Round Up The Usual Suspects…Again?


Have you ever wondered what kind of qualifications you need to be appointed to a City of Park Ridge committee, commission or task force.  We have. 

And we are wondering again after seeing the list of Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark’s fourteen appointments to the City’s new “Preservation Task Force” (the “PTF”).

The PTF is supposed to determine whether an historic preservation ordinance is desired by the people of Park Ridge and whether a workable law can be drafted to preserve historically significant buildings in the community.  Frankly, we have our doubts about this effort, especially because we don’t see how the City legally can prevent major remodeling and tear-downs of homes or buildings – even historically significant ones – short of using taxpayer dollars to acquire them from their owners.

But irrespective of the PTF’s chances of success, what exactly are the “historical preservation”-related qualifications of each of these appointees?  How did they distinguish themselves as interested and knowledgeable on historical preservation, considering that the principal qualification most of them share is that they have already been appointed or re-appointed to other committees, commissions, or task forces by Frimark?

Let’s start with former 1st Ward alderman Kirke Machon.  In his two years on the City Council and during his prior stints on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning & Zoning Commission, and the Uptown Advisory Task Force (“UATF”), we don’t recall his saying or doing anything that would suggest a special interest in, or knowledge of, historical preservation.  The same thing is true of Steve Huening, a 5th Ward alderman from 1995 through 2003, a current member of the City’s Liquor License Review Board and also a UATF alumnus.

As for the rest of them – Paul Adlaf from the Historical Society and Milton Nelson from the Heritage Committee, Brian Kidd from the Appearance Commission, Alfredo Marr from the Planning and Zoning Commission, Anita Bloom from the Zoning Board of Appeals, former city community development director Randy Derifield, 4th Ward Ald. Jim Allegretti, Deputy City Mgr. Juliana Maller, acting Community Preservation and Development Director Carrie Davis, City Attorney Buzz Hill, and eleventh-hour additions Judy Barclay from CURRB and Herb Zuegel from the Kalo Foundation – only Barclay has been outspoken on the issue of historical preservation; and even she has done little more than merely express support for it.

The selection of PTF members, however, is just symptomatic of the problem with appointments to all City committees, commissions and task forces: the lack of transparency and accountability.  A visit to the City’s website reveals almost 150 appointees (not including the new PTF members) populating 17 non-Council committees, commissions and task forces. These panels are responsible for a considerable part of the business of government in our city.

Yet the only information readily available to the average citizen about those appointees is their names – not even their addresses, much less their qualifications for the position, how long they have held it, or whatever information they provided in seeking the appointment.  But because the City purportedly requires a standard form application [pdf] (which is supposed to contain an explanation of why the applicant desires the appointment) and the resume of each applicant, a lot of useful information about each appointee should already be in the City’s possession.

So why isn’t all of it being posted on the City’s website?