Public Safety Meeting To Feature PADS, Police Station


Tomorrow night (August 7, 7:00 p.m. at City Hall) the City Council’s Public Safety Committee will have two issues on its agenda that deserve close public scrutiny.

The first is the long-awaited “Linkage Agreement” [pdf] proposed by that homeless shelter franchise known as PADS.  All we can say is: What a joke!  We can’t remember the last time we saw such a collection of warm-and-fuzzy nonsense masquerading as a legally binding contract.  That the PADS operators can even present such a document to the City displays a level of chutzpah that we have come to expect from folks like Bill Napleton and those shameless real estate speculators and developers who think they are entitled to taxpayer handouts.

We can’t wait to see whether any of Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark’s alderpuppets have the nerve and/or the brass to step up and cheerlead for this meaningless piece of paper.  We also hope the Park Ridge Ministerial Association and Fr. Carl Morello show up to give us their “Who Would Jesus Indemnify” viewpoint, especially now that the reports about violent attacks by homeless people seem to be increasing. 

But that may only be the undercard.  The more meaty discussion could involve the City’s ongoing pursuit of a big new cop shop.  To that end, Public Safety Chairman Ald. Frank Wsol (7th Ward) has drafted a memorandum [pdf] setting forth a process for further exploration of this project.  While it’s not a bad way to start, it does have a few shortcomings that should be dealt with sooner rather than later:

·         “(1)  Build a portfolio…”  When discussing what our community can afford, we would like to see “hard” conservative numbers, not the kind of pie-in-the-sky, funny money projections that former City Mgr. Tim Schuenke was infamous for producing out of thin air when the previous (pre-reduction) City Council’s Public Safety Committee considered this issue in the spring of 2007.  We would also like to hear an informed and detailed discussion of the effect financing of a big new cop shop will have on the rest of City operations and taxes for at least as many years as any bond issue will extend.

And because of how uncertain and speculative such projections become even 10 years out, we strongly suggest that the Public Safety Committee seriously consider a 10 year bond issue rather than the more common 20 year issue.  Locking in long-term fixed and certain bonded debt obligations becomes increasingly dangerous when our ability to pay those obligations remains dependent upon sometimes wildly fluctuating economic conditions – including a potential property tax dilemma that could result from a combination of declining property values and the differing abilities of a home-rule taxing body like the City versus the non home-rule bodies like our school district and Park District to levy and collect more taxes.

·         “(2)  List all potential PD facility sites considered.”  That’s fine, as far as it goes.  But if we are looking at building a brand new building, why hasn’t anybody within City government – or even any of those high-priced consultants the City loves to hire – attempted to identify the optimal location in Park Ridge for that purpose?  After all, a new cop shop is going to cost a lot of money and is intended to last us for the next 40 years.  There has to be one spot in all of Park Ridge that would be the ideal location, based on: railroad track issues; access, distance and travel time to every area of the City; and whatever other factors the PRPD can identify as relevant to how it performs its services. 

Until now, the City has spent all of its land acquisition efforts on what sites are “available” – which seems to mean which ones are on the market and just how well-connected (wink, wink)  the owner(s) are.  It’s time to identify the absolute best location for whatever new cop shop might be built rather than waste more time and effort looking at whatever site may be available and owned by somebody’s friend or political contributor. 

·         “(3)…It may be equally beneficial to re-visit a sampling of the previously discussed numerous weaknesses of the existing facilities….”  That is exactly correct, but those “weaknesses” need to all be re-visited from the perspective of (a) space, and (b) how the proposed alternatives would substantively and practically affect crime prevention, crime investigation, crime prosecution, and overall community safety/security.  Can anybody in City government, including the PRPD, answer this 4-part question: “If the PRPD had an additional 30,000 square feet of space like the ‘experts’ are recommending…

      (a) what crime(s) that have occurred could have been prevented?

      (b) what crime(s) could have been better/more successfully investigated?

      (c) what crime(s) could have been better/more successfully prosecuted?

      (d) how much safer and more secure would the average Park Ridge citizen be?

Until those questions can be meaningfully answered, further exploration of a big new cop shop, or even a major renovation/addition to the existing one, is a waste of time and money.

And before making yet another commitment to brick and mortar, how about figuring out what the human factors – the police officers and staff – still need and deserve in the way of salary, benefits, training and equipment.  It’s those people – not a big building with a bronze plaque bearing the names of a lot of public officials – that keep us safe and secure on our streets and in our homes.

New Cop Shop Still Flying Under The Radar


With a variety of other matters vying for the local spotlight, one thing that has pretty much escaped recent notice is the City’s ongoing quest for a big new police station.  Which is why you might have missed the small story on Page 4 of last week’s Herald-Advocate titled “Napleton’s Busse site is still on table for possible police station” (July 31, 2008).

As reported there, the City Council met in…you guessed it…yet another “closed session” on July 21 to discuss the acquisition of the former Napleton auto dealership property at 501 Busse Highway as the site of the new cop shop. 

Napleton is turning out to be Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark’s most favored campaign contributor, with the mayor trying a variety of ways to put taxpayer money in owner Bill Napleton’s pocket ever since the windfall $2.4 million tax and environmental clean-up deal (on which Frimark himself cast the tie-breaking vote) fell through because the Napleton dealerships closed.  Even after the closure nuked the clean-up contract, Frimark still pressed for Napleton to get the $400,000.

And just last week Bill Napleton himself shamelessly warned the neighbors of his former Cadillac dealership who want residential redevelopment of that site that commercial redevelopment could occur unless they asked the City to “assist” in – as in “provide cash to” – the residential redevelopment of that property. 

We can only hope that those neighbors are sharp enough to see Napleton’s appeal for what it was: Just another ploy by a greedy carpetbagger to wheedle more corporate welfare from compliant public officials and gullible taxpayers.  And the same goes for his attempts to sell his Busse Highway property to the City for a new cop shop, which remains high on his “to do” list.  And apparently high on Mayor Frimark’s list as well.

The only way we ordinary citizens even found out about this most recent closed session push to buy Napleton’s property is, not surprisingly, because 1st Ward Alderman Dave Schmidt once again did the right thing – and the perfectly legal thing – by first voting against the closed session and then letting the press know what went on during it.

We’re not quite sure whether we are more impressed with Schmidt’s honesty and integrity, or more depressed that not even one other member of the City Council seems capable of matching it – or even understanding it.  The eagerness with which they retreat into closed session suggests that Ald. DiPietro (2nd), Bach (3rd), Allegretti (4th), Ryan (5th), Carey (6th) and Wsol (7th) might prefer meeting exclusively in closed session, outside of the press’s and the public’s scrutiny.

Schmidt, alone, correctly pointed out that discussing sites for a new police station before the Council has made a final decision on how big a station it wants to build and how it’s going to afford it – without letting our basic infrastructure and city services erode even further, or raising taxes even higher – is putting the cart before the horse.  We heartily agree.

In just the past four years the City – without having a firm plan for the size, shape, kind and cost of the station it expects to build – has actively pursued the acquisition of 515 Busse (the Owen Hayes II fiasco), the parking lots bordering the AT&T building, 720 Garden, 164 South Prospect (School Dist. 64 headquarters), and now Napleton’s Busse property, to name just the ones we know about.  And that doesn’t include 229 S. Courtland, which the City actually bought in 2006 for approximately $660,000 and continues to hold for no apparent reason. 

As we’ve said many times before, the current police station definitely needs an overhaul but it doesn’t need the additional 30,000 square feet that the hired-gun consultants recommended just because that’s what they were hired to do.  By every objective measure we can find, the current station is still getting the job done, which probably is best explained by the late, great Vince Lombardi: “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”  In this case, that’s the police officers and support staff.

But, of course, if you’re trying to cut a sweetheart deal with a connected landowner, you sure don’t want to wait for cop shop plans and specs, or a proposed budget to get resolved.  After all, a big new cop shop pretty much ensures that not only is there land to be bought, but there are consultant, architect, engineer and construction contracts to give out.  And bond financing to obtain.  There’s probably even some insurance and performance bond coverage to be procured. 

And those are some of the things that Mayor Frimark loves best about being mayor.

Ald. Robert Ryan: Neo-Populist?


If one were to judge solely by the article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“What should be on former Cadillac site?“, July 31), one might start wondering if 5th Ward Ald. Robert Ryan is becoming a true man of the people. 

The article reported on a neighborhood meeting Ryan attended on Tuesday at the site of the shuttered Napleton Cadillac dealership, Northwest Hwy. and Meacham, which was called by neighbors who opposed the construction of either a CenTrust Bank or a CVS pharmacy there.  Those neighbors pointed to the City’s 2002 Uptown comprehensive plan, which identified that area – although currently zoned B-1 (for business) – as multi-family residential.

We here at PublicWatchdog have consistently questioned the need and/or desirability of increasing the residential density of Park Ridge, not only from the standpoint of physical congestion but also with regard for an already suspect infrastructure (as reflected in continued flooding and problematic electric service, to name just the first two concerns that come to mind).  So we question the wisdom of adding any more multi-family residential to the current situation.

But we also respect the neighbors’ concerns, and we applaud their activism in voicing them loudly and strongly the minute the CenTrust and CVS concepts hit their radar.

That’s where Ald. Ryan comes in. 

Ryan has been a loyal alderpuppet of Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark since he was elected with Frimark’s support in April 2007.  In his role as alderpuppet, Ryan seemingly has done everything he could to ignore and even frustrate the will of his constituents.

When they vigorously opposed giving the Executive Office Plaza developers (and Frimark campaign contributors) a zoning variance to add extra density, Ryan reportedly met “privately” with the developers and then voted for the variance.  He has spoken in favor of the PADS shelters that many of them have vocally opposed both at St. Mary’s and at St. Paul of the Cross.

But the Ryan vote that is most relevant to the old Napleton Cadillac site is the one he cast in support of the proposed giveaway of as much as $2.4 million of our tax dollars to Napleton Cadillac, another one of Frimark’s campaign contributors – which included $400,000 to clean up environmental contamination of the site so that it could be sold to Uptown developer PRC Partners LLC. 

That deal fell through when Napleton closed down its relocated dealership, although Frimark still tried to get Napleton/PRC at least the $400,000 clean-up money.

Which causes us to view the current Napleton/CenTrust/CVS discussions with more than a little suspicion, especially when Bill Napleton himself urges the neighbors “to contact the city and say they support…[residential development] and then ask the city to assist in some way to make that happen.”  It sure gets us to wondering whether a nice round number like, oh, say…$400,000 might “assist” enough to do the deal?

Maybe Napleton and his buddy, Frimark, are hoping that they can “play” the Cadillac neighbors’ opposition to commercial development on that site into grass-roots support for a new windfall for Napleton and whomever he might sell the property to.  We wouldn’t be surprised if PRC is still lurking in the weeds just waiting – with Napleton – for the City to blink.  After all, an easy $400 grand beats a sharp stick in the eye while riding out a troubled housing market.

As for Ald. Ryan, we guess it’s possible that he might have had an epiphany and now realizes that it’s wrong to prefer the wishes of the monied special interests over the will of his constituents.  Maybe he truly has become a neo-populist who really wants to support the Napleton neighbors’ in their quest to follow the Uptown comprehensive plan and make the old Napleton site residential.  If so, he can take an important first step in proving it by publicly pledging to oppose any economic contributions or concessions by the City related to that property.

We can’t wait to see if this particular leopard can change his spots.