Time For Another Episode Of “The F & B Show”


As regular readers of this blog know, the City of Park Ridge recently reported a $1.7 million deficit in last year’s budget and the prospect of an equivalent deficit – or worse – in this year’s budget.  Not exactly the kind of news you want to hear in the middle of a recession and with “For Sale” signs continuing to pop up all over town like mushrooms, is it?

So if you’re concerned about how City finances and your tax dollars are being managed (or mismanaged), you might want to stroll over to City Hall tomorrow night (Tuesday, November 25, 7:00 p.m.) and catch the City Council’s Finance & Budget Committee meeting.

As best as can be discerned from the Agenda [pdf] and the Background Memorandum [pdf] for that meeting, one of the topics will be a review of the City’s financial results – including the Uptown Tax Increment Finance (“TIF”) district – for the first six months of FY 2008-09.  And one of the TIF topics that will be discussed is the relocation of Coldwell Banker Residential Realty from its current location next to the former Hollywood Video store on Touhy over to one of the recently-completed Target Area II buildings between Northwest Hwy. and Touhy, just west of Prospect. 

From the applicable Agenda Cover Memorandum [pdf], it appears that Coldwell Banker is going into one of the “retail” spaces fronting on Northwest Hwy., which means that yet another of those “retail” spaces in Target Area II won’t be generating any sales tax, although PRC will pay the City $18,168 annually as a form of subsidy because it couldn’t put retail into there.  That’s better than a sharp stick in the eye, but it sure doesn’t add to the “mix” of stores that were supposed to create that “vibrant” Uptown retail dynamic all of our public officials were blubbering about when this project was being sold to the taxpayers as a property tax savior.

Which is why we would like to see Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, Alderpuppet Rich DiPietro (2nd Ward) and all those former aldercritters – like Rex Parker, Sue Bell, Mark Anderson, Dawn Disher, Mike Marous, Mary Wynn Ryan, etc. – who insisted that Park Ridge would become a magnet for retail if only we built enough new retail space, show up Tuesday night to explain exactly what they were smoking when the spouted what now appears to be nonsense.  The same goes for Uptown Advisory Task Force chair Ellen Upton and the rest of her task force members who started the Uptown Redevelopment “Retail” drum beat. 

But we’re not going to bet the ranch on that happening.  Public officials who make bad decisions tend to cut and run at the earliest opportunity and not look back, so it is unlikely that any former officials would return to the scene of the crime and accept accountability for their handiwork.

On a related note, another highlight of tomorrow night’s meeting will be a discussion of the fact that the Uptown TIF Fund now owes the City’s “General Fund” $3.8 million to repay the money the TIF district has had to borrow because the TIF district is not generating enough revenues to pay its own way.  We can’t wait to hear that explanation, although we’re betting it will sound a lot like “it’s too early” in the life of the TIF to expect positive cash flow, but that it will “soon start turning a profit.”

That’s the standard TIF story, and you can expect all the TIF proponents to stick with it.

And talking about funds and fund balances, there should also be a discussion of the fact that four of the City’s operating funds – Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, Municipal Waste, Emergency 911 and Alley Paving – are “overdrawn” by almost $3 million.  We’ve always considered governmental “fund accounting” to be like a shell game, but with a lot more than the standard three shells.  So while we’re not sure what exactly is the practical effect of a fund being “overdrawn,” we have to assume that it can’t be good. 

All in all, it makes for the prospect of some interesting moments during tomorrow night’s meeting, especially with a mayor and city council that keeps on talking and acting like we can easily afford to spend in the neighborhood of $20 million for a new police station but somehow can’t afford relief sewers to reduce the flooding, or to pave our streets to reduce the potholes.

With The F&B Show, there’s always entertainment; and it usually involves both smoke and mirrors.  

8 comments so far

If the City’s general fund has given the TIF fund $3,800,000 does that mean that $3,800,000 isn’t our tax money anymore? According to Howard Frimark, TIF money doesn’t come from the taxpayers, right? That is what Howard Frimark told us!

Anybody who has listened to Mayor Frimark talk about “City” business, especially finances, knows that he’s just a collection of buzzwords and pet phrases. Get past those and he’s an empty suit – painfully ignorant of the facts, sadly disinterested in the principles, and amazingly oblivious to the process.

The members of F&B are “Chairman” DiPietro, Ryan and Carey. Which one is going to cover his eyes, which one his ears, and which one his mouth (assuming Ryan even shows up)?

And can “alternate” member Frank Wsol find a way to spin the $3 million and climbing budget deficit into yet another one of his ridiculous arguments for how we can afford a new police station?

I now go out of my way to drive past Chicos and Jos. A. Banks to see if anybody is in there, and I can’t believe those two stores are making a profit because there is hardly ever anybody in there. ANd when there is, it’s only one or two people (who for all I know work there).

I heard the only thing keeping them open is that PRC keeps giving them additional free or reduced rent. Can anybody confirm that?

On the other had, Trader Joe’s seems to ve doing very well!!!

I do have a question about another large merchant rumored to be going into the new development.

I have heard over the last several months that a Bennigan’s is supposed to be moving in somewhere in the development. Does anyone know if this is still happening? I know they filed for protection over the summer and closed many resturants. I was walking through the area a few days ago and there were a few workers but nothing I would perceive to be a build out for a resturant.

Anyone heard anything?

How well a store is doing can best be judged not by anecdotes (e.g., how many people are in there when you drive by) but by what kind of sales taxes it’s generating for the City. And we haven’t heard the City saying anything about those sales taxes, which suggests to us that those taxes aren’t very impressive – because if they were, Frimark, the Alderpuppets, City Staff (including Kim Uhlig) and even PRC would be shouting about it to the high heavens.

With the focus starting to shift to Target Area 4, all of the usual suspects want to ensure that not a discouraging word comes out of TA 2 – which means that if they release sales info, “the recession” will be the bogeyman for low sales; and if that’s not enough, they’ll try to throw some of the blame on the lawsuits filed by Charles Baldacchino AND SUMMIT SQUARE RETIREMENT HOME (managed by Frimark buddy and Chamber of Commerce stalwart Marc Dennison), although Frimark never mentions Summit Square when he’s looking for a scapegoat for TA 2.

thank you for pointing out how summit square and dennison were on those lawsuits with baldacchino. i have been to at least one meeting where frimark blamed the ta 2 delays on the “baldacchino lawsuits” and he never mentioned summit square or dennison.

and i was at the meeting at the public works center back in june (?) of 2005 when the council (except for ald. markech) voted to give prc a guaranty to permit it to continue construction despite those lawsuits, and that guaranty was given in (as i recall) within 30 days of the lawsuit being filed. so this is yet another lie frimark keeps on telling people and hoping they don’t know otherwise.

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