The Politics Of Park Ridge Parking


We have to confess that anytime we hear a bureaucrat or elected official talk about parking in or around Uptown, our ears perk up – because that can mean a land deal is in the works. 

So we paid attention when Park Ridge’s Economic Development Director Kim Uhlig said that she wants to make sure Park Ridge has enough parking spaces for all those visitors who regularly clog the streets and sidewalks of Uptown.  Or maybe she means all those visitors that Uhlig hopes will be clogging the streets and sidewalks once she starts marketing Uptown to the traveler-filled hotels in the communities surrounding O’Hare. 

In any event, the City has embarked on an Uptown “parking inventory” designed to identify all of the available parking spaces in Uptown.  Uhlig wants City staff to have its recommendations ready by September 1, even though the effects of the Target Area II redevelopment – with its underground and surface parking – will not be known by then, which would seem to make any “recommendations” now about available Uptown parking premature at best.

So what’s the real point of this exercise?  We’re not sure, but it’s beginning to smell a lot like the first step in a process of justifying the City’s buying up of more private land from one or more “lucky” – a/k/a “well-connected” (a/k/a Friends of Frimark?) – owners, based on some cooked up projections of our future parking needs. 

And not just buying up more private land but also leasing more private land, also from “lucky” owners like SCH Real Estate, LLC [pdf], with whom the City Council voted (at its May 19th meeting [pdf]) to renew a lease for 50 parking spaces in the South Fairview “permit” lot for another year at $500 a space, or $25,000 a year.  Interestingly enough, the City rents 32 spaces from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists for a mere $4,500, or a shade over $140 per space. 

Why the big difference? We don’t know for sure, but we have to wonder if the fact that one of SCH’s two owners is Bill Scharringhausen [pdf], reportedly an old friend of Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, has anything to do with it?  Or that SCH’s registered agent is attorney Patrick D. Owens, a member of the prominent Park Ridge law firm of Owens, Owens & Rinn headed by Jack Owens, the go-to guy for local zoning and land deals?  That firm and its partners contributed at least $1,750 to Frimark’s mayoral campaign fund, so one can imagine that their phone calls to 505 Butler Place get returned. Promptly.  

Never mind that, as can be seen from the figures in a May 8, 2008, memo [pdf] from City Finance Director Diane Lambesis to the City Council’s Finance & Budget Committee, the City may actually be losing money on the new SCH lease deal because it is projecting $1,000 less in revenue than it will be paying in rent.  And that’s before the cost of the liability insurance the City, in the lease [pdf], committed to maintain on the property that also covers SCH, as well as the cost of City staff actually doing the work of operating the parking lot, is figured in.  But what the hey, its only the taxpayers’ money!

We understand that the City has been leasing these parking spaces from the Scharringhausens for quite awhile now, although this appears to be the first year that the lessor is SCH instead of some other Scharringhausen-related entity.  So it looks like the taxpayers have been helping carry this appreciating asset on the Scharringhausen books for some time – and will likely continue to do so until Uptown Redevelopment south of the tracks goes forward and a willing developer comes up with the right price for them to cash out big-time. 

Or maybe Frimark will offer them the “right price” if he can’t lock up his favorite location du jour for the proposed big new cop shop: the freshly-defunct Napleton auto dealership property.  After all, with the other tax dollar giveaway ol’ “Let’s Make A Deal” negotiated (for Napleton’s original Cadillac dealership at Northwest Hwy and Meacham) having cratered, don’t Park Ridge taxpayers deserve yet another opportunity to bail out Frimark’s buddy and benefactor, Bill Napleton?   

Any way you cut it, it sure sounds like a mighty sweet deal for the Scharringhausens.  But when you’re “lucky” enough to be a friend of Frimark, sweet deals just seem to come your way.

35 comments so far

Great! Another special deal for somebody with connections to the mayor.

I’m thinking of “It’s A Wonderful Life” when quaint little Bedford Falls becomes Potterville. Quaint little Park Ridge is becoming Howardville.

I want you to manage my affairs, run my properties. George, I’ll start you out at twenty thousand dollars a year.

George drops his cigar on his lap. He nervously brushes off the sparks from his clothes.

Twenty thou… twenty thousand dollars a year?

You wouldn’t mind living in the nicest house in town, buying your wife a lot of fine clothes, a couple of business trips to New York a year, maybe once in a while Europe. You wouldn’t mind that, would you, George?

The stuff about the connected Scharringhausens is kinky, but sadly it’s what I’m starting to expect from the crowd that’s running the city.

But what is Ms. Uhlig thinking? Who gave her the idea that she’s going to convince John Deere salesmen from Dubuque and pharmaceutical executives from Albuquerque to pass up Mortons, Gibsons, etc. and come to Park Ridge for a Potbelly’s? Give me a break!

You’re a trip. Bill is arguably one of the kindest, self-less and generous people in this community. He invests an extraordinary amount of time and energy in volunteer activities that have impacted folks in need from Chicago to New Orleans. The continual implication in this blog is that anyone who has built relationships with others in this community, to actually be friends with an alderman, God forbid, are somehow tainted. Isn’t building relationships through our local activities, churches and schools one why we live in a small community like PR?


Please re-read our posting: We said nothing about Mr. Scharringhausen’s character, which means that most of your comment is nothing but a “red herring”: a literary device used to distract or mislead.

The continual implications of this blog – as well as its express statements – are that anyone who exploits his/her relationship with elected or appointed public officials for personal gain from the taxpayers’ purse should be subjected to very strict scrutiny. That’s because we believe that insider deals and other forms of public corruption at all levels of government, mostly by purported “great guys” and “fine family men,” pose the single biggest threat to the survival of our Republic.

We agree that many people move to small towns to “build relationships,” but the vast majority of them don’t seek or get sweetheart deals on lease agreements that even the City’s Dir. of Finance characterized as “expensive.”  And we also note with a measure of satisfaction that a federal jury this very afternoon convicted yet another one of Illinois’ premier “relationship builders” on 16 of 24 counts.

Whith all do respect, you did say something about his character. You implied that he exploited a relationship for personal gain. You implied that that he is being dramatically overpaid for his parking spaces because of who he knows. You implied that any legitimate review of what the city should pay for these spaces was bypassed because he contributed to the Mayor’s fund. It seems to me that all these implications say a great deal about a mans character.

I am in complete agreement that the diference in what the city is paying for spaces needs to be explained. By the way, based on the link you provided to the PDF memo, I also believe the fees for spaces need to be raised. I am in agreement that we as citizens need to watch our elected officials and their relationships very closely.

But don’t sit there and claim you said nothing about the mans character. As a capper, you threw in Rezko in your reply. You said everything about the mans character. You implied he is a crook.

The City agreement to lease the SCH parking spaces is at the least another example of fiscal mis-management by the City, even if it isn’t a sweet deal for a Frimark friend, which I think it is.

While the Scharringhausens are guaranteed the lease income of $25,000, without having to lift a finger to manage any of the paperwork or deal with customers leasing spaces, the City is not guaranteed any rental income because it subleases the spaces at its own risk. In that cited memo the City is also projecting for a loss because two of the spaces haven’t been leased.

The re-newed lease agreement with the Scharringhausens is $1000 over what was budgeted for the most basic cost to the City; and the guaranteed rental income to the Scharringhausens is more than five times what the City pays for the other leased spaces. I also wonder why the rent was increased in the first place? Does SCH not manage its cost on the property as well as the management of the AANA property? Or is the management of the AANA property just more charitable than the management of SCH?

The Scharringhausens could be of the finest character to ever walk the Earth, but this sure does look to me like a cozy deal for long time friends of Frimark with very close ties to another Frimark friend, Rosemary Mulligan.

As I said in an earlier post, I agree that someone has to provide answers to the difference in prices for these spaces. My best answer is very simple—I don’t know. It could be that there is some “value” that allows SCH to do more negotiation, like 50 spaces together or proximity to the train station. It could be that the folks at AANA are not minding the store in terms of what the value of there spaces are. I have to be careful because I recently moved here from the city where parking is extremely high, but $500 a year for a space at the train station seems pretty cheap to me (at an assumed 252 working days that is less then $2.00 per day). It also could be what you have suggested – a sweetheart deal and corruption. But again I would say that you cannot seperate these accusations from someones character. You cannot say that he may be of the finest character on earth and then say that based on a campaign contribution and relationship, he knowingly received a special deal, knowlingly overcharging PR for the spaces. Those two statements don’t match. You can’t make these statments with phrases like “it seems” or “it looks like” and then say oh well, I am not attacking his character. Again you are attacking his character. You are calling him a crook.

I agree with Nooneinparticular – leave Bill Scharringhausen alone! In reviewing the Fin & Bud 5-8-08 PDF, it looks like the parking lots that are conveniently located to the train station charge a higher monthly fee per space. So wouldn’t make sense that the city pays more for the lease?

Hey Anon at 1:45, I don’t believe people are casting dispersions on Mr. Scharringhausen or calling him acrook. I think the point here is the ‘negotiation’ skills of the current city administration are more than a little suspect when it comes to cutting deals with insiders. No problem with a person or family being connected, but expect to receive a little scrutiny. If you have nothing to hide, no harm done. If there is collusion involving public monies, you should be exposed. I think the issue mr. mayor has with scrutiny is that he’s being caught in the act and this level of public awareness is new to town. In my opinion, it’s a long time in coming. Keep up the good work, PW.

Scharringhausen’s lot has always been paid the highest premium rent and the subleases have always reflected that, equal only to that of the Touhy-Summit spaces, while the similarly located SBC lot went for less than does Scharringhausen’s. The Reservoir lot, the Central lot, etc. also conveniently located to the train station have always been less. So I don’t think the difference in price is necessarily a reflection only of location.


Thanks for the reply and maybe we see this a bit differently, which is ok. I have read the original story multiple times as well as the follow up posts. My reaction to it is that it clearly implies Scharringhausen (by the way I had never even heard of this guy until I read the article this morning)was and/or is involved in questionable activities. Why else are the quotes around “lucky”. Why else would you use the Rezko reference. I am not saying that attacking someones character is not justified in some cases.

It just struck me as funny that things can be written like what we have been takling about to day and people can be so naive as to say they said nothing about his character.

Anonymous@6:05 – You’re right about the difference in price doesn’t reflect location. There are 2 parking maps on the city website: and and the prices are all over the place.

Anon at 3:18,
I may be naive, but no one calls my honor to task! Again, I have reread the post and I just don’t see it as an attack on Scharringhausen’s character. If Mr Rezko is mentioned, it doesn’t reflect on anyone else. Sorry, I have nothing against Scharringhausen and I don’t have any opinion one way or another on the name based on what I’ve read today. Likewise, I have nothing against Bill Napelton, but the now void deal to pay for environmental cleanup and tax abatements totalling $2.4 million was either a sweetheart deal or an incredibly naive business decision on the part of the city. Something stinks on that deal and it’s more an indictment of mr. mayor than Napleton. Napleton’s campaign contributions are a matter of public record are they not? Makes a cynic wonder what else is out there.


I guess we agree to disagree!

If Scharringhausen has all the character you’re giving him credit for then let him explain why his lot deserves so much more per space than anybody else’s. Or let him volunteer to give the City a rebate.

Until either of those occurs, the deal smells. And by accepting the deal, Scharringhausen also gets stuck with the smell. That’s the way these things go.

Right said, Fred. But it’s not personal, it’s just business.

We’ve lived in this town almost 20 years. My wife and I are friends with a lot of wonderful people who also live in this community, many of whom are or were aldermen, plan commissioners or involved in other ways. I suspect that most of us have similar friendships. I’ve also paid enough attention to know that the vast majority of what you consider insider dealing, is typically either the result of poor negotiating on the part of the city or a deal you personally and subjectively believe is bad for the city. There is no one who can live up to your cynical expectations as a community volunteer unless they’ve lived like a hermit.


There are 37,000+ people living in this community, a large number of whom perform a wide variety of volunteer civic activities over the course of their lives and never get a dime of public money for it beyond what we all pay our taxes for: police and fire protection, streets and sidewalks, water and sewer, schools and parks, etc.

And then there are those relatively few “lucky” ones who – whether because of personal relationships or political connections – just happen to get bit more, like business or real estate deals that are just a little too good, or a little too easy, to be what could reasonably be considered “arms-length” transactions. 

Now, those deals might simply be the result of “poor negotiating on the part of the city,” as you suggest. But that would mean that our city government is run by a bunch of incompetent boobs who should all be fired or thrown out of office. Or it might mean that city government is run by at least a few people who know how to do business “the Chicago way,” even if on a more modest scale than our next-door neighbor.

So when you say that “[t]here is no one who can live up to [PublicWatchdog’s] cynical expectations as a community volunteer unless they’ve lived like a hermit,” you are choosing to ignore all those non-hermits who do that, and more, every single day…but who neither get nor seek any sweetheart deals for their efforts. 

I completely agree with you in spirit except that in your world, the minute any elected official votes for a “deal” you believe is poor, that official, that volunteer, that friend is forever on your sh## list.

Nooneinparticular on 06.05.08 10:18 pm:

One bad idea or one bad vote does not put anybody on our “sh## list.” In fact, we don’t even have a “sh## list” – it just seems that way because the same usual suspects keep coming up with what we (and many of their constituents) believe to be bad ideas, and casting what we (and many of their constituents) believe to be bad votes.


In my posts I have never defended the mans character. I have never even met the man.

I have simply been replying to a comment in a post stating “we said nothing about Me S’s character”.

I agree with your comment about “getting caught in the smell”. In fact, that is my point! The way this and other articles are written clear implicates people in activities that most who come to these boards deam as questionable at the very least. People do get caught in the smell. If that is a good thing or a bad thing or perhaps a cost for trying to shine the light on public officials in another debate.

But to do it and then somehow try to claim (take comfort in) that we said nothing about his character in a bunch of crap!

You sure do have a sh## list, but its limited to the mayor and all aldermen but Schmidt. You might as well be his campaign manaager.

When the Mayor and his Alderpuppets begin freely sharing information with the public, stop running behind closed doors to make deals, stop giving away our tax money to friends and contributors, stop ignoring the pleas of constituents to stay within the zoning codes, and a myriad of other sh##t-list-qualifying behaviors then it’s likely they’ll get the kind of praise that Alderman Schmidt has earned.

Hey Anonymous 10:04,

I do not recall Pub dogs ever preventing anyone from coming on the site to defend themselves. Of course I guess coming on the site to do that would be stupid when you have no defense.


I agree with you that anyone has the right to come here and defend themselves if they so choose.

So your position appears to be that we are saying things about their character but it is ok becuase they have every opportunity to defend themselves. That is a perfectly valid argument.

It is a great deal different then saying that we are saying nothing about their character.

Back to your “red-herring” argument again I see.

1. My comment was aimed at anonymous 10:04 # 2.

2. I was referring to the specific comment he/she made about the“Mayor and his Alderpuppets”, who by the way I do believe have no character, and how all the comments seem to be aimed at them. My comment was not about Mr. Scharringhausen.

3. I have not seen Mr. Scharringhausen in a number of years, but I do agree from what I know of him he has always contributed back to this community in a number of ways far beyond what most could hope to do.

4. Contributions to the community are just that a contribution “a voluntary gift (as of money or service or ideas) made to some worthwhile cause”.

5. Scharringhausen is a “Friend of Frimark”.

6. Scharringhausen is getting far more than what the value is that he is providing.

7. His community contributions and the overpayment in compensation he receives are unrelated, so what other conclusion do you propose I come too?

Anonymous on 06.06.08 10:04 am:

What really is a “a bunch of crap” is giving Scharringhausen or anybody else a pass just because he’s a nice guy. Now i’m curious to know how long he’s been suckering an incompetent city government and dipping his hand in my and every other taxpayers pockets?

Anon 1:20

I must done a bad job making my point. I am not defending the guy. I am not suggesting anyone get a pass. Again, I have never even met the guy. I was addressing a post that claimed “we said nothing about his character”. That statement, I believe is wrong. You cannot write things like that and claim it was not about his character. That is all I was saying/

Anonymous on 06.06.08 @ 1:55 PM:

For the last time, this is not about the Scharringhausens’ “character.” It’s about the deal.

The Scharringhausens have a right to ask for any rent they choose, and to get it – in an arms-length transaction that is fair to both parties. But if they knowingly seek and get a better-than-arms-length deal because of their relationship to those in City government, that is an abuse of the public trust by the city official(s) – which the Scharringhausens have aided and abetted.

We described the lease agreement to which the Scharringhausens are a party, along with some surrounding circumstances (e.g., that the Scharringhausens are receiving rent-per-space that is 42% higher than what the City is paying to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and that the City may actually lose money on the Scharringhausen lease). To the extent that agreement and those circumstances raise questions about the motives of the City officials and/or the Scharringhausens, those individuals can either answer the questions or accept whatever inferences the public may choose to draw.

I think I have taken up enough of the blogs time and space with posts related to this. Thanks for all the replies.

i was out of the loop for a few days and just checked this blog. i find it interesting how scharringhausen is merely used to illustrate what looks like a sweetheart deal, but then people try to turn it into an attack on sharringhausen. as the watchdog pointed out, a real red herring. owen hayes is a nice guy, too, but he tried to put one over on the city council and make a fast buck off the taxpayer. something is not quite right when scharringhausen is getting that much more per space for his lot than the aana is getting for its lot.

This is silly. In real estate it is “location, location, location.” Scharringhausen’s lot is very close to the train and commands a much higher parking fee than almost any other except the one on the North side of the tracks. The AANA’s parking spots are a very long block away from the train and are the cheapest permit parking for the train.

It is like asking why the condos in uptown sell for so much more than Bristol Court.

Or perhaps the Nurses are bad negotiators. What do train parking lots lease for in other cities? Comparing two things and saying one is normal and the other is a “sweetheart deal” is really silly and not convincing. Unless you are looking for fires that don’t exist.

Try doing some thorough homework, Jack. Then we’ll see if you’ve got what it takes for a real discussion.

What’s silly, Jack Spatafora, Jr., is comparing a 20-30 year old condo at Bristol Court – 1 mile from Uptown? – to a brand new condo in Uptown. So is saying that the AANA lot is “a very long block away from the train.” So is throwing in the totally irrelevant question about what lots rent for in other cities, as if comparing Park Ridge apples to Mt. Prospect oranges is as instructive as comparing the Scharringhausen lot to the AANA lot, even if the latter is that “very long block away.”

If you want us to believe that “the Nurses are bad negotiators,” then why can’t we just as plausibly believe that Scharringhausen got a “sweetheart deal” because he’s been friendly with the people running city government?

I don’t understand why the City is renting parking lots from anybody, especially if it’s renting Scharringhausen’s at a loss! Let Scharringhausen and the AANA run their own lots, take their own business risks, and take their hands out of our pockets.

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