The Watchdog’s Kibbles And Bits – Box 2


Early Retirement…Or Evacuation?: At its meeting this past February 19th, the Park Ridge City Council, with the blessing of Mayor Howard Frimark, adopted an “Early Retirement Incentive” program (ERI) designed to give senior City employees a financial incentive to retire early by contributing City money to their pension fund. 

The reasons given for such a program are principally two: it’s supposed to save money in the long run by replacing the more senior, highly-paid employees with younger, cheaper ones; and it brings in “new blood” and “fresh ideas.” 

Frankly, we have never been fans of this kind of program because it seems like the replacement personnel tend to cost almost as much as the folks they replaced (and, if they are any good, they soon get raises that close whatever initial gap there may have been); and because they rarely provide enough new good ideas to justify themselves on that basis.

Plus, if the old guys and gals weren’t providing enough value for their salary and benefits, why were they kept around as long – and paid as much – and they were?

Since the ERI was passed, we have seen Public Works Director Joe Saccomanno, Asst. Development Director Brian Emanuel, Community Preservation and Development Director Randy Dangerfield, and City Manager Tim Schuenke all tender their resignations.  Rumor has it that some, if not all, of them found some additional impetus toward the exit by the increasingly political environment of City Hall.

Rumor also has it that Mayor Frimark is doing the old “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?” to Police Chief Jeff Caudill because he wants to install one of his cronies in that position.  Leading contenders?  Speculation centers on former PRPD officers William Hominick and Bob Kristy, with the dark horse candidate being a current member of the Des Plaines P.D. who is married to a close Friend of Frimark.

Cop Shop Fever: Now that the School District 64 Educational Services Center (“ESC”) building has been labeled a no-go, the Park Ridge P.D. is back in the hunt for a site for the big new cop shop it insists on building rather than renovating (and perhaps adding onto) the current facility. 

Forget about the fact that the City already owns two parcels – the old public works property at Greenwood and Elm, and the Courtland parcel just south of City Hall that the City bought almost two years ago specifically for a new cop shop.  The City is looking for a new site, and we have to wonder if the main impetus is private profit rather than public benefit.

As Richie Daley and his cronies in Chicago know so well, there’s money to be made from real estate deals between favored developers and public entities whose management either understands what’s going on or is about as business-savvy as a zucchini. It’s pretty well known that the property near the AT&T building is back in play.  A couple of parcels on N. Northwest Hwy. have also been hinted at.  Not surprisingly, when we tried to check the ownership of those parcels, we were stonewalled by land trusts and Limited Liability Corporations that conceal the identities of the true owners.  That’s the way the game is played when you’re trying to fly an “insider” or “sweetheart” deal under the public’s radar.

And that’s why we suggest that before the City buys another piece of land for any reason, it should insist on a full written disclosure under oath from the nominal seller as to the identity of each land trust beneficiary, each LLC member, each corporate shareholder, and each limited or general partner that has any interest in the parcel. 

Where big bucks from the public treasury are being paid out, the public deserves to know exactly who’s receiving them.

A Salute To Park District President Marty Maloney: Recently the Herald-Advocate printed a letter from one of our editors praising Park District president Marty Maloney for his principled vote against keeping Oakton Pool open for another big money-losing season (“A Profile in Courage,” Nov. 29 [pdf]).

Oakton Pool is a classic example of financial mismanagement of our tax dollars by public bodies, something on which the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District does not have a monopoly.

What business person in his/her right mind would keep open an enterprise that was consistently losing $50,000 to $70,000 a year because it didn’t have enough customers, it had too high overhead, and there was no realistic prospect of turning the situation around?  But even though Oakton Pool has been hemorrhaging red ink for years now, the Park District Board and Staff – save for Maloney – don’t have the nerve to close the spigot because it keeps a tiny-but-vocal minority of citizens happy.

But because we aren’t just critics, we will offer the Park District a solution: If Oakton Pool is as much of a treasure to the community as its fans claim, let’s see them put their money where their mouths are.  Let them all “subscribe” for an “Oakton Only” swim pass that will be priced at a premium calculated by the Park District to permit Oakton to operate on a break-even basis this summer.  If enough subscriptions are received by a March or April deadline, Oakton opens for another season; if not, it doesn’t.

Or…the Park District can keep the Oakton spigot open and watch another $50-70,000 of our tax dollars go down the drain.

“Hello, Kalo!” – Part II: Our recent bit about the Kalo Foundation’s putting the arm on the City of Park Ridge for $5,000 to fund a program and exhibition at the Park Ridge Public Library (“Kibbles And Bits,” 11-26-07) caught the attention of some Kalo-ers, who thought we were unfairly picking on this good cause.

We have no grudge against the Kalo Foundation, and we have previously admitted that $5,000 isn’t a big hit to the public purse.  But we also oppose any policy that provides public funding of private foundations whose purpose and function have no clear connection to the provision of essential municipal services.  And we like it even less when the finances of the private foundation seeking public funding are not readily viewable by the public, so that the taxpayers can judge for themselves whether the foundation is a serious endeavor rather than more of a hobby for the people involved in it.

Our tip to the Kalo Foundation:  Put your finances – your budget, your balance sheet and your profit and loss statement – on your website.  And come up with a “business plan” – which you can also post on your website – that explains exactly what you want to do and a concrete plan for getting it done.  Or just stop asking for our tax dollars and truly be a “private” foundation.

4 comments so far

I bet we’d all be shocked to fidn out just how much money all our local governments spend on things that have “no clear connection to the provision of essential [government] services.”

We’ve got Howie making his buddy the new TOP COP…and building a new $10 Mil COP SHOP…
while the Park Dist. flushes $70 grand down the OAKTON TOILET…and the KALOs need a city HANDOUT just to raise a stinkin $5 grand??

What’s wrong with this picture?

I’m somewhat undecided about a new Police Station I do question it.

The present city hall and police staion were constructed in 1962 and while I wouldn’t know what the population was then let alone the fact I wasn’t around then I know from either asking or rwading various stuff it was in the 50’s and early 60’s the town pretty much became the size it is today so I must wonder and if it’s needed how many years have they’ve been cramped?

As for Oakton pool,

I’d like to save it but if it’s hardly then maybe it’s wrong to say it should remain.

Next questions is How Come after all these years is Oakton pool seen a decline in attendence and why has it been allowed to fall apart?

Yes I read the papers but I still can’t seem to find the answers I’m looking for.


The current police station – at around 9,000 square feet – definitely needs renovation and modernization, and maybe even some expansion. But nobody has yet explained how the new, bigger cop shop they are planning will make our police department measureably better at fighting crime or protecting us.

The Park District – and the consultants it has hired to advise it – maintain that Oakton Pool hasn’t “been allowed to fall apart” but that, instead, it has simply reached the end of its expected and normal useful life. As far as attendance goes, we buy the argument – which has not been refuted – that the Park District has too much outdoor water for the number of people who care to use it.

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