hotel tax rebates after the City more than doubles its hotel tax?

How about by waiving building permit fees that could run as high as $200,000?

How about by paying for architectural/design fees up to $250,000?

How about by rebating the City’s incremental property tax increases on the property for a period of seven years?

All of those shakedowns are intended to take money out of Park Ridge taxpayers’ pockets and put it in the pockets of developer Scarlett Hotel Group (“SHG”) and the owners of Mr. K’s – based, of course, on various projections and calculations (even the worst of which will be rosy) intended to convince folks that the requested bribes will still be a great deal for the City.

If you think you may have seen this movie before, you have.

You saw it back in 2003-05, when interim-mayor Mike Marous and then-city manager Tim Schuenke sold a bovine city council on the idea of subsidizing the private redevelopment of Uptown by borrowing many millions of dollars (secured by the City’s issuance of general obligation bonds). Not surprisingly, all the rosy projections of a $23 million return on that “investment” proved bogus, and when those bonds are finally paid off the City will likely end up booking a several million dollar loss.

Now contrast that with the situation seven years ago, when developer Lance Chody thought he could sucker Mayor Dave Schmidt and the then-council into believing that Whole Foods would only come to Chody’s stagnant property on Touhy and Washington in return for approximately $2 million of sales tax revenue sharing. A number of residents, including many members of the local business community, foolishly bought Chody’s pitch and demanded the mayor and the council comply.

Schmidt’s and those aldermen responded like the taxpayers’ champions: If WF needs a bribe to come to Park Ridge, it must not really want to be here.

Two weeks later, Chody and Whole Foods came back before the Council and said they would do the deal without the revenue-sharing windfall.

Just saying “no” to these kinds of shakedowns should be the automatic default mechanism any time such demands are made. Unfortunately, none of the current aldermen were part of that 2012 council that hung tough against Chody and Whole Foods, so there’s no way to predict whether any of the current seven have the spine to stand up to whatever pressure might be applied, or emoluments offered.

Not surprisingly, Brown’s memo has a few baseless conclusions that appear designed to encourage the City’s cutting a deal with the developer and property owners, such as: “In particular restaurants would benefit from the influx of hotel patrons.”

That might be a reasonable conclusion if the proposed hotel were in Uptown. But down near the City’s southwestern boundary, hotel patrons are more likely to be lured away to Rivers Casino and its restaurants, or to that garish garden of earthly delights called Rosemont.

Brown’s memo also doesn’t attempt to quantify the cost to the City of those seven years of rebates not only for the increased hotel tax but also for the City’s incremental increases in its property tax revenue. And although the memo references certain April-May correspondence between SHG and City Manager Joe Gilmore, none of that correspondence is included with Brown’s memo.

So much for transparency and accountability by Gilmore and Brown.

At the end of the day, however, this isn’t about speculative restaurant revenue and all the other happy horsebleep that anybody conjure up out of whole cloth to market this idea to the feeble-minded. It’s about the bottom line public policy questions:

1. Is Park Ridge so desperate it should allow itself to become an easy mark for these shakedowns?

2. If the hotel developer really wants to be in Park Ridge, why does it need a bribe?

Let’s see if either of those gets answered tonight.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Memorial Day 2019


Today is Memorial Day, a national holiday established to honor those Americans who died in service to their country.

As Pres. Abraham Lincoln so poignantly noted at the end of his Gettysburg Address:

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

To correct an all-too-common misconception, it is not a day to thank living servicemen for their service. There are two days for that: Veterans Day (November 11) to honor and thank those living who have served in the U.S. military; and Armed Forces Day (3d Saturday in May) to honor and thank those currently serving in the armed services.

Of course, flying the flag today is encouraged in remembrance of those who “gave the last full measure of devotion.

For those of you who can do so, the proper way to fly the flag today is “in mourning”: Raise it to the top of the staff, then solemnly lower it to the half-staff position where it should remain only until noon, at which point it should be raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.

And for those of you who don’t have an adjustable flag staff, you can attach a single black ribbon, the width of one flag stripe and with a length twice that of the flag by tying the center of the ribbon to the staff immediately above the flag such that its two ends (each as long as the flag) fly freely.

To read or post comments, click on title.

An “Assgate” Anniversary


Exactly one year ago today Maine Township Trustee Kim Jones called Trustee Dave Carrabotta into a private one-on-one meeting in a room off the Maine Twp. board room and accused him of grabbing, groping, pinching, rubbing, stroking, swiping, brushing, ogling, or just thinking about Jones’ derriere.

What was the evidence of that grabbing, groping, pinching, rubbing, stroking, swiping, brushing, ogling, or just thinking about? Nothing other than Jones’ self-serving accusations.

But that didn’t stop Carrabotta from returning to the Board room in high dudgeon, announcing an unspecified accusation by Jones, and demanding a closed session discussion of that accusation even though nothing about it qualified as a ground for a closed-session meeting under any of the statutory exceptions to the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”). And fellow “Reformer” trustees Susan Sweeney and Claire McKenzie indulged Carrabotta’s tantrum by supporting his improper closed session demand.

In the closed session Carrabotta reportedly demanded an investigation by the Township’s attorneys. And principal Township attorney Keri-Lyn Krafthefer was happy to oblige so long as her firm could conduct the investigation, notwithstanding that there may have been an appearance of impropriety, there may have conflicts of interest, there even may have been legal malpractice. And her firm did conduct the investigation, charged Maine Township taxpayers $38,000+ to find…nothing.

Jones, however, was not going to abandon her charade so long as she, Morask, their fellow RINO Township officials, Madigan sock-puppet Rep. Marty Moylan, and their unofficial public relations officer – Todd Wessel at The Journal newspapers – could keep thumping the #MeToo tub in an attempt to pressure Carrabotta into resigning. So Jones took her accusation to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions. That also got her nowhere.

So she conducted a tearful “press conference” outside Maine Town Hall and said she was contemplating suing Carrabotta in state court for something or other: Battery? Sexual battery? Aggravated mopery with intent to gawk?

A year later Jones has done nothing. Because Jones’ beef has been more of a show about nothing than “Seinfeld.”

We published a number of posts about what we labeled “Assgate,” including those on 07.17.2018, 08.06.2018, 08.07.2018, 09.24.2018, 09.29.2018, 10.09.2018, 10.15.2018 and 01.21.2019. You can read them if you want, but we don’t encourage it. The battle that we portrayed between what we called “The Reformers” (Carrabotta, McKenzie and Sweeney) and the RINO clown posse (Supervisor Laura Morask, Jones, non-Assessor Susan Moylan-Krey, Treasurer Peter Gialamas and Road Supt. Wally Kazmierczak) turned out to be little more than two tomato cans mauling each other for three rounds over a $20 purse.

Maine Township was, is, and always will be (unless the state legislature were ever to do something worthwhile and eliminate township government statewide) the fetid backwater, or the unwashed hairy armpit, of local government. EVERYTHING that goes on at Park Ridge City Hall, or with the Park Ridge Park District, or with Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, or with Maine Township H.S. District 207, or even with the Park Ridge Library, is more important than ANYTHING that goes on at Maine Township.

So don’t waste another moment of your time, your attention, or your energy on what goes on over there. It’s not worth it.

And while you’re at it, let the Illinois Republican Party/Stupid Party rest in peace, even though it may not realize that it’s been dead for years.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Tonight’s Council Meeting: One More Reason To Reject MWRD Grant; And A Farewell To Ald. Milissis (Updated)


At tonight’s Park Ridge City Council meeting the Council is scheduled to address another aspect of the ill-conceived and misguieded – bordering on stupid and wasteful – “green” Library lot project.

Unlike in past sessions where this project was discussed and various aldermen and residents took turns blowing smoke up each others’ (and the taxpayers’) kilts, tonight’s topic is supposed to be limited to the Intergovernmental Agreement (the “IGA”) the MWRD wants the City to sign.

A redlined version of the entire IGA is attached to City Atty. Adam Simon’s analysis of it. But you really don’t need to get past the analysis to see how the reportedly corrupt MWRD wants to stack the deck in its favor.

Simon’s analysis breaks the IGA down as follow:

Performance of the Green Infrastructure

The “green” lot must provide “retention” of at least 192,760 gallons of storm water. The preliminary design of the “green” lot has it capturing the stormwater and then slowly releasing it into the sewer system for ultimate treatment as wastewater. That’s called “detention, not “retention.”

Floating Grant Amount

192,760 gallons of storm water is the “Design Goal.” If MWRD finds, in its discretion, that the “green” lot doesn’t meet the Design Goal, it can unilaterally reduce the amount of the grant.

Long-Term Maintenance Obligations

If the City fails to maintain the “green” lot to MWRD’s standards in perpetuity, MWRD can demand a refund of the grant amount, perform the maintenance work itself, and charge the City for its costs.

No Redevelopment

Once the “green” lot is installed, that lot may never be redeveloped for a different purpose. Even if part of the lot is redeveloped for another purpose, it will affect the Design Goal, which could result in the MWRD demanding partial reimbursement of the grant.

Procurement Issues

The use of the grant money is expressly subject to complying with MWRD’s purchasing laws, including the below state law and local procurement policies – some of which limit the eligible contractors who can be hired to provide material or do the work.

Limited Appropriations

The IGA expressly disclaims any promise to re-appropriate any amounts which have not been disbursed after the expiration of the [current] fiscal year.

Every one of those terms and conditions should be a red flag, warning the City away from doing business with what the Chicago Tribune recently branded as “a bastion of crony politics” that provides “big opportunities for corruption” because it “has long been a hotbed of Democratic politics and patronage.”

We doubt that those red flags will be heeded by the biggest fans of the “green” Library lot boondoggle. But it might be fun to watch and listen to how those proponents try to put some sort of benign spin on the situation in order to keep it moving forward.

Kick-off is at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council chambers, 505 Butler Place.

*                             *                             *

Tonight is the final meeting for Second Ward Ald. Nick Milissis, who is resigning from the Council after six years of service. He is moving with his family to Glenview and, therefore, is legally prevented from continued Council service.

He was elected to the Council in April 2013 with our cautious endorsement, which you can read in our 04.08.2013 post. Since then he has been a zealous advocate for his constituents in the Second Ward, especially on the flooding issue which seems to dominate all others up there.

Although the magnitude of the flooding problem and the cost of remediation – especially in Wards Two and Three – have made progress slower and more incremental than Milissis or his constituents might like, that has not deterred him from making a case against flooding, and for his constituents, at every opportunity.

In reviewing our posts about the Council since Milissis became an alderman we discovered a fairly equal split between those time we praised him and those times we barbecued him. Not surprisingly, a number (if not a majority) of the latter involved our disagreement on the best way(s) to remediate flooding in the Second Ward and how to allocate the costs of doing so. At one juncture he wrote a lengthy comment critical of one of our posts on that topic that we chose to publish as a post of its own: “Ald. Milissis: PubDog Has ‘Jumped The Shark’ On Second Ward Flood Projects,” 06.12.2014.

But while we may have disagreed with the alderman, we have never doubted his diligence, his sincerity and his desire to vigorously represent not just himself, his friends, or one special interest or another but ALL his constituents. And on all but the rarest occasions he would explain his position and his vote so that his fellow aldermen and residents alike knew the “why” behind it.

We have no idea who will be appointed to fill the remainder of his term, which expires in May 2021. We can only hope whoever it is will bring a skill set, temperament and demeanor similar to what Millisis regularly demonstrated.

“Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” (Garrison Keillor).

Update (05.21.2019) We were mistaken about last night being Milissis’ last Council meeting: June 3 will be his last meeting. Hopefully that extra time will give him a few more opportunities to convince his fellow aldermen that this “green” Library lot is basically a deal with the Devil (MWRD) that will be far more expensive – to do right, not half-baked – than the prices we’ve been hearing.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Andrea Cline Swings, And Misses, On “Green” Library Lot


We intended to publish a short post yesterday about why the Park Ridge City Council shouldn’t let Ald. John Moran and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District stampede it into approving the purely political “green” Library lot when the first order of business should be piloting the “green” paving of our many un-paved alleys.

But then one of our more prominent local Go Green goddesses, Andrea Cline, checked in with a comment to our previous post that we thought deserved a bit more attention, especially since she had the gumption to sign her name. So we’re giving it a post of its own.

Her comment reads as follows:

As much as I’d like to claim to be the “very engaged resident” Anonymous [commenting on 05.13.19 @ 9:09 AM], twasn’t me, even though I have been singing the praises of MWRD and the CMAP LTA program (totally separate for those of you following along) for years. And while I’d like to take the time to point out all the flaws in this post and the previous one that touched on the library lot, as the Editor often says, I’m busy with my day job.

If Cline isn’t Moran’s mysterious “very engaged resident” – the one who purportedly started this MWRD grant ball rolling – who is? And why is Moran being so uncharacteristically reticent about that person’s identity?

We don’t know, so we’ll just start breaking down Cline’s comment.

She begins by claiming that “MWRD and the CMAP LTA program” are “(totally separate for those of you following along).” At least Cline got that right, the only part of Cline’s comment that is accurate: “CMAP” stands for the “Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning,” while “LTA” stands for its “Local Technical Assistance” program.

Did you ever hear of those before? We didn’t.

Not surprisingly, CMAP is another one of Illinois’ league-leading 7,000 (roughly) units of government that spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year with seemingly no transparency or accountability, and what appears to be few measurable results.

CMAP reports $18,477,158 in FY19 revenues, with almost $13.5 million coming from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation and another $3.4 million (almost) coming from the Illinois Dept. of Transportation. Like so many of Illinois’ typically inefficient taxpayer-scamming public agencies, CMAP appears overpopulated: It has 92 staffers who reportedly consume a whopping $11,929,805 of its $18,320,827 in FY19 expenses that’s an average of $129,672 per staffer – sporting job titles like “Local Planning” (25 of those) and “Policy & Programming” (23 of those).

If this sounds to you like a bunch of public payroller positions filled by various politicians’ otherwise unemployable relatives, you might be on to something.

And it’s run by career politician Joseph C. Szabo, who was paid $216,320 in 2017 and is likely being paid more today. After serving as the top dog at the Federal Railroad Administration from 2009 to 2015 (during the Obama Administration, for all you “R” and “D” geeks), heading CMAP appears to have been his soft landing reward, at least for the time being.

Cline doesn’t say what CMAP’s role in the “green” Library lot is, or is supposed to be. That’s probably because it has none, considering that neither Moran nor Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim mentioned CMAP in their respective January 14, 2019 memos, nor did City Engineer Sarah Mitchell mention it in her April 8, 2019 memo.

Maybe Cline just wanted to impress with a little acronym-dropping about an obscure state agency.

She goes on to claim there are all sorts of “flaws” in our 04.26.2019 post and our 05.09.2019 post, although she demonstrates the superficiality she first displayed during her 2015 campaign against Moran for 1st Ward alderman by blithely stating that she doesn’t have the time to identify any of them.

Weak, but not unexpected.

That bit of disingenuousness, however, caused us to go back to the January 14, 2019 meeting video and Cline’s remarks in support of the “green” Library lot project, which you can watch from the 1:41:20 to the 1:43:12 mark.

She starts out by praising the Morton Arboretum parking lot as the “most infamous” example of “green” parking lots (Are there any other “infamous” green parking lots are out there that Morton has beaten out for the title?) before bragging about its zero stormwater discharge.

Cline credited that zero discharge to the Morton paver lot’s sitting on four feet of gravel that itself sits over soil.

That got a rise out of Zingsheim, who noted (a) how such a deep sub-base with such a high-water storage capacity would explain the zero discharge; and (b) how, unlike Morton’s gravel-over-soil base, the Library lot’s base is likely to be the same non-absorbent hard blue clay that’s found in most parts of Park Ridge.

Cline’s smug response: “I would argue that you don’t know that.”

We would argue that Zingsheim has forgotten more about Park Ridge soil and infrastructure than Cline currently knows or will ever know. But until soil borings are done in various parts of the Library lot, everybody remains ignorant – including Moran, whose data-less proclamation that “200,000 gallons of water…will be absorbed and detained during a major storm event” remains the same steaming and odoriferous pile it was four months ago when he first dropped it.

Cline ended her data-less video pitch by claiming an additional benefit from the “green” Library lot: “Less snow removal costs…so you don’t have to apply salt or plow as much.” That’s not what we hear from all those Park Ridge folks with paver patios and driveways during our winter months.

We can’t think of any significant City project that has gotten as far as this “green” Library lot with so little hard data to support it. Then again, we also can’t think of any significant City project where a single alderman pulled a Lone Ranger stunt with another governmental body without any direction or authority from the Council itself.

But that’s what you tend to get when you let “politicians” run wild without transparency and accountability.

And that’s also what you tend to get when you let the political tail wag the government dog.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Will Pork Barrel Top Rain Barrel at City Hall This Coming Monday Night?


In our 04.26.2019 post we pointed out how the City Council, at its April 8 Public Works committee-of-the-whole (“COW”) meeting, decided to move forward with a $1.3 million (at least?) project to replace the Library parking lot’s “grey” asphalt surface with a “green” surface of paver stones – despite an almost total lack of data demonstrating that this is a worthwhile, cost-effective project.

The principal driving force seemed to be the a $650,000 matching grant for the “green” Library lot from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (the “MWRD”), which the Chicago Tribune called “a bastion of crony politics” with “big opportunities for corruption” as recently as in its April 22, 2019 editorial.

How did Park Ridge get that grant?

The first public mention of it was at the January 14, 2019 Public Works Committee of the Whole (“COW”) meeting, when Public Works Committee chair, Ald. John Moran (1st), announced out of the blue that he and City Staff had already obtained that $650,000 matching grant for the “green” Library lot from the MWRD.

What’s troubling about that?

Nothing at all, if you prefer your City government running on behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing like we had during the almost two decades when Ron Wietecha, Mike Marous and Howard Frimark occupied the big chair at The Horseshoe, surrounded by a bunch of rubber-stamping minions who made sweetheart deals that left the City with neglected infrastructure, depleted reserves and a falling bond rating.

But there’s plenty wrong with that if you prefer your City government conducted above-board and in the sunlight, transparent and accountable.

According to a Jan. 14, 2019 Memorandum issued by Moran (the “Moran Memo”), an opportunity for a grant from the MWRD “was brought to [his] attention a few months ago by a very engaged resident.” Who was that “very engaged resident”? Moran isn’t saying, for reasons he isn’t sharing; but we’ll accept guesses from our readers just for chips and giggles.

Moran then claims he “requested a sit down” (Yes, a “sit down” – apparently Moran channeling Tony Soprano in the back room at Satriale’s) with some un-named MWRD folks last Fall, apparently without notice to, or formal authorization by, the Council; or even any formal after-the-fact reporting to the Council about the “sit down.”

The Moran Memo goes on to state that “[o]ur staff handled the [grant] application,” also apparently without prior notice to, or formal authorization of, the Council; and apparently also without any interim status report to the Council. This is confirmed by Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim’s “Agenda Cover Memorandum” of January 14, 2019, although he puts the City’s cost for the project “in the neighborhood of $850,000-$950,000.”

The result? A $650,000 matching grant from those corrupt politicians running the MWRD.

Huzzah! Huzzah!

Except that while Moran and Zingsheim were going rogue with the MWRD on a “green” Library lot, the City reportedly was looking into MWRD grants for “green” alley paving. Will the $650,000 Library lot grant impair the City’s ability to get a “green” alleys grant? Who knows? The aldermen who green-lighted the project at the April 8 meeting don’t seem to particularly care.

But despite Moran’s and Zingsheim’s Lone Ranger and Tonto act, let’s look at what benefits the “green” Library lot could bring us.

Moran’s memo states that this project will “help us address the stormwater management challenges that our city has been wrestling with for decades.” How? By “the 200,000 gallons of water that will be absorbed and detained during a major storm event.”

Where’s Moran’s supporting documentation for such braggadocio? There isn’t any – only a nifty analogy to help sell his project: The purported 200,000 gallons of Library lot water detention is “the same as installing 4,000 rain barrels in town.”

After a quick Google search, however, we found that you can buy a 50-gallon rain barrel for $60, and a 60-gallon one for $100 (made from re-purposed olive shipping containers, for you Greenies). And that’s retail. Think Wal-Mart might give the City a deal on 4,000 of those suckers?

So if water detention is Moran’s primary goal – and if you believe that we have some Florida swampland at a bargain price – those same 200,000 gallons of rainwater could be detained with 4,000 of those 50-gallon rain barrels for a mere $240,000 instead of the City’s $650,000 contribution needed to win the matching grant from the corrupt MWRD. Or for $330,000, if we wanted to splurge on 3,330 of those 60-gallon barrels.

Or, looking at it another way: For the City’s $650,000 contribution to the “green” Library lot and a purely speculative 200,000 gallons of stormwater detention, the City could buy no less than 10,833 of those 50-gallon rain barrels, which would store…wait for it…a whopping 541,650 gallons of stormwater!

That’s why this project isn’t really about stormwater detention, or flooding. It’s about politics…which, in Crook County, means partisan Democratic politics.

Those politicians at the MWRD wouldn’t get any favorable publicity whatsoever from the City’s buying 10,833 rain barrels using its own money. And a certain local politician wouldn’t have a nice “green” paver Library lot as a prop for his next campaign.

This Library lot project is supposed to be on the agenda of this coming Monday night’s Public Works COW meeting (May 13, 2019, 7:00 p.m. at City Hall). We suspect there already may be a flurry of back-filling activity by Moran, if not Zingsheim, in advance of that meeting to prop up all the ipse dixit conclusions in the Moran Memo.

We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to hear more and/or new justifications for the City’s choosing the MWRD pork barrel over 10,000 rain barrels.

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The 10th Anniversary Of A New Age Of Park Ridge Government


Ten years ago today David Faulkner Schmidt was sworn in as Park Ridge mayor.

A month earlier he had pulled not only an upset victory over incumbent mayor Howard Frimark, but also a landslide one, 4,885 (56.44%) to 3,770 (43.56%).

How did an unmarried guy who had lived in Park Ridge only about six years, had no family members living in town, coached no kids’ sports teams, belonged to none of the local social organizations, owned no local business, and served a mere two years as 1st Ward alderman after running unopposed with Frimark’s support, win such a victory?

Unlike Frimark and the members of the Homeowners Party that had dominated City government for decades based on a cult of personality – family, friendships, memberships, business and social contacts – Schmidt based his campaign and his mayoralty on actual public policy positions, and on the principles of H.I.T.A.: Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability.

He inherited a City in terrible financial straits thanks to irresponsible borrowing and spending by Frimark and his fellow social butterflies – a bunch of “nice” guys and gals who regularly passed deficit budgets, consistently neglected infrastructure, charged residents less for water than it was costing the City to buy from Chicago, and gave hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to favored private organizations who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) raise funds on their own. Meanwhile, fund reserves had been spent down to dangerous levels and the City’s bond rating had sunk.

Yet the reality of those situations was being lost on most residents because some aldermen were clueless, others were happy to lie about such things, and the local press was adept at both.

That’s where Schmidt’s H.I.T.A. came in.

He told people the truth about the City’s situation, the bad as well as the good, because he respected us taxpayers enough to tell us the truth. And unlike your typical politicians, Schmidt admitted when he was wrong while promising not to do it again, as he did in his first – and what is believed to be the City’s very first – “State of the City” address: “I personally voted for two unbalanced budgets [as 1st Ward alderman],” Schmidt acknowledged, before promising that “I will not make the same mistake again” and vowing to veto any unbalanced budget passed by the Council.

And H.I.T.A. was the hallmark of Schmidt’s mayoralty through his re-election in April 2013, 5,614 (62.06%) to 3,432 (37.94%), until his sudden, untimely death on March 4, 2015. As we wrote in our March 10, 2015 tribute:

Can you imagine any “politician” running on such a platform?  They’d be laughed right out of the politicians’ union. But Candidate Dave was no “politician” because he didn’t suffer fools gladly, and he wouldn’t compromise principles just to make some half-baked, short-term deal that would make some special interest happy.

Since Mayor Dave’s death several local officials have invoked H.I.T.A. when it has suited their purpose, even though less than a handful of them actually have been willing to walk their H.I.T.A. talk. Ironically, the real “politicians” – an epithet to the editor of this blog – among them tend to shamelessly talk about H.I.T.A. while saying and doing the most un-H.I.T.A. things.

Which is one of the many reasons we despise “politicians.”

Whether Mayor Dave’s H.I.T.A. legacy survives remains an open question. We are seeing an increase in the number of politicians who are creatures of, and embrace, the cult of personality. They’ve already shown themselves to prefer shameless glad-handing to the hard work of grinding out solid public policy based on principle instead of expediency.

Only time will tell.

But 13.3% turnouts in hotly-contested elections – as we saw with the recent D-64 School Board election – and the number of uncontested races at D-207 and the Park Ridge Park District are not encouraging signs.

A ray of sunshine broke through the clouds ten years ago today and continued to light up the community over the next six years. Whether we stay in sunshine or slide back into darkness depends on whether the people of this community prefer day to night – and are willing to fight the darkness for the light.

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“Green” Library Lot: A Non-Solution Looking For A Non-Problem?


We here at PublicWatchdog have long been pro-environment and anti-flooding.  Heck, the editor of this blog participated in the very first Earth Day – April 22, 1970 – in Grant Park, and has been environmentally conscious ever since.

So the recent Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article reporting on the Park Ridge City Council’s April 8 discussion about replacing the Library parking lot’s asphalt surface with water-permeable brick pavers at a cost of $1.3 million (“Park Ridge aldermen divided on pursuing ‘green’ parking lot in Uptown,” April 11, 2019) caught our attention.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (“MWRD”) reportedly is willing to provide a matching grant, up to $650,000, for the project. For those who don’t pay attention to this stuff, the MWRD is one of the thousands of Illinois taxing bodies seemingly created and maintained to confiscate our tax dollars so that, in the MWRD’s case, dim-witted nephews and ditzy sisters-in-law of Crook County politicians can become public payrollers with guaranteed health care and pensions, but with no accountability.

But don’t take our word for it: Read “The ‘Ed Burke Effect’ washes over the  water district: Cue Cook County’s inspector general” (Chicago Tribune, April 22) and you’ll see the MWRD described as “a bastion of crony politics” that provides “big opportunities for corruption” because it “has long been a hotbed of Democratic politics and patronage.”

The MWRD’s corruption is the least of our concerns when it comes to this “green” paver project, however.

We were struck initially with the superficiality and stunning lack of data in that April 11 H-A article, which we initially attributed to superficial journalism until we read the superficial POS (and, in this case, “POS” does not mean Point Of Sale) April 8 Agenda Cover Memorandum by City Engineer Sarah Mitchell and watched the data-light Council discussion on the April 8 meeting video.

Sorry, J.J. Our bad.

Both Mitchell’s memo and the roughly 50-minute Council discussion are bereft of the most basic hard data that any responsible public official should have needed to justify moving this project forward, including: (1) how much water the “green” paver lot will detain; (2) for how long; (3) where will the water go from there; (4) the all-in project cost, including the cost of the design and engineering work for which the City is 100% responsible; (5) the cost to maintain the pavers v. maintaining the asphalt surface; (6) exactly what “other things” the City will we need to do “to make this project work,” per Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th); and (7) viable alternatives.

The only usable information provided by Mitchell’s memo and the Council’s discussion appears to be a proposed Library lot redesign required for the project, which would eliminate 13 current spaces in order to create the island “rain gardens” that are supposed to aid in the water detention.

Is a “green” Library lot more of a solution looking for a problem?

According to the H-A article, Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim told the Council the project will have “limited benefit” for flood control, because water runoff will still end up in the City’s sewer system. And he warned that heavy clay under the Library lot may hamper the amount of stormwater the lot will be able to detain.

“Limited benefit”? Water runoff still ending up in the sewers? No certainty as to how much water such a “green” lot can hold? At a cost of no less – and maybe a lot more – than $650,000?

Half-baked doesn’t come close to describing this boondoggle, which is sounding more and more like a non-solution looking for a non-problem.

There’s a lot more to this story than can be gleaned from just the H-A article about the April 8 Public Works meeting, the POS memo, the meeting minutes, and the meeting video. So we’ll be writing more about this in our next post.

But in view of the gross ignorance that appears to be driving this project forward, we need to give a special shout-out to Ald. Charlie Melidosian (5th) who – in response to a concern of Ald. Nick Milissis (2nd) about the “optics” of this project and its expense – expressed his unqualified support by self-assuredly proclaiming that he was “not concerned about residents’ perception: If we voted based on residents’ perception I think we’d be making a lot of mistakes.” (See meeting video, starting at the 1:02:17 mark).

Is Melidosian so clueless that he thinks being “concerned about residents’ perception” means becoming a human windsock blowing hither and yon at the public’s whim? Or is he so arrogant that he believes there’s nothing he can learn from residents, including his constituents?

To be fair, Melidosian qualified his tone deaf/arrogant comment with: “Our job is to educate people on the facts….”

But just what “facts” might those be, alderman – the answers to questions (1) through (7) above? If so, why weren’t those facts front-and-center in Mitchell’s memo, or raised by you and your fellow “green” lot cheerleaders, Alds. John Moran and Mazucca, at the April 8 meeting before your “consensus” to move this project forward?

For those of you keeping score, those three aldermen were part of a unanimous 6-vote (Milissis MIA) Council that screwed the pooch senseless with their Axon body camera ankle-grab for Chief Kaminski that will cost Park Ridge taxpayers approximately $280,000 – while the Niles PD got the same number of body cams from another vendor for approximately $64,000. We wrote about that in our 12.27.2018 and our 01.14.2019 posts, but you should also check out Kaminski’s defense of his disregard for the City’s procurement policy.

$280,000 is chump change compared to $650,000, which sounds more like a bait-and-switch number than the final, all-in one. And, unlike with the “green” lot’s water detention, there was never any doubt that the Axon body cams would actually work.

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Election 2019: We Suck Once Again


Almost two weeks have passed since this year’s local elections, and here are a few observations about them.

1.  Turnout totally sucked. Despite 2 weeks (including weekends) of early voting and decent weather on Election Day itself, only 4,605 of the 34,626 registered voters (13.3%) in Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 bothered to show up to vote for all 4 contested races. That’s the worst D-64 election turnout since 2011, prompting our 04.06.2011 post which told all those MIA registered voters: “You suck!”

That goes double this year.

And as in 2011, the 1st and 3rd Wards couldn’t even produce a contested race (neither could the 7th, but that’s a slightly different story), although at least this time the 3rd Ward derelicts didn’t need a write-in candidate to avoid having to figure out what’s the procedure for filling a seat when nobody even runs. Mayoral appointment? Raffle?

Meanwhile, interest in Park Ridge Park District and Maine Twp. School District 207 boards was so poor there weren’t even any contested races – which was worse than in 2011, and makes us wonder why 4,312 voters out of the 32,044 registered Park District voters (13.46%), or 9,982 out of the 97,915 registered D-207 voters (10.24%), even bothered to vote for candidates who could not lose so long as they voted for themselves.

And the 5th Ward contested aldermanic race drew a meager 1,001 of the 7,313 registered voters (13.69%) in that ward.

For a community like ours, the April 2 turnout is nothing short of pathetic and embarrassing. Paraphrasing a line from T.S. Eliot: “This is the way democracy ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”

2.  The D-64 race featured, for what appears to be the first time in Park Ridge election history, an overtly single-gender ticket of Rebecca Little, Lisa Page, Denise Pearl and Carol Sales, running as the “MOMS for District 64 School Board!” All but Page won, and Page lost to incumbent Tom Sotos by a mere 77 votes despite running what could best be described as a “stealth” campaign that eschewed yard signs and all other trappings of a serious candidacy.

We suspect that, had there been slate of candidates campaigning as the “4 DADS,” the howling about sexism and gender politics would have been so high-pitched and loud that it would have agitated every dog between Park Ridge and Indianapolis.

We’ll be interested to see if this was just a one-off phenomenon orchestrated in response to the tone-deaf arrogance and incompetence of the Tony Borrelli/Laurie Heinz Administration – and perhaps to provide sympathetic ears to the teachers’ and teacher assistants’ unions going into contract negotiations – or an actual movement by “MOMS” to take control of local government while “dads” continue to drink beer, scratch themselves and watch sports on t.v.

We’ll also be interested to see whether D-64 will become a better school system producing better academic achievement 4 years from now than it has been on Borrelli’s/Heinz’s watch.

If the MOMS-dominated (since 2013) D-207 Board is any guide, however, the answer to that will be a resounding “No!” – as evidenced by those D-207 MOMS blindly rubber-stamping 5 years of mismanagement and abject neglect of the District’s facilities by the incompetent-yet-arrogant Supt. Ken Wallace that had Maine South’s U.S. News & World Reports ranking sliding from 29th in 2012 to 45th in 2016, before falling out of the rankings entirely in 2017 and 2018.

How did that MOMS-dominated Board react to those failures? They helped Wallace pass a $300 million-plus referendum last November, and then gave him a 5-year contract extension and raise.

When it comes to competence in public service, therefore, XY appears to be no more an indicator of it than XX. And if you want more proof of that, we give you Laurie Heinz and Tony Borrelli.

(Edited 04.14.2019)

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