Ms. Barclay Doth Protest Too Much


In a letter in the July 7, 2005 edition of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, Judy Barclay of C.U.R.R.B. made another sales pitch for the purple ribbons she claims “denote the loss of ethical, responsive, open government in Park Ridge.”

That kind of hyperbole demands closer scrutiny.

The objects of her discontent are the nine members of the City Council who took an action at the May 3rd meeting- they organized the Council’s four committees – which she concedes they had the legal right to take. They simply reclaimed one of the powers that previous Homeowners Party-dominated Councils had handed over to their Homeowners Party mayors; and they did it in an open meeting in plain view of the public.

Ms. Barclay also complained that the majority “ignored the pleadings of residents who turned out in record numbers” to argue for Mayor Frimark’s committee choices.  The majority, however, ignored nobody. To the contrary, its members sat and listened for well over an hour as they were denounced by Frimark supporters in a demonstration as spontaneous as the balloon drop at a political convention.

Not surprisingly, at least a dozen of the most vocal critics were former Homeowners Party aldermen who themselves, while in office, had allowed the sitting mayors to make committee appointments; and another was Mayor Frimark’s soon-to-be handpicked successor as 4th Ward alderman.

But despite attempts to depict this as a popularity contest between the mayor and the Council majority, the truth is that the mayor received 4,889 votes for mayor while the nine aldermen comprising the Council majority cumulatively received 5,906 votes. So the popularity question remains a toss-up at best.  

Instead of grousing about the Council committees, Ms. Barclay and her Ribbon Brigade should tell us how the majority’s action has adversely affected the doing of the City’s business. Other than picking the four committees, what else has the mayor tried to do that the Council majority has prevented?

While purple ribbon sales may continue to make the Innisbrook folks happy, the Council should continue moving toward a new independent, transparent and accountable style of government – and away from the old lemming-like politics and abuses that led to the Homeowners Party’s loss of its dominance of City Hall.

The $650,000 Question


Like Captain Ahab chasing the great white whale, former Park Ridge mayor Ronald Wietecha was obsessed with O’Hare International Airport, and especially its expansion plans.

During his 12 years in office his Homeowners Party (“HO”)-controlled City Council voted to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Suburban O’Hare Commission (“SOC”). In 2002 the Council also rubber-stamped the Wietecha-directed wager of $650,000 of city funds on a long-shot plan for developing another airport in Peotone. This scheme was advertised by Wietecha and his Council allies as an “investment” that would be fully repaid with interest.

But when several aldermen independent of the HOs were elected in April, 2003, and began asking tough questions about the Peotone deal, Wietecha abruptly resigned on a Friday night in early September, 2003, and promptly ran off to Barrington.

The task of finding out the truth about the $650,000 “investment” was given to then-Second Ward alderman and SOC/Peotone supporter John Benka, in his role as the chairman of the Council’s Finance & Budget Committee. In the year-and-a-half leading up to his retirement from the Council in May of this year, however, Benka did nothing. Zip. Nada.

Questions remain both as to Benka’s being assigned that task and as to his neglect of it. Was it all just a ploy to minimize any embarrassment of him and his fellow sitting aldermen who happily endorsed this waste of our tax dollars? If so, it succeeded: The “lid” stayed on the investigation until now only two of the HO aldermen who voted for the Peotone “investment” remain on the Council (Ald. Rich DiPietro and Ald. Andrea Bateman), the rest of the “Yes” voters either having been defeated in their re-election bids (Ald. Steve Huening and Ald. Frank Bartolone, in April 2003) or, like Benka himself, having chosen not to stand for re-election.

Or was it an attempt to cover for the possible failure by the City to cross the t’s and dot the i’s on the contract documents to lock in the deal that Wietecha promised? Ever since Wietecha’s disappearing act, the city attorney has taken a decidedly passive role in getting the necessary information about the “investment” from Bensenville and Elk Grove Village officials, let alone making Park Ridge’s case for getting the deal that Mayor Ron and the Council claim they approved.

So whither the $650,000?

Newly-elected 4th Ward independent alderman Jim Radermacher has been authorized by newly-appointed Finance & Budget Committee chairman Don Crampton to take charge of the investigation into the Peotone project. Radermacher already has been furnished with contract documents that purport to be the final terms of the City’s deal with the other two communities, a small but significant first step in getting to the bottom of this mess.

For the past two years, finding out the truth about Peotone has been like a “Mission Impossible” episode, so it seems fitting that we wish Alderman Radermacher a hearty “Good luck, Jim,” while at the same time hoping the documents and records he needs don’t disappear in a wisp of smoke.