The Twilight Zone Of Park Ridge Zoning


This past Monday (April 28) night the City of Park Ridge Planning & Zoning Commission overcame its confusion and indecision long enough to approve – by a 6-2 vote – an expansion of R-5 Multi-Family Residential zoning from the “core” of Uptown to the entire “Central Business District”[pdf].  The Commission did thrown a bone to the many residents who showed up to object to the expansion of  R-5 zoning: It voted to eliminate the “adjacent to” language, which could have expanded R-5 zoning even further.

For a City that seems to be trying to generate a “growth spurt” under Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, expansion of R-5 is the tool of choice for developers looking to pick the low-hanging development fruit that is multi-family residential.  That’s because despite the hot air billowing out of the likes of the City’s Economic Development Director Kim Uhlig, the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce and other “retail” cheerleaders, Park Ridge is a retail backwater for a variety of reasons, making retail space a tough sell. 

So multi-family residential is the developer’s dream, and P&Z made sure that dream stayed alive Monday night. By expanding R-5 to the entire “Central Business District,” the P&Z Commission – whose members are all Frimark appointees or re-appointees – kept that dream alive for Napleton/PRC (including not only the former Napleton Cadillac site but also the current Napleton Lincoln-Mercury site), the owner of the site of the former D Bob’s, the owner of the former Hill’s Hobby, and whoever else had the good fortune to speculate on the redevelopment possibilities of the now R-5 suitable properties on the west end of Uptown.

Rumor has it that among those lucky speculators is an individual or group that has obtained options to purchase one or more of the properties along Third Street just south of Touhy, although we have been unable to confirm that rumor and, therefore, invite confirmation or correction by the owners of those parcels or anyone else with credible evidence on the topic.   

Once again leading the “ordinary citizens” in this latest battle against higher-density residential – as they did in the Battle of Executive Office Plaza – were 5th Ward residents Judy Barclay and Carla Owen, the latter who likened this continuing effort to the movie “Groundhog Day.”  In the opposite corner, at least symbolically, was Carrie Davis, the City’s “acting” Director of Preservation and Community Development – a title that might induce schizophrenia in anybody who truly cares about “preservation” but which is worn as comfortably by the pro-development Davis as it was by her predecessor, the pro-development Randy Derifield.

Voting to hold the line against greater height and density by confining R-5 to the B-4 Uptown “core” were P&Z members Cathy Piche and Milda Roszkiewicz, while rolling over for the developers were members Anita Rifkind, Aurora Abella-Austriaco (who is challenging Rosemary Mulligan for her state representative seat in November, presumably not on a “preservationist” platform), Tom Provencher, Chairman Alfredo Marr, Joseph A. Baldi and Louis Arrigoni. 

Piche and Roszkiewicz deserve a “well done!” from those of us who don’t want more height and density destroying the character and feel of our community.  The others?  They’ll have to be content with a pat on the back from the mayor. 

Where will it all end?  Can you say “Des Plaines”?

Pick Your Poison


If you care about the future of our community, tonight you have a choice of two meetings that have the potential for significant changes to its character and feel.

The first is a meeting at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (beginning at 6:30 p.m.), where local clergy members and representatives from “Journeys from PADS to HOPE,” the organization behind the PADS shelter movement, are expected to answer questions about the proposed Park Ridge PADS.  The second is a meeting of the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission (7:30 at City Hall), where the topic will be the expansion of the “R-5 Multi-Family Residential District.”

We here at PublicWatchdog have come to the conclusion that the proponents of these two initiatives have failed to make a compelling case for either. 

*  Regarding the PADS shelter at St. Mary’s, we have seen nothing to convince us that the entire PADS program – at least as it is run by “Journeys from PADS to HOPE” – is successful in reducing homelessness, notwithstanding its good-sized budget and countless hours of volunteer time.  Actually, the network of PADS shelters looks more like a “feeder league” for Journeys’ flagship Hope Center and its programs that seem to attract the real cash – more than three-quarters of a million dollars in 2006, the last year for which financials are reported on the Journeys website. 

Despite the many glowing endorsements and assurances from the PADS proponents, we still see nothing about the St. Mary’s PADS that makes it anything more than a temporary flop-houses intended to attract transient homeless with a variety of mental and substance abuse problems from outside Park Ridge with the promise of a “cot and a hot.”  So we ask again: “Why do we want such a facility in Park Ridge?”  And to those who believe it is their personal “mission” to provide for these non-Park Ridge transient homeless we ask, again: “Why don’t you take them into your own homes?” 

*  The R-5 expansion is, in certain ways, similar to the PADS shelter: While there appears to be only a figurative handful of people clamoring for it, there seems to be no real need for it.  Currently, R-5 multi-family residential (the tallest buildings and highest population density permissible under our zoning code) is limited to the “Central B-4 Uptown Business District” and the areas adjacent to it.  But because the term “Central B-4 Uptown Business District” combines two different areas – with the “B-4” District being the lighter shaded area on the zoning map [pdf] and the “Central Business District” including both that lighter (B-4) area and the darker shaded areas – removing the “B-4 Uptown” language from the description would dramatically increase the potential for R-5 zoning to not only the entire “Central Business District” but also its much larger perimeter of “adjacent” areas. 

But except for certain developers (and the property owners who wish to sell to them) there doesn’t appear to be a grass-roots hue and cry for such structures.  So, like with the PADS shelter, the question that needs to be asked and asked again until a satisfactory answer is offered is: “Why do we want more tall multi-family dwellings in Park Ridge?”

Judy Barclay and her CURRB organization recently have been thumping the tub to have the “adjacent to” language removed from the description.  We agree wholeheartedly, but we wonder how Barclay and CURRB missed this issue when she was a member of the City’s “Ad Hoc Zoning Ordinance Rewrite Committee” that recommended the current language? 

Nevertheless, better late than never.  

The Watchdog’s Kibbles And Bits – Box 9


Don’t Be “Dense” About Density. This Monday, April 28, the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission will be meeting (7:30 at City Hall) to discuss increasing the amount of area zoned “R-5” – which allows as many as 29 dwelling units per acre of land, the densest number permissible under the current zoning code.  For those of us who like the traditional, small-town feel of Park Ridge, the prospect of more tall buildings looming over an even larger area of Uptown – especially if they’re filled with condos that add more residents – is unappealing at best; and, at worst, could actually be ruinous to the character of the community.

But as we’ve seen under the rule of Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, the character of the community is of little concern when there’s an opportunity for developers to make a buck by jacking up the residential density.  So if you feel strongly about further expansion of an already congested Uptown, you should attend Monday night’s meeting.  If you cannot attend, however, consider contacting P&Z Commission members (as currently listed on the City’s website): Anita Rifkind, Aurora Abella-Austriaco, Tom Provencher, Alfredo Marr (Chairman), Milda Roskiewicz, Joseph A. Baldi, Louis Arrigoni and Cathy Piche to express your viewpoint.  Or contact Ald. Dave Schmidt (1st Ward), who can be counted on to represent the residents while still exercising his own reasoning and judgment.

Allegretti’s Cone Of Silence. No Alderpuppet of Mayor Frimark seems to like government secrecy more than Jim Allegretti (4th Ward), who acts like “closed” Council sessions and confidential memos are the greatest thing since sliced Wonder Bread.  And nobody is more adept at playing “Chicken Little,” even though he substitutes “We could get sued!” for “The sky is falling!” when peddling his brand of panic.

Both of these qualities were on display at Monday night’s City Council meeting during the Council’s debate over how the police “audit” will be conducted and whether its results will be made public.  Allegretti first voiced his support for letting his (and Frimark’s) choice of Police Department outside auditor, Ekl-Williams, give police officials and officers immunity from disciplinary actions in return for their cooperation with the investigation (which was defeated), but he also opposed making a commitment to the auditor’s full report being made available to the taxpayers who are paying at least $75,000 for it.  His reason for the latter vote: “We could get sued.”

None of his Council peers asked him the obvious question – “What about that report would be a valid basis for a lawsuit against the City?” – and Allegretti wasn’t telling.  But, fortunately, Alderpuppets DiPietro and Ryan inexplicably unhooked their strings long enough to join Ald. Schmidt and Wsol to forge a 4-3 majority in one of those classic politics-makes-strange-bedfellows moments.  So unless something changes, we should get to see the auditor’s evaluation of the PRPD, warts and all.

Call Napleton’s/PRC’s Bluff. Yesterday’s Herald-Advocate reports that the City’s retreat from its $400,000 bribe (our term, not the H-A’s) to keep Napleton Cadillac in Park Ridge is being blamed for queering Napleton’s planned sale of its old site to Uptown redeveloper PRC Partners, who was planning to build more condos there once the environmental clean-up was completed using the City’s (i.e., the taxpayers’) cash.

Bill Napleton – who so rankled Alderpuppet Don Bach (3rd Ward) several weeks ago that Bach threatened not to buy his next Cadillac from Napleton, before turning around and voting to give the dealer up to $2.4 Million in sales tax revenues and environmental clean-up costs – claims that without the $400,000 from the City the deal doesn’t work for Napleton or PRC. 

Well, Billy Boy, that deal never worked at all for most of us taxpayers who never could see why we should pay to clean up your mess.  And the same goes for PRC, who already has received enough economic favors from the taxpayers of Park Ridge in Target Area 2 to last the rest of Andy Koglin’s lifetime.

It’s way past time that the City let it be known in no uncertain terms that if Park Ridge isn’t an attractive enough community for a business to locate or stay here without being bribed to do so, then maybe that business should look elsewhere.  Because we don’t need to pander to those kinds of carpetbaggers.  And, frankly, we can’t, and shouldn’t, get into a bidding war with other communities for them.

As for Napleton, it can either sell the old Cadillac site to a ready, willing and able buyer or it can hold the property and continue to pay taxes on it.  Either way, there’s no reason for the City to make any more sucker bets on this property or to fold its hand.  Because anybody who says a deal for that site fell through because of $400,000 is clearly bluffing.   

Memo To Mayor Frimark: Tax Increase Is Not A Decrease. Also as reported in yesterday’s H-A (“Council agrees to a smaller, 3.3 percent tax hike,” April 24), the City approved a 2008-09 budget that includes a property tax levy increase of 3.3% – the first time since 2002 that the increase will be under 5% – although water rates will be increased 6.7% and the sewer surcharge will rise by an average of approximately $14.64 per household.
We are puzzled, however, by Mayor Howard Frimark’s statement that the 3.3% property tax increase “shows our good faith to our citizens that we are interested in reducing taxes when many governmental bodies are increasing taxes.”  Hey Howard…a 3.3% property tax increase is not a tax decrease, even if it is less than the 5% the City has been hitting us for since 2002.  Repeat after us: A tax decrease means we pay less property tax to the City than we paid last year. 

No More Library Space Needs Studies. Even though the City cut the $200,000 budgeted for ventilation system improvements at the Public Works Center and $150,000 in motor vehicle funds, the Council preserved the $50,000 for yet another Library space needs study.  For those of you who haven’t been following along, the Library’s quest for more space – or a brand new building – has been going on since 1991, when the Library staff piled books on the floor to support its bogus claim of a space shortage.  

As recently as 2002 the voters decisively rejected the Library’s plan for a new $20 million building that would have almost doubled the square footage of the current building.  Since that time, the Library Board and Staff have incessantly whined about space shortage and the need for a bigger “state of the art” library building.  And now they are going to spend $50,000 for a study “to determine the options for building a new facility, or expanding and substantially remodeling the existing facility” – as the Library Board and Staff explains in its “Action Plans 2007-2009-.pdf”

What about “No” does Librarian Janet Van De Carr and Library Board members John R. Schmidt, John Benka, Shlomo Crandus, Kathleen de Grasse, Margaret Harrison, Patricia Lofthouse, Dorothy Hynous, Eileen O’Neill-Burke and Richard T. Van Metre not understand?  Instead of wasting more of our money on the thoroughly predictable results of yet another one of those tell-you-what-you-want-to-hear studies, find yourselves a seminar or two that explain how to learn to live with, manage and maximize the value of the facility you already have. 

Still Powerless In Park Ridge


We assume most Park Ridge residents remember last August’s power outage, which left a good portion of Park Ridge powerless for as many as four days.  But we wonder if they still remember Mayor Howard Frimark’s dog-and-pony shows last year, when those non-committal public relations types from ComEd came to City Hall to tell us what a good job ComEd was doing overall and just how fine a job it did responding to the blackout. 

Almost eight months have passed and it looks like the City’s “strategy” for dealing with ComEd has turned into “out of sight, out of mind.”  As best as we can tell, the City is doing nothing – either on its own or working with ComEd – to update and improve the dependability of the City’s power grid or to help ensure that another similar power outage won’t recur.

We realize that hounding ComEd is one of those “grunt work” tasks that isn’t nearly as glamorous as announcing a new condo development, nor does it provide as nifty a photo op as cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of a new business.  But it’s one of those things that a good, effective City administration should be doing on a regular basis because dependable power is a signficant element of our quality of life.

That’s why it’s refreshing to see that at least one suburb (and one suburban mayor) has the gumption to actually do something more than talk about ComEd’s dereliction of its duty to provide dependable power in return for its virtual electric power monopoly.  Deerfield recently filed suit in Lake County Circuit Court, charging that ComEd violated the Illinois Public Utilities Act and demanding that the utility not only improve its service but also pay damages to both its residential and commercial customers.

As expected, ComEd spokesman Joe Trost – as we recall, one of the same talking heads who promised us a bunch of nothing at those City Hall meetings – immediately started whining about how “disappointed” ComEd is over the lawsuit.  Trost suggested that ComEd was hurt by such a harsh action in view of the cooperative (a/k/a one-sided) relationship the utility and the village have enjoyed over the years.

We tip our cap to Deerfield Mayor Steve Harris and the other Deerfield officials who finally decided that begging is not the most effective way to negotiate with a monopolist.  Whether the suit will be successful remains to be seen, but it sends a message that Deerfield finally has had enough of ComEd’s neglect, negligence and “public relations.”

Meanwhile, as the summer storm season approaches, those of us here in Park Ridge need to start checking the condition of our extension cords (to run across the street to a neighbor’s house with power); or for the more upscale among us, it may be time to start looking for a good price on a generator.

Because dog-and-pony shows haven’t made our electric power more dependable.  And we can’t count on this problem remaining out of sight much longer.  

In Praise Of NIMBYs


The recent PADS shelter dust-up has resurrected the term “NIMBY” (“Not in my back yard”), which traditionally has been used as an epithet by people who want some facility or special use that incurs the opposition of its neighbors.  NIMBYs are usually cast as insular, selfish and standing in the way of “progress,” although we prefer the Merriam-Webster definition: “opposition to the locating of something considered undesirable (as a prison or incinerator) in one’s neighborhood.“

We here at PublicWatchdog like NIMBYs because they provide a needed reality check on things that might not be all that good for the community as a whole but that otherwise may get overlooked by the rest of us who are not in the “line of fire” until it’s too late to stop them – like projects and programs that are often found wanting, in whole or in part, once they are subjected to closer scrutiny, critical thinking and public debate.

In the case of the proposed PADS shelter at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, many of us who don’t reside near there might not have gotten past all the warm-and-fuzzy talk about “clients,” “guests,” etc. if not for the NIMBYs who questioned, rightfully so, why the church should be allowed to become a homeless magnet by turning itself into what amounts to a “flop house” – a by-the-night place for transient homeless to “flop” – in their neighborhood, or anywhere else in Park Ridge for that matter.

That is a question worth asking in light of the PADS goal [pdf] (as described on the Journeys from PADS to Hope website, of providing nothing more than “hospitality, food and emergency shelter to homeless people from October 1 through April 30.”  And the description of their “Results” [pdf] – at least as measured by how many people they actually lift out of homelessness – doesn’t seem all that impressive for an organization whose most recent published financials [pdf] show a budget of almost three-quarters of a million dollars, supplemented with over 42,776 volunteer hours per year.

It’s also a question worth asking when we already have The Center of Concern, a local social services organization with the motto “a helping hand to neighbors in need” and which already offers not only a “Home Sharing” program but also a “Homeless Transitional Housing” program that provides scattered site apartments and supportive services to homeless individuals for up to 24 months.  Frankly, those sound a lot more desirable and effective in the battle against homelessness than the PADS flop-house du jour program.

But until those NIMBYs went public with their concerns, the PADS project was flying under the radar – thanks in no small measure to the Park Ridge Ministerial Association, whose members apparently felt that because they are on a mission from God they don’t have to deal with such mundane tasks as consulting with, or being accountable to, their neighbors.  What gives them the right to dictate to the St. Mary’s neighbors how that neighborhood will be used, especially since most of those ministers have never owned a home or paid a penny of real estate tax in our community? 

Not surprisingly, our top local politician didn’t exactly cover himself with glory on this matter, either.  It looks as if Mayor Howard Frimark began encouraging proponents of the shelter back in 2006 despite claiming as recently as a month or so ago that he didn’t know more than what he read in the papers.  And until recently, Frimark’s 5th Ward Alderpuppet, Robert Ryan, was MIA on this issue – perhaps because it didn’t involve something as deserving of Ryan’s limited time and effort as giving a well-connected developer a variance to build a few million dollars’ worth of extra condo units on the edge of Uptown. 

But the PADS shelter is an item on tonight’s City Council agenda (7:30 p.m., 505 Butler Place), primarily because of the interest and effort of the St. Mary’s NIMBYs.  So if we actually get the kind of public discourse a project such as the PADS shelter demands, and the residents deserve, we will have those NIMBYs to thank. 

Another Face Of Patronage


In case you missed it, yesterday the Seventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Chicago issued its decision affirming the criminal convictions of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s political patronage henchman, Robert Sorich, and three of Sorich’s underlings.  These men were convicted, effectively, for practicing patronage – the “art” (although in Chicago it is pretty much a “science”) of doing favors for political reasons, using public resources like government employees and taxpayer money.

We here at PublicWatchdog applaud the Seventh Circuit’s decision, and every court decision that strikes another blow – however large or small – against graft and corruption in government.  Stealing from “The People,” often by selling the power of public office to well-connected insiders and political contributors, is an insult to our form of government and nothing less than outright theft of both cash and honest service from the taxpayers.

The Sorich case is important in the battle against public corruption because it establishes, maybe for the first time anywhere, that a public official can be guilty of corruption without putting money in his own pocket.  Sorich and his cronies did not take cash in the traditional quid pro quo manner of old-time political influence peddling: they simply sold their offices and themselves by doing favors for others who actually reaped the benefits of jobs, contracts or favors. 

As noted by Sorich lead prosecutor, former Ass’t U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins, the Sorich case displayed “a form of corruption where the true recipients of corrupt schemes are not always the defendants themselves, but…their patron, a third party.”  

Which brings us to sleepy ol’ Park Ridge.  As we mentioned at least once before, it’s naïve to think that a community such as ours, bordering on one of the most corrupt big cities in America and situated within one of the most corrupt counties in America, can somehow remain immune to the blandishments of under-the-table deals and favors for the favored – even if only of the ham-and-egg variety instead of the steak-and-lobster versions common to Richie Daley’s kingdom.

We believe that the best way to guard against corruption is simple vigilance and healthy skepticism.  As annoying and tiring as it can sometimes be, constantly asking our public officials “why” – and demanding real answers, not just empty sound bites, from them – is a great way to keep our fingers on the pulse of what our local governments are doing and where our tax dollars are going. 

And that means giving a second, and even a third, look at any situation where a public official has any kind of connection to, or relationship with, the recipient of any public favor or benefit.  We’ve already seen how certain of our public officials seem to struggle with concepts like “conflict of interest” and “the appearance of impropriety” in how they do “The People’s” business.  And far too many of them are far too eager to run into closed sessions to conduct “The People’s” business in secret, just because they can.

As The Tribune’s John Kass writes in his column today: “Americans have a right to expect honest service from elected officials, and that just because a politician doesn’t put cash in his pocket, it doesn’t mean he or she isn’t part of a corrupt scheme to defraud the people.”

We’ll give Mr. Kass an “Amen, brother!” on that.

Frimark For Friends


His mayoral campaign committee is known as “Friends for Frimark” and it has collected in the neighborhood of $100,000 for Mayor Howard Frimark since it was formed in 2004.  That’s a lot of scratch to run for an office that pays a meager $12,000 a year.

Its contributors include many well-known local businesses and service professionals who could benefit from a “friend” like Frimark in City Hall, including such notables as auto dealers Joe Bredemann and Napleton Cadillac; Realtor Owen Hayes II; restaurateur Sam Markos (Crystal Palace); accountant Dirk Ahlbeck (Ahlbeck & Company); real estate developers Bruce Adreani (and his Norwood Builders), Mark Olshansky (JMM Developments) and Tim Metropulos (TMM Development); and attorneys DiFranco & Associates, Richard Larson (Larson and Edlund) and Jack Owens (Owens, Owens & Rinn).  

So it should come as no surprise – at least to those who have watched his opportunistic political career – that Frimark would try to reciprocate.  And that would explain his lobbying for Napleton (and its fellow beneficiary of the City’s largesse, PRC Partners, which was planning to build more condos on that site) to retain the $400,000 windfall the City Council authorized back in January, when Frimark himself cast the tie-breaking vote.  

But with Napleton announcing the closing of its Cadillac dealership and with the current economic downturn appearing to have put the brakes (at least temporarily) on the planned multi-family developments at Greenwood and Northwest Hwy, Executive Office Plaza and Gateway Estates, it also comes as no surprise that Frimark would look to entertain the possibility of bailing out Napleton/PRC by adding the former Cadillac site to the City’s growing stable of possible locations for the proposed $20 Million-plus police station.

As reported in last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, Frimark plans to talk to Napleton in a couple of weeks about that possibility.  And doing his part is Frimark’s 5th Ward Alderpuppet, Robert Ryan, who wants the City Council’s Public Safety Committee to push forward with the planning process for the new cop shop – even as the announced closing of Napleton Cadillac already has the City scrambling to figure out how to replace Napleton’s $200,000 in annual tax revenue, as well as coping with an even bigger dent in the City’s revenues that could result if Lutheran General’s appeal of its property taxes is successful. 

And bailing out Napleton/PRC by having the City buy the old Napleton site and carry it on the taxpayers’ dime until the economy recovers and it becomes more attractive and affordable to a private developer like PRC is in keeping with Frimark’s let’s-make-a-deal-with-the-taxpayers’-money style, as evidenced by his recent demand that the City get a new appraisal for the 720 Garden property – the previous flavor of the month site for the cop shop – because the first one was too low!   

As we’ve said before, the City needs a renovated and improved police station to remedy the inadequacies of the current facility.  But the proposed new Taj Mahal-ish cop shop is a luxury that is as unaffordable as it is unnecessary: We’d rather see that money spent on training, equipment and compensation for the police officers instead of on excessive brick and mortar. 

But because his friends were there for Frimark, it looks like Frimark intends to be there for his friends.  Too bad those friends don’t include the majority of Park Ridge taxpayers.

Bach, Humbug!


We’ve been critical of Park Ridge Alderman Don Bach (3rd Ward) on many occasions, so it’s only fitting that we commend him for his literary prowess in authoring one of the longest letters to the editor we’ve ever seen in the Park Ridge Journal – an almost full-pager titled “A Comment On Courage” in which he criticizes certain unidentified blogs, certain unidentified bloggers and the unidentified individuals who contribute to them.

We assume PublicWatchdog is among his targets, and we can live with that.  In fact, we encourage it on the theory that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

But we have to wonder why Bach’s lengthy diatribe contains not one mention of his own political beliefs or even one insight into his personal philosophy of local government.  Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have any, which becomes pretty obvious from his description of how he surveys 20 or 30 different people “for each and every issue” before voting the way his constituents have asked him. 

That’s not being The People’s representative, Mr. Bach. That’s being a glorified weathervane. 

If Bach wants a quick lesson on what he should be doing besides licking his finger and holding it aloft, we suggest he try Federalist No. 10, where no less a political thinker than James Madison proposed a form of government where the popular views are refined and enlarged “by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country” and which can thereby pronounce the public voice in a way “more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.”

But, of course, that requires a lot more thought and effort than simply surveying 20-30 constituents and then voting the way they tell you.

Oh, and by the way: Madison wrote and published Federalist No. 10 anonymously as “Publius” – as did the Federalist’s other two authors, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.  Maybe Mr. Bach has heard of them even if, by his standard, those Founding Fathers were cowards for writing anonymously.  And by that same standard, Mr. Bach is courageous even though he eagerly scurries into closed sessions to do The People’s business in secret – and then has the gall to join Mayor Frimark and the rest of his Alderpuppets in condemning Ald. Dave Schmidt (1st Ward) for telling the public the truth about that “secret” stuff.

Although he writes that he doesn’t read blogs such as this, we’ll offer Bach our own “comment on courage” about how he performs his aldermanic duties: Don’t quit your day job, Alderman.

It’s Almost Time For “Scapegoat Caudill”


Last month we discussed former Park Ridge Chief of Police Jeff Caudill’s “Voluntary Separation Agreement And Release Of All Claims,” which we labeled “The Fix” because it’s both a sweetheart deal for Caudill and a way to keep the public in the dark about the results of the upcoming “audit” of the Park Ridge Police Department. 

We pointed out how Paragraph 7 of The Fix provides that “Mr. Caudill and City management officials agree to refrain from making statements to the general public or news media disparaging one another” – which means that any of the audit results that relate to Caudill or his management of the police department over the past eight years might be kept hidden from the taxpayers who are paying for the audit, including those citizens who have had less-than-optimal experiences with the PRPD.

Well, it didn’t take long for the first part of that prediction to begin coming true. 

As reported in last week’s Herald-Advocate (“Committee recommends firm to conduct police audit for city,” April 3), Mayor Howard Frimark and the most handpicked of his alderpuppets, Jim Allegretti (4th Ward), pushed through their choice for the police department auditor, the Lisle-based law firm of Ekl Williams, over the choice of fellow Public Safety Sub-Committee member Ald. Frank Wsol (7th Ward), Kroll Investigations, a risk-consulting company which has monitored investigations of the Los Angeles and Detroit police departments, and conducted an investigation of misconduct within the San Francisco P.D.

In that H-A article Allegretti is quoted as saying (about the PRPD’s various problems that prompted the audit): “I think a lot of our problems retired,” a clear and arguably “disparaging” reference to the recently retired Caudill.  And, more importantly, it sure suggests that at least one alderpuppet – the same one who is one of the most vocal when it comes to defending closed session meetings and secrecy – is ready to make Caudill the scapegoat for most, if not all, of the things the auditors might find wrong with the PRPD. 

Which causes us also to wonder about the choice of Ekl Williams, whose estimate of approximately $75,000 for between 350 and 400 hours of auditing work seriously low-balled the estimates from Kroll (774 hours of work for $231,100), Jenner & Block (760 hours for $276,870) and Ungaretti & Harris (700 hours for $250,000).  And it’s being reported that Ekl Williams qualified its less-detailed work proposal with a disclaimer that more hours and money might be needed once they get into the assignment.

That gives Ekl Williams the opportunity for a classic bait-and-switch once they begin the assignment.  On the other hand, it also gives Frimark and his Alderpuppets a ready made excuse to cut the audit short while claiming to be saving us money.  Allegretti has already started setting the table for that maneuver by bad-mouthing the more comprehensive audits, saying he’s “really not that comfortable with that much money.”  Of course, this is the same alderpuppet who voted to give $400,000 to Napleton Cadillac (and PRC Partners) to clean up pollution on the old Napleton site.  

Bait-and-switch or just a plain old fashioned whitewash? With Frimark and Allegretti calling the tune on who gets to do the audit, that may end up being the only choice we have.

Walkin’ Tall…Or Just Talkin’?


For those of you who have seen this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, you already know that this was “pro-PADS” week: The H-A published 3 pro-PADS letters to only 1 anti-PADS one. 

For those of you keeping score…stop keeping score.  Measuring the value of competing positions on any issue by the relative number of letters, pro or con, that are published in the local papers – or by the number of comments on this site, for that matter – is idiotic.  When dealing with public policy issues like this, it’s not the quantity of the opinions but the quality of the thinking behind them that’s important. 

That being said, one of those letters did grab our attention.  Michael O’Grady, writing in support of the PADS shelter, shares his fond memory of how his grandmother talked about feeding “the occasional homeless or down and out individual right in her own kitchen” during the Depression.  He suggests that behavior such as that might explain why people of that era have been labeled “the greatest generation.”

We agree.  That’s why we encourage Mr. O’Grady and all the other PADS supporters to dare to be great: Instead of just talking the talk, start walking the walk.  Instead of warehousing the homeless in St. Mary’s’ basement, volunteer to put the occasional “guest” up for the night in your spare bedroom, on the couch in your basement, or even on a futon in your family room.  And if your Christian spirit so moves you, feel free to add the extra touch of sending them off in the morning with a nice hot breakfast.  Then you will have your own inspiring story to tell the grandkids.

We also think that the members of the Ministerial Association should lead the way in this regard by becoming the very first Park Ridge residents to welcome a “guest” into their own homes – which in most cases belong to their respective congregations.  Granted, that might not totally solve the problem they created by their bungling of this issue, but it would make them look a lot more like community leaders and less like neo-Pharisees. 

And by dispersing the homeless throughout the community, it should reduce the nasty NIMBY-bashing of the St. Mary’s neighbors that some of our self-styled “Christians” seem to really be enjoying. 

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From time to time the folks at Park Ridge Underground have given PublicWatchdog a plug by directing their readers to our site, so we figure it’s time to return the favor: Check out the PRU Crew’s recent discussion of some possible – and heretofore overlooked – consequences of locating the PADS shelter in Park Ridge (“The HUDdled Masses and More!” April 3).