City Council Advances “Special Use” By PADS


Monday night (July 21) found the Park Ridge City Council chambers packed with Park Ridge residents and other persons concerned about the opening of a PADS homeless shelter in the gym/”Morello Parish Life Center” of St. Paul of the Cross School.  The crowd filled the corridor outside the chambers and spilled out onto the steps and landing of City Hall.  At least three Chicago television stations had camera crews on hand.

Over forty audience members spoke to the issue.  The camera crews and a good portion of the crowd were gone by the time that the City Council finally voted, unanimously, to refer the homeless shelter issue to the Planning & Zoning Commission for consideration and a public hearing as to whether a text amendment to the zoning ordinance should be adopted that would expressly recognize a “homeless shelter” as a “special use” requiring a Special Use Permit to operate within the City limits.

In reaching that conclusion, the Council had to face down a staged display of solidarity by 10 or so “representatives” of the Park Ridge Ministerial Association (“PRMA”), three of whom were from St. Paul: Pastor Fr. Carl Morello, Ass’t Pastor Fr. Rob Schultz and Ministry Dir. Adrienne Timm.  They were joined by an attorney from the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, who reprised the PRMA argument that the City shouldn’t attempt to regulate a “religious ministry” – which, by their interpretation, is anything they say it is.

Several of the audience comments deserve special mention here.

PADS supporter Diana Schmidt-Garvey, a member of the St. Paul Pastoral Council that Fr. Morello reportedly has packed with friends and “Yes” people the way Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark has tried to pack the City’s boards and commissions, recounted her sadness at how, years ago, the police of one community would drive the homeless to a neighboring community just to get rid of them.  It appears that she hasn’t quite picked up on the fact that moving the homeless from one community to another is a key feature of the PADS model

Susan Czolgosz suggested that a lot of support for PADS would be discovered by surveying 100 Park Ridge residents, while Library Board member John Benka bragged about how the Library’s “statistically significant” survey of 400 residents disclosed no opposition to a PADS shelter; and former alderman John Humm (is his wife Susan Humm, the vice-president of the St. Paul Parish Council?) didn’t even need a survey to opine that “most of Park Ridge” doesn’t want “more government” – which he defined as the City requiring the St. Paul PADS shelter to obtain a special use permit. 

To those folks we say: If you and the City Council want to turn the PADS shelter decision into a nose count of how many Park Ridge residents support it, then the only honest thing to do is put the question on the November ballot as an advisory referendum and let’s count real numbers, not second-rate substitutes from bogus surveys or idle speculation.

Dan Lasowski (sp?), who identified himself as having served on the St. Paul long-range planning committee, attempted to blunt the concerns of parents who object to a PADS shelter in their children’s school by claiming that the St. Paul gym isn’t really a “gym” – and, therefore, not part of the school – because it’s a “parish life center.”  He offered no explanation, however, for the varnished wooden floor marked with a center jump circle and free throw lanes, the six backboards with rims, or the two scoreboards in that non-gym.

And then there was Tom Brandt, who insisted that the homeless in the PADS system “aren’t criminals, they aren’t crackheads, they’re just down on their luck.”  That being the case, we wonder why Mr. Brandt and the other PADS supporters – including the PRMA God Squad – aren’t volunteering in droves to take those down-on-their-luck individuals into their own homes and shower them with good Christian love rather than warehouse them in the St. Paul non-gym.

But let’s not forget Mayor Frimark, whose contributions to the discussion were his stern warnings against applause and booing, his totally erroneous contention that “up until two weeks ago all the [court] cases were against us” concerning the ability for municipalities to enforce zoning ordinances against religious organizations, and his public admission to those present (including the Archdiocese’s attorney) that he’s afraid of the City being sued. 

Fortunately, the entire Council grew a spine on this one, however temporarily, to disregard Frimark’s fears and stand up for their constituents because those constituents have been willing to publicly stand up for themselves. 

It’s about time, on all counts.