Public Watchdog.org

When Politicians Play With Fireworks

08.13.08

The annual July 3rd fireworks display at Maine East High School is a grand tradition which Park Ridgians young and old eagerly await each summer.  The shows are spectacular, and they entertain not only the crowd at Maine East but also the crowds that gather at nearby locations such as North, Northwest and Woodland Parks.

But from the sound of things we might soon be seeing a less spectacular kind of fireworks from some of our local officials.

As reported in the July 23, 2008 edition of the Herald-Advocate (“District 207 wants chance to raise funds at fireworks, too”), School Dist. 207 Board member Jeff Bergen wants the District to be able to fundraise at the event in return for its donating the Maine East facilities.  We hear worse ideas from politicians and government bureaucrats almost every day, so we aren’t about to beef about District 207 getting a little quid pro quo for providing a venue for the fireworks.

But Dist. 207 isn’t alone in its discontent.  The Park Ridge Park District reportedly will be discussing at its August 21st meeting whether to pull out as one of the main sponsors of the fireworks – allegedly because it doesn’t believe it’s getting enough credit for helping to sponsor the event.  Assuming the report is true, that could be an entertaining discussion next Thursday night.

These two items got us interested enough to look into the money side of the fireworks show, because when it comes right down to it money is usually at the heart of most of these intergovernmental dust-ups.  And frankly, when its our money, we don’t mind a little frugality.

What we found was not one but two financial reports on this year’s fireworks show: One by the City of Park Ridge Public Works Department and the other by the Park Ridge Park District. Oddly enough, they don’t seem to quite match up, but they may satisfy the cliche: “Close enough for government work.”

The City’s 11-page report [pdf] reports, at page 11, “Total Program Costs” of $37,813.10, and another $22,299 for the cost of City employees.  The Park District’s 1-page report [pdf], on the other hand, shows $26,683.30 in “Total – Expenses.”   

We may be missing something, but if those two governmental bodies can’t seem to come up with the exact same accounting for such a relatively small project and dollar amount, we wonder what might be happening with the multi-millions of dollars in revenues and expenses they handle each year.  But that’s an issue for another time.

We also wonder about the “exclusive” deal the Kiwanis Clubs appear to have for all the food concessions at the fireworks (City report, page 4) – without any evidence that they are contributing anything toward the cost of the show.  We’ve got nothing against the Kiwanis, but so long as the City, the Park District and District 207 are using thousands of our tax dollars to make this event happen – and even the Park Ridge Fine Arts Society is kicking in $8,000 for the musical program – we see no reason for anybody to get a monopoly on anything unless they’re willing to pay for that privilege.  

Meanwhile, it’s time for the City, the Park District and School Dist. 207 to sit down together and exercise a little intergovernmental cooperation to make sure the burdens, the benefits and the kudos for the fireworks show are fairly allocated among all three bodies – and among the taxpayers of their overlapping but not identical territories. If private sponsors can be found to underwrite all or part of the event, so much the better.  

Because when it comes to as traditional a community event as our July 3rd fireworks display, the show must go on! 

15 comments so far

Well… those two reports are clear as mud.
Can you say: obfuscation?

I had no idea the Kiwanis got an exclusive concession at the fireworks. Is Frimark a Kiwanis member?

I’m not sure this means anything, but why are there two Kiwanis clubs in Park Ridge?

http://www.kiwanisclubofparkridgemorning.org/index.html

http://prkiwanis.park-ridge.il.us/

The idea of all three government bodies splitting up the costs evenly makes sense. And somebody should try to see if one or more sponsors can be found to bring the costs down. But I don’t want more on-site fundraising. I don’t want anybody hitting me up for money once I get there, just let me bring my own food/drink, sit there and watch the show.

I think the City’s report is great until that last page. Then they lost me. Are they saying that the fireworks costs upwards of $60,000?

Fred,

You are correct.

The total expenses for the fireworks show was over $60,000.

Howard Frimark is a member of the Rotary Club, not Kiwanis. There are two Kiwanis clubs because the noon club set up the morning club in the ’80s as an alternative meeting time for members who preferred early morning. Rotary also has an early-morning option.

I do not know if the clubs pay a fee to set up the concessions, but I do know that the funds raised come back to the community via service projects that benefit the Kiwanis cause of helping children.

The issue isn’t whether the funds Kiwanis raises from concessions at the firewarks show “come back to the community via service projects that benefit the Kiwanis cause of helping children.” The issue is why does Kiwanis get special treatment (exclusivity of concessions) over any other service organization, especially if it contributes nothing to help defray the cost of the fireworks show.

Because the fireworks show is a cost to the taxpayers, we think that all officially-sanctioned money-making activities at the show should have as a priority the defraying of the show’s costs rather than the generating of revenue for any other cause, no matter how worthy that cause may be.

I’m not a Kiwanian; I’m just married to one, so I would simply ask Mark Lundberg, the president of the morning Kiwanis Club, about the arrangement. It is my understanding that the noon club no longer participates in the concession stands project.

I really don’t believe there is anything sinister here or any insider deal involved. Maybe no one else wanted to sell concessions? There’s a thought.

We begrudge nobody, including Kiwanis, from fundraising or making money. Our only point is that Kiwanis seems to have acquired – in ways not transparent to the ordinary citizen/taxpayer/voter – an exclusive, or monopoly, over concessions at the fireworks, for which it seems to pay nothing.

If Kiwanis gets to pre-empt the on-site concessions field, we think the public deserves to know why; and we invite Mr. Lundberg, any Kiwanian, or anyone from the City, the Park District, or District 207, to explain the situation more fully.

I have alerted my spouse to this posting, so perhaps some information will help clear the air and disabuse people of the notion that the Kiwanis clubs have some super-secret sweetheart deal that is netting them boatloads of money.

I can assure you of one thing — there is nothing glamorous about peddling hot dogs and BBQ from an unairconditioned stand on a hot, steamy night.

Cry me a river, Tar Heel.

Yeah, I guess it sucks so bad that those poor Kiwanians have to drag themselves out to Maine East every year just to take a few nickels back to Kiwanis Central for their troubles.

What’s most amazing is that you seem to think people who read this site would actually buy that crock of crap.

Just a side note here. Maybe it would be more glamorous and take everyone’s mind off the sweatshop conditions if instead of selling plain old hot dogs, the Kiwanis started selling Kiweenies! Come one! Come all! Come get your Kiweenies from your local Kiwanis!

What’s the matter, Anonymous @3:27 p.m., did you get passed over for president of student council in high school so you’ve been sour on any group that promotes civic involvement and community service ever since?

Anonymous on 08.22.08 5:03:

When did selling food at a fireworks show rise to the level of “civic involvement” or “community service”?

The “noon” Kiwanis website says its members put in an average of 8 hours a month on “meetings, projects and volunteering in the community.” I’m a volunteer kids sports coach and I (and the rest of the coaches I know) average 8 hours A WEEK for that activity, which we don’t give the lofty title “civic involvement” or “community service.”  No “big whoop” there.

And since this PADS shelter stuff started up, I probably average another 8 hours a month on going to city meetings. No big whoop there, either.

Besides selling fireworks concessions and having a breakfast or lunch meeting once a week, what exactly does Kiwanis do for this community that’s so important?



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