Public Watchdog.org

Round Up The Usual Suspects…Again?

09.22.08

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?

13 comments so far

Great questions. I’ll add one. Ald. Robert Ryan keeps pushing his idea that aldermen not have to get into the “minutae” of City business, suggesting instead that someone appoints to Council sub-committees local “experts” on Finance & Budget, Planning & Zoning, etc. And who do you think would appoint these experts?

These committee members are almost all mysteries to me. And on those rare occasions when I actually recognize a name, I usually think to myself “How the hell did HE get on that committee?”

Pub-dogs, the crew is disappointed. Today’s article is not one of your best efforts.

In our view the only real qualification necessary in a democracy is willingness to participate — after that, any expertise on an issue is gravy.

But you already know that, don’t you? Why the tippy toes around what’s really going on with these Frimark appointments? You know it, and we know it. This is just another attempt at a stacked deck by Mayor Howard to get to a preordained outcome of his choosing. The only one on the committee worth warm spit on the issue of preservation is Barclay, and Mayor Howard had to be publicly embarrassed into putting her on the task force. We also hear Barclay’s got some dirt on Mayor Howard that she keeps hanging over his head to continue to get his attention and what she wants from him. You know how the insiders game the system.

We do agree with your point though that the applications that were filled out should be part of the background material available for public review.

I am all for providing the background information of the applicants however I do have a question.

What in your mind are the minimum requirements to be on this committee? Does a person have to have a specific “outspoken” position on an issue to serve on a committee? There are people on that list who have varying experiences (zoning, planning, architecture, etc.). Isn’t the idea of a committee getting people of varying backgrounds and experiences together to work through an issue? As I hope you have observed in discussions on the blogs and around town, there are widely varying opinions on the issue of historical preservation and, for that matter, what makes a property or building even qualify for that status. What ever dicision is ultimately reached by this committee there are going to be pissed off people on one side or the other.

PRU Crew:

Sorry, but mere “participation” doesn’t do it for us: Park Ridge citizens deserve more than just seat fillers on these boards, committees, commissions and task forces.

While many/most of these appointees tend to act like rubber stamps, the razor-thin Planning & Zoning recommendation re the homeless shelter was a welcome surprise. But unless Barclay goes public with whatever she supposedly “has” on the mayor, we’ll assume that she has nothing.

Anon on 09.22.08 1:27 pm:

We like opinionated people rather than “blank slates” because we’ve found that blank slates tend to come with blank minds. And “expertise” is often over-rated, especially when the “expert” doesn’t really care all that much about the issue he/she is asked to study.

But before we comment further on those individual appointees, we’d like to see their applications and resumes.

I looked at the lists on the city’s website and saw that Nick Milissis is on two committees – besides being a park district commissioner. I sure would like to know what’s so special about him, or two-timer Richard Dusold. Or John Benka, who showed nothing as an alderman.

I applaud everyones concern about the various committees and the appointment process. Like Fred, I went to the PR website. I do not have the advantage of having had a great deal of contact with most of the names on the lists.

I did notice there is an application form to volunteer to serve on committees which is below for your convenience.

https://www.parkridge.us/assets/Application_for_boards_and_commissions.pdf

I am curious if anyone who comes here has ever filled out the form and expressed interest to the appropriate people about serving on a committee. I would guess that with all the negative comments about many who are on committes most of you could do a better job. Are you saying you have tried and were passed over?

I can tell you with certainty that there are those who read here and occasionally comment here who have gone through the process of interviewing for a position on a board or commission, and who have been passed over for purely political and punitive reasons.

What you do not seem to grasp, anon, is that the final arbiter of the process is an inherently dishonest man, who values political power over everthing else. Therefore, the process must also be viewed as inherently dishonest. As the saying goes, the fish stinks from the head down.

Alpha:

I am not questioning your concerns about the process. I just think there are some very good ideas here on the blogs. I think that many of these ideas are probably grossly under represented on these committees.

I was simply asking a question about if anyone had tried to apply. My guess would have been no but I am glad to hear that I was wrong. I hope that when that person or those people were passed over for political reasons they took advantage of this forum to let everyone know.

Anon,

Persons, plural, and I believe neither this blog nor the PRU was active during the time that those people were passed over for appointment.

Please keep in mind that while this blog is considerably older than the other Park Ridge blogs that have appeared only over the last year, this blog too was much much less active for an extended period of time than it is now.

Anon on 09.22.08 6:06 pm

You write: “I hope that when that person or those people were passed over for political reasons they took advantage of this forum to let everyone know.”

Stop and think this one through for a minute: (1) Do you think Mayor Frimark actually tells an unsuccessful applicant “Sorry, Anonymous, but I’m choosing Joe Mope over you because he’ll vote whatever way I tell him to, and I can’t be sure you will”? (2) How can anyone “know” that they were passed over “for political reasons” when they can’t even compare applications or resumes with the chosen appointee to check for kinkiness because those documents aren’t posted anywhere? (3) In the absence of either (1) or (2), how can anyone reasonably be expected to announce “I was passed over for appointment by Mayor Frimark because I’m not one of his stooges” without sounding like a big bunch of sour grapes?

The rule is simple: If you elect honest people you will have an honest system, but if you elect dishonest people you will have a dishonest system. That’s just the way it works, so either get used to it or change it.

Regarding the PRU comment, I haven’t been paying that much attention until recently, but I do recall reading about Judy Barclay being this big preservation person so I can’t understand why she wasn’t the first one picked for the preservation task force?

Hoover:

Thank you for your reply. I agree that the likelyhood of hard evidence would be small. It seems to me that has not stopped anyone here before. There have been accusations in this very thread and many others that seem to be based on little hard evidence. Many feel that this is another example of Howie stacking the deck (certainly a high probability of being true) yet we do so not even knowing how many applied and who was passed over.

I would think that if someone, or hopefully many, who come here applied for committees and were passed over they would post here and tell their story. It would not be perfect evidence and certainly not admissable in court but it would help to flesh out the picture.
Many are willing to make the jump that points 1 and 2 are true when they talk about a dishonest government and yet you offer them a reasons posting here would be of no value?

Your last paragraph is absolutely, completely, 100% true!



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