After the Taste: The Culture Of Secrecy Continues


Last week’s edition of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate contained a self-promotion/group-hug letter (“After the Taste: a bright recovery,” August 28) from Niles politician Bob Dudycz and local merchant/Morton Grove resident Dave Iglow, two of the head honchos of Taste of Park Ridge, Inc. (“Taste, Inc.”).

As previously noted on this site (Time For A Transparent “Taste” – Time For A Transparent “Taste” – Part 2 – Hooray For Us), Taste, Inc. is the private, not-for-profit corporation (“NFP”) that was quietly formed by Dudycz, Iglow and a few others in 2005 to take over the operation of our annual Taste of Park Ridge festival.  But don’t expect to see any mention of Taste, Inc. in their letter: all you’ll find are four references to the “Taste committee,” an innocuous way to camouflage the fact that the Taste is a private enterprise with Iglow as president and Dudycz as vice-president.

We’re unabashed fans of Taste, the event.  And, frankly, we wouldn’t care one whit about who runs the Taste if not for two factors: (1) the effort Taste, Inc. seemingly makes to avoid any mention of its existence or role in the event (kind of like “The first rule of Fight Club is – you do not talk about Fight Club.”); and (2) that Taste, Inc. appears to be using a lot of taxpayer-paid resources of the “city of Park Ridge, the Park Ridge Fire, Health, Police and Public Works departments…the Park Ridge Park and School Districts…[and the] Park Ridge Library staff” – without any indication that Taste, Inc. is paying for them.

As we saw from the City’s financial report [pdf] on our most recent 3rd of July fireworks show, the cost of just the services provided by City and Park District employees exceeded $26,000 for what basically was a one-night event.  So we have reason to wonder what the costs were for those services provided to Taste, Inc. by the listed governmental bodies over the three-plus days of the Taste event – and whether Taste, Inc. paid for any of them. 

Our concern also relates to the unique nature of NFPs.  Although not legally permitted to make a “profit,” its officers and directors are able pay themselves, hire and pay employees, and contract with vendors.  But because NFPs don’t have shareholders who expect a return on their investment, there’s really nobody with a sufficient stake in the venture to keep an eye on officer and director compensation, expenses, or if those officers and directors are making money as not-quite-arm’s-length vendors to the corporation.  Hence, you get things like Taste, Inc.’s $1,000 contribution [pdf] to Dudycz’s campaign fund last September.

So when Dudycz’s and Iglow’s letter trumpeted the “consistently improved” Taste website as containing a “complete list of the volunteers,” along with “countless Taste snapshots, sponsor and vendor lists, and much more,” we checked that site in the hope that “much more” might include a full financial report that disclosed Taste, Inc.’s revenues, expenses, officer/director compensation, the identities of its vendors and what it paid them for the various goods and services used in its operations.

But as of 10:00 p.m. last evening, our search found nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Under these circumstances, we aren’t going to hold our collective breath waiting for Taste, Inc. to embrace transparency and accountability by making its financial records public.  If it were inclined to do so, it wouldn’t keep hiding behind its “Taste committee” facade and publicizing everything but its financial information. So we expect Taste, Inc. will continue to enjoy its unofficial monopoly on using our streets, our park (Hodges), and the services of local government and hundreds of volunteers while keeping its finances concealed from the taxpayers and customers who keep Taste, Inc. “in business.”  

And the Culture of Secrecy continues.

Labor Day 2008


According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, Labor Day (the first Monday in September, the first of which was held on September 5, 1882) is “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Those great contributions by U.S. workers to this country’s standard of living, however, have not occurred in a vacuum.  They are a product of this country’s market liberalism – a blend of labor, capital, entrepreneurship and a healthy respect for the free-market process, with limited intrusion by government.   

We believe that one of the best ways to honor the American worker and those principles which have made this country great is for those who populate our various governments to respect those workers and their contributions – by acting in a limited, responsible and frugal way with the taxes that government exacts.  So on this Labor Day 2008, we recall two quotes from Thomas Jefferson:

  • “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.” 
  • “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”