To “The People”


In Monday’s posting we wrote about how neighborhood activists are re-claiming our local government by organizing and speaking out on issues of importance to their own neighborhoods and, by extension, to the Park Ridge community as a whole. 

In researching that piece, however, we came across an interesting post from February 2, 2005, by local political blogger and attorney Russ Stewart, who reported the following about then-mayoral candidate Howard Frimark’s efforts to build a slate of aldermanic candidates to run with him:

“I couldn’t find quality people” to run for alderman, moans Frimark, a 62-year-old insurance agent and a first-term Park Ridge alderman. “There’s a lot of apathy in this town.”

Maybe Frimark just wasn’t looking in the right places back then.  Or maybe it’s taken three years of Frimark’s own brand of special interest, wheeling-and-dealing city government to help “The People” realize that the only way they are going to get “good government” is to do something about it themselves.  One thing is certain: over the past six months a lot of quality people have been anything but “apathetic” in organizing and speaking out against what they believe to be the wrong way our city is being run. 

The mayor might even recognize their names if he was actually paying attention when they came to City Council meetings or e-mailed him about their various concerns – like his endorsement of the sweetheart variance deal for his campaign contributors at Executive Office Plaza.  Or his attempted $2.4 million bail-out of campaign contributor Napleton Cadillac.  Or his pandering to the Park Ridge Ministerial Association with his support for bringing a PADS homeless shelter, first to St. Mary’s Episcopal and now to St. Paul of the Cross.  Or his ridiculous Cumberland underpass idea.  And that’s just part of the list.

People like Carla Owen, Paul Meyer, Becky Bork, Phil Donohue, Dan and Sue Knight, Gary Beckner, Mike Casey, Bob and Barb Christopher, Ruby Cruz, Frank Partipilo, “The Cumberland Patriot”, Jill McGuigan, Joan Sandrick, Paul and Lorna Chevlin, Tony and Carleen Riccio, Mary Ahne, Bill and Angela May, Jim Bruno, Missy Langan, Tony and Jennifer Svanascini, Steve Kopka, Jim Whitney, Paula Waters, Kristin Grant, Gene Spanos, Apple Naughton, Jean Dietsch, Jim Marino, Debby Usher, Jennifer Whitelaw, Bob and Sarah Horak, Judy Barclay, Kristin Grant, Leslie Dempsey, Anna Coakley, Mirek and Patti Dobek, Christine Schilling, Pat Livensparger, Margaret Cohen, Frank Colleran, John Cassiday, Kevin Costello and Kathleen Wolf, to name just a few, have shown that they are not apathetic about this community and that they have the courage to say and do things to make it better.

And that’s the way it should be with a system of government like ours, where ordinary citizens have the right to show up and be heard by their elected and appointed public officials.  And when they do so – especially after informing themselves on the issues – they can have an amazingly positive influence on public policy, and on the public officials who are supposed to be representing us. 

As Thomas Jefferson wrote to Richard Price in 1789: “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

So here’s to “The People.”

12 comments so far

Of, By, and For “The People”! What a concept! I am just loving the Watchdogs this week! Thank you!

Didn’t Frimark recruit Kirke Machon (1st), Joe Baldi (5th) and Marc Mazzuca (6th) to run against candidates in those wards that were aligned with the sitting “independent” aldermen Anderson, Cox, Crampton and Parker? That’s the way I remember it.

If not for the St. Mary’s neighbors who fought the PADS shelter in their neighborhood, I wouldn’t have even known about it because it was not in my back yard. And nothing was said about PADS at St. Paul (I’m a parishioner) until after the St. Mary’s neeighbors started making noise about it.

Russ Stewart is an idiot. He doesn’t really understand much about Park Ridge and our history, and if anybody thinks a $250 campaign contribution is Schakowsky “pouring money” into a race they need meds.

Time has proved that Frimark can’t work with anyone that won’t kiss his ass and do exactly what he tells them to.

It’s about time the people in this community woke up and have started speaking up. We have all been sleepy suckers for Frimark’s crap for way too long.

Anonymous on 07.30.08 12:54 pm – you’re right about Stewart not knowing much about Park Ridge. He picked Tinaglia as a “slight favorite” for mayor, but Tinaglia lost by 60%-40%. He picked John Iberl to hold Tinaglia’s first ward aldermanic seat, but Iberl lost 61%-39%. And he picked Bruce Gilpin to defeat Joe Baldi, with the reverse happening by 66%-34%. A monkey with a dartboard could have done better.

From our experience contesting the parameters of the development at Executive Plaza, I learned that Park Ridgians have strong views about what should happen in our town. Of course they don’t all make it to council meetings to express their view. I think they rely on others to express their views for them– either citizen representatives (as you discuss in this thread), or their elected aldermen. Unfortunately, with only 7 aldermen, a simple majority of 4 makes the decisions for all of us, and sometimes they haven’t made decisions that reflect what the citizens clearly want. That’s what happened with the Executive Office development, to our great frustration after two years of speaking out. So what can citizens do to make a difference? Vote smart. Elect aldermen and a mayor who share a vision of Park Ridge with you.

With you 100%, Ms. Owen. And like you, my alderman is Robert Ryan. “Nuff said.

Ms. Owen, most members of our City Council – both the current 7 and the former size 14 – don’t want to actually know “what the citizens clearly want” because then they’d either have to do it (usually against their own wishes) or be accountable to the voters for not doing it.

That’s why they never want to put anything to referendum, even an advisory referendum. Instead, they spend our money on surveying 400 people and then saying it represents what all of “The People” think. Or they pull a Don Bach, say they talked to 30 of their constituents who favored giving Napleton millions of dollars, and then vote that way.

The only two times in recent memory that the City put anything meaningful to referendum (not counting Wietecha’s “do you want 747s from O’Hare crashing into the Pickwick,” yes or no?)was when the referendums were put on the ballot not by Council resolution but by citizen petitions.

The citizens have not had any chance to vote on such important, community-wide issues as the TIF, the development plan for Target Area II, the new public works bldg, a new police station, expansion of R-5 zoning, etc.

It’s interesting that most of the “quality” people listed simply are against something. Exec Plaza, Uptown, Napleton, Howard,…whatever. It’s always easy to be the opposition. There really is no courage required. How about someone with an actual fresh, progressive idea. I know that the local blogosphere is lead primarily by folks who would rather see the town erode from benign neglect, but perhaps a few of the anointed, like the almighty schmidt, will surprise us with an actual vision for the community, rather than the ridiculous waste of energy poking fun at Frimark.

Anonymous on 07.31.08 7:37 pm,

I could not disagree more strongly with your sentiments. It takes great courage for “the people” to stand and speak against the power brokers, the elite, the connected, those who command the bully pulpit, when all they have at their disposal are their voices and words.

Quite contrary to your view, I believe it’s always easy to nod one’s head in bobbling agreement with those who control not only the ways but also the means of power.  Those are the people who risk nothing.

The local blogosphere is lead by those who also have nothing more than words at their disposal. They’ve chosen to use available technology to “amplify” their words. It’s as close as they’ll ever come to sharing the power of words that the politicians and local press have always controlled in their sickly symbiotic relationship.

Anonymous on 07.31.08 7:37 pm,

“It’s always easy to be the opposition. There really is no courage required. How about someone with an actual fresh, progressive idea. I know that the local blogosphere is lead primarily by folks who would rather see the town erode from benign neglect”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Did the folks at EOP say NO to development? No, they said stay within the zoning ordinance.

Do the folks opposed to R5 expansion want NO expansion in Park Ridge? No, they want expansion that is intelligent and within the scope of the vision of those that drafted the comprehensive plan… or at least close to it. They don’t want R5’s creeping all over town, that’s for usre.

Do the folks opposed to a PADS at St. Mary’s or SPC want NO homeless shelter? No, they want one where they can be part of the process since opening a shelter is a character changing event for the whole city.

Do the folks that are opposed to the Cumberland over/underpass want NO under/overpass? Well, you got me on that one! ‘Cause it’s potentially the biggest waste of +$20 million or so that one could think of.

Alpha is right. It is not easy being the leader of a group or, for that matter, one of a group that stands in opposition to what the city leaders cook up behind closed doors or in closed meetings. If you want head bobbing, as in “yes, Howard”, idiot lemmings as citizenry it seems that time has passed.

Get a clue Anon.

To anonymous on 07.31.08 7:37 pm:

We are unaware of any critics of local government in Park Ridge who, in your words, “would rather see the town erode from benign neglect.”

Whatever “benign neglect” there might be is coming from the Frimark Administration, which can’t even come up with a plan to adequately pave our streets, reduce our flooding, or help get us reliable electric power – the kinds of things that competent government is supposed to be doing.

As for your complaint about “the ridiculous waste of energy poking fun at Frimark,” it really isn’t any “fun” to continually address his self-serving follies as mayor of our City. It’s actually sad and depressing, especially if one cares about the unique character of the community that “Let’s Make A Deal” seems so intent on changing – for the right price, of course.

But somebody’s got to do it, so we’ve volunteered. And while we’re expending a lot of energy, we’re not wasting any taxpayer dollars in the process – unlike Mayor Frimark and his Alderpuppets.

Finally, we echo the comments of “Alpha Female” and “Wondering.” It’s easy to be a “rubber stamp,” a “yes man,” or a “lemming.” In fact, for those so inclined, it’s the next best thing to apathy.

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