City Government By Delegation And Avoidance


Since becoming an alderman in May 2007, dependable Mayor Frimark Alderpuppet Robert Ryan (5th Ward) has distinguished himself several ways. 

The most notable, though not the most auspicious, is by having the worst attendance record of any City Council member, although in fairness to Ryan his attendance has improved since he was cited for his many MIAs by the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate in both an article and an editorial in its June 19th edition (”City Council attendance rates vary in Park Ridge” and “Who’s missing city meetings?”).  

More troubling than Ryan’s no-shows, however, are the things he says and does when he actually shows up – like his votes for sweetheart deals for Frimark campaign contributors Bruce Adreani/Norwood Builders and Bill Napleton, or his outspoken advocacy of delegating aldermanic duties to non-elected citizen “experts.”

As reported in this week’s Herald-Advocate (“Ald. Ryan seeks citizen experts to serve on council committees,” Nov. 27), Ryan basically wants to delegate those aldermanic duties that require heavy lifting to non-elected citizens who appear to possess “expertise” on various matters related to City business.  For example, he cited resident accountants and financial professionals as “experts” who could figure out City finances “in a far more competent manner than [the City Council members].”

We don’t deny that other residents – in fact, a lot of other residents – might be more competent than Ryan or other Council members when it comes to City finances, judging by how Ryan and the rest of the Council rubber-stamped former City Mgr. Tim Schuenke’s efforts (aided by Finance Director Diane Lambesis?) to produce a balanced budget by what now appears to have been the fabrication of larger revenue numbers to fill the budget gaps.  And as can be seen from the report [pdf] distributed at Tuesday night’s Finance & Budget Committee meeting, the City is already admitting that it “[w]ill not realize budgeted revenues” in at least four of its accounts.  

Joining Ryan in his call for delegating aldermanic responsibility is fellow Alderpuppet Jim “Chicken Little” Allegretti (4th Ward), who may be best known for reflexively chirping “we’re gonna get sued” any time there’s a discussion of his latest pet project, the big new police station.  Allegretti is quoted in the Herald-Advocate article as admitting that he is “often perplexed” about police station discussions because he’s not a builder or an architect.

Judging by his comments and his votes, Allegretti is perplexed by more City government issues than just the police station.  But it should be obvious to anybody with at least a high double-digit I.Q. and a modicum of common sense and good judgment that while the current cop shop is less than optimal, we neither need nor can we afford the big new facility recommended by the hired-gun “experts” who were retained by the City solely for the purpose of making such a recommendation.

Fortunately, both 1st Ward Ald. Dave Schmidt and 7th Ward Ald. Frank Wsol have voiced objections to Ryan’s proposal, with Wsol correctly pointing out that aldermen are elected to study the facts and make the decisions that Ryan and Allegretti are trying to off-load.  Wsol also questioned whether aldermen might improperly defer to the advice they receive from these “experts” and vote however the experts suggest.

If Ryan and Allegretti can’t understand what’s going on with City government, however, they should be voicing concern about the competence of a City Staff whose members are being paid – in many cases, quite handsomely – to do the day-to-day business of the City and who, as part of their duties, should be ready, willing and able to communicate what they’re doing and how they’re doing it in ways that a competent and diligent alderman can understand. 

And while we have nothing against citizens’ committees, commissions and task forces, we are more than a little concerned when we can find nothing about the backgrounds and qualifications of the appointees to these bodies posted on the City’s website.  That suggests that their most significant qualification for appointment might be their connection to the Mayor who does the appointing.

But if Ryan and Allegretti want other Park Ridge residents to do their jobs for them, they can always resign and let one of those residents step up to the task. 

5 comments so far

Great post.

Little doubt that being a Park Ridge alderman is a time consuming and often thankless job done for essentially no pay. That said, if Ryan or any of the other aldermen don’t want to spend the time studying background material or working with the city staff to get up to speed on issues that come before their committee’s or the full council then they need to resign their seats.

I am a 5th ward resident and I am sick of Ryan. With his previously publicized absences and his continual promotion of this “outsourcing” of aldermanic duties idea us 5th warders are really being under-represented. IMHO we need to go back to two aldermen per ward… that way when one is asleep at the switch at least there’d be a chance the other might be paying attention.

I’m glad Ryan, Bach and Allegretti aren’t my aldermen. Carey is my alderman. Even though I know that he was Frimark’s handpicked guy to defeat Rex Parker, every so often it sounds like he’s not entirely under Frimark’s control as much as the other three.

I agree that we shouldn’t have all these non-elected people doing the work that the city staff or the aldermen should be doing.

As far as Frimark is concerned the lower the number of people making decisions, who are directly accountable to the voters, the better. Less is better. Seven is better than fourteen. Zero is better than seven.

I can hear our Alderman now……”I see no point in going over this again. Our esteemed and knowledgeable committee of fellow citizens have studied this issue and came to a well thought out conclusion. It would be a disservice to them to question their outcome”.

Good point about the lack of information about the qualifications of committee and commission members. I don’t know who most of them are, but some of those I do know don’t seem to have any special qualifications (including one who is a friend of mine) for the job.


You are right. If the alderman do not want to do as you suggest, they should resign. Lucky for us there is a long line of public spirited citizens lining up to take all their places. I guess our biggest dilemma will be picking among all the qualified people clammering to be aldermen.

If I am not mistaken, even with all the controversy of going from 14 to 7 etc., 3 alderman ran unapposed and turnout was very low. Maybe it will be different this time.

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