The Problem with Taking Politician Wsol At His Word


The late French president Charles De Gaulle once observed: “Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.”

That quote came to mind as we read the letter to the editor of Ald. Frank Wsol (7th Ward) in last week’s Herald-Advocate (“Assess budget, police station costs first,” December 25), in which he attempts to explain why he can’t support the advisory referendum on the big new multi-million dollar cop shop initially proposed by Ald. Dave Schmidt (1st Ward) and subsequently taken up by a citizens petition drive. 

In true politician style, Wsol begins his alibi by attacking the referendum language for containing “the implied suggestion that land purchases are needed and more than $16.5 million is required” for the new cop shop, which Wsol labels as “not appropriate, nor needed.”  Apparently he didn’t expect to be taken at his word on those comments – or else he just assumed that nobody would remember how he has consistently supported a new cop shop costing more than $16.5 million on land acquired by the City specifically for that purpose.

Let’s start with Wsol’s votes – as reflected in both the City Council’s Public Safety Committee March 26, 2007, meeting minutes [pdf] and the City Council’s April 2, 2007, meeting minute excerpts [pdf] – in favor of a new building containing a whopping 37,000 square feet of “people space” and another 12,000 square feet of “secured vehicle parking” that would be paid for by the issuance of up to $19 million of debt/bonds. 

And as reported in the Public Safety Committee’s October 2, 2008, meeting minutes [pdf], now-Chairman Wsol himself pegged the cost of the new cop shop building at “16.5 million plus interest” – with that “interest,” according to calculations [pdf] obtained by the City from William Blair & Company at the end of November, totaling just a shade under $12 million over 21 years, driving the cost of the new cop shop all the way up to $28,489,950…without figuring in the price of the land.   

So if De Gaulle was right, maybe the fact that Schmidt took Wsol at his word in proposing a referendum question based on Wsol’s $16.5 million figure stunned Frankie into silence at the Council’s December 1 meeting, a silence that continued until last week’s letter to the editor.  

And if De Gaulle was right, Wsol’s alibi about the cop shop referendum might not be the outright lie it appears to be.  It might simply be the product of Wsol’s not knowing or even caring what the truth of the matter is, so long as whatever he says is politically expedient – a situation that becomes more likely from reading the entirety of Wsol’s politically expedient but questionable-to-misleading statements in his letter, annotated with our comments and questions [pdf].  

Wsol’s letter, however, does make a few things clear about the alderman from the 7th ward: He’s a pretty shallow thinker when it comes to a project like the new cop shop; he’s no fiscal conservative; and he has the same disregard for hearing from Park Ridge voters that Mayor Howard “The Coward” Frimark and his Alderpuppets have displayed. 

But it does look like he has become a politician. Too bad for Park Ridge. 

Howard The Coward – Part 2


In our original Howard The Coward post, we noted how Mayor Howard Frimark was afraid to let his constituents vote on an advisory referendum about whether the City should spend millions of dollars on a new police station.

Today we reprise the “Howard the Coward” nickname for Frimark’s latest act of cowardice: his rejection of First Ward Alderman (and mayoral candidate) Dave Schmidt’s proposal of a minimum of eight mayoral debates, one in each ward and one city-wide.

The fact that it took Frimark less than 48 hours to just say “no” to Schmidt’s proposal is no surprise to those of us who have watched Frimark’s performance in public life, first for two years as an alderman and then during his past 3-1/2 years as mayor.  That’s because Frimark doesn’t have enough knowledge or understanding of City issues to carry him through more than one or two debates, even with as much prep work as his political brain, Linda Ski, can muster.

According to this week’s Herald Advocate article, “Schmidt wants eight debates” (December 23), Frimark’s objection to individual ward-focused debates is that the mayoral race is city-wide, so separate ward debates aren’t necessary.  Apparently “The Coward” doesn’t appreciate the fact that various areas of the City have specific interests that can’t possibly be adequately discussed in city-wide debates – unless they go for six or eight hours. 

Hey, Howard, don’t you think those folks up in Mayfield Estates might have some flooding concerns – or related concerns about relief sewers and other infrastructure elements – which are different from those of folks in the First or Seventh wards?  And isn’t it possible that the folks in the Six and Seventh wards might have a bigger stake and deeper interest in what is happening with the “Higgins Corridor” than do the residents in the First and Second wards?  

Interestingly enough, Howard the Coward has already committed to a debate hosted by the Chamber of Commerce on “economic issues,” so his objection to debates on limited issues rings hollow.

If we remember correctly, the only actual “debate” Frimark showed up for during the 2005 mayoral campaign was the Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon held at the Park Ridge Country Club on March 16, 2005 ($25 for Chamber members, $30 for non-members) – Frimark subsequently used his wife’s fender-bender auto accident as an eleventh-hour alibi to pull out of the League of Women Voters debate at City Hall, leaving then-challenger Michael Tinaglia to do a monologue for a packed Council chambers audience.

Of course, a luncheon debate at the Park Ridge Country Club that costs $25-30 a ticket is likely to limit the audience to a size and type most hospitable to Howard the Coward; and a “luncheon” duration conveniently limits the number of questions he has to answer.  

So when it comes to debates about City issues, it appears that eight is way more than enough for Howard the Coward. 

“Just The Facts, Ma’am”


Those who remember the original “Dragnet” television series will certainly remember L.A. police Sgt. Joe Friday’s request for “just the facts, ma’am.”  And fans of the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan may remember his: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Both of those messages are becoming increasingly important as more and more people confuse opinion with fact, or just plain get their facts wrong.  This seems to occur most often among people who are trying to influence public opinion, whether they be politicians, reporters in the conventional media, bloggers, or ordinary citizens. 

That problem was recently illustrated by Park Ridge resident Ken Balaskovits’ letter in last week’s Park Ridge Journal (“City Officials Had Opportunity To Learn New Runway Details,” Dec. 17). 

In his letter, Balaskovits claims that it was the “purple ribbon” City Council that, back in 2003, had Park Ridge withdraw from the Suburban O’Hare Commission (“SOC”) even as then-mayor Ron Wietcha was expressing his concern about the adverse impact the new east-west runway would have on Park Ridge.

Balaskovits gets a 50% and, hence, a failing grade, on those points.  Although Wietecha did warn about the dangers to Park Ridge of O’Hare expansion back in 2003, the purple ribbons didn’t appear until May of 2005 – part of the orchestrated campaign by supporters of newly-elected Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark in response to Frimark’s whining about how that newly-elected Council “stole his powers” by exercising its legal authority to organize its own Council committees instead of letting Frimark make them up as he chose.

But Balaskovits, an ardent Frimark supporter, appears disingenuous when he carefully shapes his indictment of the City’s withdrawal from SOC so as to avoid mentioning that one of the 7 aldermen whose vote helped carry the City Council’s decision not to renew Park Ridge’s SOC membership – by payment of the annual dues of $64,000 and a $300,000 deposit on future litigation costs – was none other than then-4th Ward Ald. Howard Frimark, a fact reported in the Park Ridge Herald Advocate’s July 24, 2003, edition [pdf].

And as we pointed out in last week’s post (“‘Citizens Take Control’ Because Mayor and Council Don’t” Dec. 17, 2008),since becoming mayor, Frimark appears to have been so disinterested in O’Hare expansion – until the planes started buzzing the southern half of Park Ridge and his phone started ringing off the hook, that is – that he attended only one meeting of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (“ONCC”), and that was only after then-Ald. Jeannie Markech, at the December 5, 2003, City Council meeting, directly (and publicly) suggested that he and the other aldermen begin doing so.

We don’t expect Frimark to admit that he was asleep at the wheel on O’Hare Expansion.  When it comes to accountability, Frimark believes that the buck stops anywhere and everywhere but on his desk. 

But we wonder whether any of the citizens who are, with Frimark’s encouragement, scrambling to find some way to get the City of Chicago and the FAA to reduce the use of their new $500 million runway will even think of asking Frimark why, while Park Ridge slept, he did nothing either to wake us up or to lobby Chicago and the FAA for ways to reduce the adverse consequences of that new runway. 

As we’ve noted in previous posts, we still think that pulling out of SOC was a smart move, as borne out by SOC’s (now comprised only of Bensenville and Elk Grove Village) consistent and expensive failures to halt Richie Daley’s O’Hare expansion juggernaut.  So we have to give Frimark a gold star for doing at least that one thing right.

But we can’t condone his ignorance and outright neglect of the problems posed by the new O’Hare runway during the past five years while it was being planned and built.  

How about you, Mr. Balaskovits?

Howard The Coward


We usually refer to the current Park Ridge mayor as Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark because of the way he wheels and deals to get favorable City treatment (and our tax dollars) for his friends and political contributors, like Bruce Adreani of Norwood Builders and Bill “Cadillac” Napleton.

But we’ve heard a few other nicknames that also describe the mayor, such as “Photo Op” Frimark (for his ability to get in front of the camera and get those photos published), “Mr. Coffee” Frimark (for his propensity for inviting individuals for coffee) and the newest one, “Birdie” (for his use of “a little bird told me” when sharing gossip about something or, more often, somebody).

To that collection we would like to add “Howard the Coward,” because of what appears to be his deathly fear of letting the taxpayers vote in an advisory referendum on the big new and expensive police station he wants.

We suspect that such fear is caused by the likelihood that Frimark and his alderpuppets already know what the result of such a referendum would be, and they don’t like it.  Losing a referendum on the new cop shop would really cramp their style when they vote (probably within a few months of the April election) to spend a bundle of our money and pile more long-term debt on us, while claiming that a majority of the residents they talked to support it.  That would explain why they wouldn’t give Ald. Dave Schmidt’s motion for a referendum resolution the courtesy of a second.

But because they can’t control the citizens who are petitioning to put a cop shop referendum on the ballot, we’re guessing that Frimark’s political brain, the ubiquitous local political operative Linda Ski, gave Frimark and his alderpuppets – specifically Don Bach (3rd Ward) and Rich DiPietro (2nd Ward) – their marching orders to start badmouthing the referendum question as premature and inaccurate.  That way, if the referendum makes the April ballot and loses big, they can dismiss that loss by arguing that the voters were misled or were the victims of scare tactics about the cost.

That’s a well-worn politician’s trick, which makes it perfect for a politician like Frimark.

But let’s take a look at Frimark’s specific objections to the referendum question, as reported in this week’s Herald-Advocate (“Frimark: referendum question uses premature information,” Dec. 17), followed by our questions/comments:
“I think the referendum is sort of putting the cart before the horse because we still don’t have all this information [about what type of station will be built or the cost].” The referendum isn’t about what kind of station will be built, but about the money that will be spent.  If the mayor thought that $16.5 million was too high, why didn’t he have one of his alderpuppets move to amend it to a lower number?

“Once we get to that point, I’m sure the aldermen will reach out to their constituents and get feedback on what they feel is appropriate.” What better way to “reach out to their constituents” than by a referendum, with the public debate that would lead up to it?  By a simple vote in April, thousands of residents – far more than the alderpuppets will ever be able to “reach out to” otherwise – can make their view known in a very direct and measurable way.

The police station “is still a decision the City Council has to make.”  Indeed it is, but what honest and decent people’s representative wouldn’t want the benefit of knowing what the voters think about such an important issue before making his decision?

“We need to have something definite to show the constituents in town in order for us to build a police station.”  Once again, this isn’t a question of what kind of cop shop to build: it’s a question of whether the taxpayers want to borrow and spend multi-millions of dollars for any kind of new cop shop, wherever it may be located.

“I think it’s always been the goal of the City Council to build this police station with no tax burden to the residents.”  And exactly how does the City go about doing that?  Unless we are planning to charge user fees to the cops and civilian employees who work there, to the crooks that are booked there, and to the citizens who visit there, the cost of any new cop shop will most certainly be born by the taxpaying residents.  Does Frimark really believe the taxpayers are stupid enough to fall for this tripe?

At least one resident, Mike Reardon, called Frimark and his alderpuppets on their cowardice at Monday night’s Council meeting: “If you don’t believe citizens should have input on a multi-million dollar expenditure, you should have the courage to stand up and say that.”  Exactly, Mr. Reardon.

But the bottom line is that Howard the Coward and his alderpuppets don’t have the courage – or the integrity – to say anything of the sort.  Just like they don’t have the courage or the integrity to find out what the voters think about a new cop shop.

That’s what passes for leadership in Howardville.  Or should we say Cowardville?

“Citizens Take Control” Because Mayor And Council Don’t


Today’s edition of the Park Ridge Journal features a page one story titled “Citizens Take Control,” which reports on a citizen-based organization that will champion the City’s interests in connection with the new O’Hare runway. 

The currently un-named organization is headed by resident Christine Kutt Zolt, and hopes to develop and maintain “a high profile and constant contact” with our U.S. senators, congress-people, and the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”).  The organization will operate through four working groups: communications, technology, legal, and finance.

We applaud these residents, as we do all citizen activists who step up to express their own opinions and attempt to influence government policy or actions.  This O’Hare issue is crucial to the residential value and quality of life of our community – something noted by 4th Ward Alderpuppet James Allegretti at this past Saturday’s special Town Hall meeting.

Which causes us to wonder why Allegretti, in particular, ignored the potential for this situation back in 2005, before construction of the $500 million runway 9L27R began and it might have been easier to do something about it?

A full three years ago, as reported in the minutes of the December 5, 2005, City Council meeting [pdf], then-Ald. Jeannie Markech (2nd Ward) – the Council’s alternate (to Mayor Frimark) liaison to the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (“ONCC”) – distributed new noise contour maps that disclosed “significant changes” that would affect many areas in Park Ridge.  She also encouraged more involvement in ONCC matters by the mayor and other Council members:

“Ald. Markech asked the Mayor to attend the General Meetings to represent all of Park Ridge…She asked for a representative from the 4th Ward to attend the Residential Committee Meetings, which are on Wednesdays.”

From what we can tell, Frimark attended only one ONCC meeting between that December 2005 Council meeting and the new runway opening; and Allegretti attended none.  If we’ve missed their attendance, however, we invite them to correct us.

Which causes us to wonder if something isn’t seriously wrong with our City government – and a Council cut in half by Frimark’s referendum in 2006 – when the defense of something as important as our community’s property values and quality of life has to be taken up by a group of un-elected citizen volunteers, however public-spirited they may be.

Especially when our mayor and at least one of his hand-picked alderpuppets couldn’t be bothered to involve themselves in O’Hare matters for the past three years.

“A Fair And Honest Question”: How Would Frimark Know?


Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark wants a big new cop shop.  That’s one of the reasons why he’s spent much of the past year or so running around trying to get the City to buy land for that purpose – preferably from one of his buddies, like Bill Napleton. 

And because Frimark and his Alderpuppets are cowards, they don’t want to be held accountable to the taxpayers for spending a bundle of our tax dollars and digging us a 20-year, $20 million-plus debt hole for this kind of a boondoggle after the voters go on record (via indisputable referendum voting results) as opposing such an expenditure. 

So when 1st Ward Alderman (and mayoral candidate) Dave Schmidt, at the December 1 City Council meeting, proposed that the Council adopt a resolution putting an advisory referendum issue about a new cop shop on the April ballot, the Alderpuppets wouldn’t even give his motion a second. 

Outraged by that conduct, Park Ridge resident Joe Egan and a bunch of his fellow residents have taken up Schmidt’s referendum and begun a petition drive to do what the City Council wouldn’t.  Their question reads almost exactly like Schmidt’s:

“Shall the City of Park Ridge replace its current police facility with a new, larger structure at a cost of at least $16.5 million plus additional, but currently unknown, costs for the land on which it will be situated and bond interest?”

As reported in last week’s Park Ridge Journal (“Citizens Take On Police Station Referendum,“ Dec. 10), Frimark’s response to news of the petition drive was to attack the referendum issue: “The way Schmidt had it questioned, no one in their right mind would vote for that. It has to be a fair and honest question.”

In typical Frimark style, he didn’t give any specifics about what was unfair or dishonest about the referendum question posed by Schmidt, or the slight variation proposed in the citizens petition.  Nor did Frimark offer any suggestions for a new cop shop referendum question he could support.  So we have come up with a few alternatives to help kick-start the mayor’s thought processes:

“Do you want a new police station at whatever cost those City Council members you elected choose to spend?”

*  “The City paid experts a lot of money to tell us we need a big new cop shop, so do you think you know more than those experts?”

*  “Should we spend as much money as necessary to make sure Park Ridge doesn’t have a dinkier police station than our neighboring communities?”

Frimark and his Alderpuppets, like the Park Ridge Library Board and Staff back in 2002, consider any referendum issue that discloses the cost of a project as being inherently unfair.  We here at Watchdog, on the other hand, think that a referendum issue that doesn’t include the cost is unfair – and supremely dishonest.   

But we have to agree with one thing the mayor said: “No one in their right mind” would vote for a new police station that will cost at least $16.5 million plus the cost of land and bond interest. 

That’s why Frimark and the Alderpuppets want to keep that vote for themselves.

Bach on SOC


As we noted in Monday’s post, While Park Ridge Slept, Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and the rest of our City officials must have been been hitting the Ambien CR for the past few years while the City of Chicago was busy constructing the new runway known as 9L/27R at O’Hare.  What else could explain their virtually total silence on the subject for all that time?

But now the runway is open and attracting a steady stream of noisy planes buzzing the southern half of Park Ridge like Baron von Richtofen’s Flying Circus and irritating a lot of residents in the process.  And the newly-awakened Frimark and his unofficial air marshall, 3rd Ward Alderpuppet Don Bach, are going hyper-active trying to make up for all that lost time.

So they hastily scheduled a “town hall” meeting for tomorrow (December 13) at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall, apparently as a tune-up for the main event next Thursday (December 18, 7:30 p.m.) at the Maine South High School auditorium, where O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (“ONCC”) executive director Brian Gilligan, ONCC chair (and Arlington Hts. mayor) Arlene Mulder, and an FAA player to be named later are scheduled to show up to say and do…we’re not sure what. 

Could it be another meaningless song and dance like we got from the Com Ed representatives who showed up for Frimark’s last dog-and-pony show, following the power outage of August 2007?  Come to Maine South next Thursday and find out.

But really, folks, what can we realistically expect to do about a new runway that has cost in excess of $500 million and is touted as being necessary to cutting the delays at O’Hare that purportedly trickle down to the rest of the country?

Well, if you’re Air Marshall Bach, you make foolish public comments about Park Ridge possibly rejoining what’s left of the Suburban O’Hare Commission (“SOC”), before recanting less than a week later and claiming that your original comment was merely “intended to put pressure on the [ONCC]” – as was reported in an article in yesterday’s Herald-Advocate (“Join SOC again? Bach doesn’t support idea,” Dec. 11).

Yes indeed, that’s sure a great way to win friends and influence people on the ONCC: Tell the organization with 28 member communities that you’re going to quit it and join the dynamic duo of Bensenville and Elk Grove Village in their unending crusade to spend jillions of dollars on their litigation to nowhere. 

You may remember those two erstwhile Park Ridge “allies” as the sharpies who nicked O’Hare-obsessed former mayor Ron Wietecha and his City Council (2nd Ward Alderpuppet Rich DiPietro being the sole surviving dupe from that Council) for $650,000 of our tax dollars on a half-baked scheme to build a third Chicago airport near Peotone.  Back then, Wietecha (with DiPietro’s backing) heralded that giveaway as an “investment” – which it turned out to be, but of the Enron variety.

But back to Bach, who despite recanting his interest in rejoining SOC is nevertheless now questioning Park Ridge’s continued membership in the ONCC and the quality of information it provides its members.  He’s also claiming that Park Ridge and the other ONCC communities were advised that 9L/27R would only be used in poor weather and by smaller aircraft.

From whom exactly did you hear that, Air Marshall Bach?  Was there a memo?  How about even some handwritten notes scribbled on a cocktail napkin by somebody who used to work for the FAA?  Anything?  Anybody?  Bueller?

The bottom line, folks, is that while 9L27R was being built our current mayor was too busy with other things – like cutting the size of the Council and working out deals for his buddies/campaign contributors on such things as zoning variances for the dormant Executive Office Plaza project, $2.4 million of concessions for Napleton, and trying to buy some land for a new cop shop. 

You might want to remember that each time another jet roars over your house.

Thank You, Mr. Egan!


As has been previously reported, Ald. Dave Schmidt’s motion for a resolution to put the issue of the proposed new police station on the April 2009 ballot as an advisory referendum died for want of even a second (“Frimark, Council Stiff Voters On Cop Shop Referendum”).  None of our elected City officials other than Schmidt want to give the voters of Park Ridge even the opportunity to advise (but not bind) the Council as to its plans for a big, expensive new cop shop that will put the City multi-millions in debt for the next 20 years or so.

Given that kind of arrogance and disregard for what those taxpaying voters think, resident Joe Egan has started up a citizens petition drive to put the issue of a new cop shop on the ballot anyway.  As reported last Thursday on Park Ridge Underground (“Comment in the Spotlight”), Mr. Egan is seeking recruits to help him get the required number of signatures.

We have repeatedly challenged the need for a new cop shop – as opposed to a remodeling/renovation of the current space, with or without a modest addition – and the wisdom of incurring more than a million dollars a year of debt service on such a facility that will burden our taxpayers for the next two decades, especially given all the more immediate infrastructure needs that are not being met, such as street paving and relief sewers. 

We have also criticized the less-than-forthright way the proponents of the new cop shop are going about justifying their fiscal recklessness: That they won’t be raising taxes for the new cop shop because all they really will be doing is just “extending” the annual debt service payments that the City has been making (using our tax dollars, of course) for the past 10 years or so on the bonds that financed the Public Works Building, after those bonds are paid off next year.

We also don’t agree with Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and his Alderpuppets when they claim that they were elected to make these kinds of decisions, presumably without first measuring their constituents’ views on such a project in the best way available: By votes cast on the issue itself.

What a crock!

We encourage everyone who thinks there are better ways to spend our tax money, and/or that the voters deserve to be heard at the ballot box on such a significant and expensive matter, to contact Mr. Egan and volunteer to gather signatures, as many as you are able.

Because if we don’t get a vote on this issue, we can be sure that Frimark and the Council will push this project forward – and they will do so with their standard alibi that they “talked to [a handful?] of their constituents” and found “overwhelming support” for this cop shop boondoggle.

While Park Ridge Slept


With new O’Hare runway 9L/27R open and bringing a steady stream of planes over the southern half of Park Ridge for the past two weeks, a couple hundred people – many of them Park Ridge residents – showed up at the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (“ONCC”) meeting last Friday (Dec. 5) in Rosemont to angrily complain about the noise.

The consistent theme expressed by the residents who spoke, including Park Ridge Alderman Don Bach (3rd Ward) was: “We were lied to” by the Federal Aviation Adminstration (“FAA”) and the Chicago Dept. of Aviation about the number of daily flights and the size of the planes using the runway.

We don’t ever put it past King Richie Daley or federal bureaucrats to lie to anybody, especially when it comes to their grand, billion-dollar O’Hare expansion plan.  But we’re having a hard time finding any evidence of the kind of iron-clad promises or representations about the use of the new runways that people seem to be creatively remembering.  

The ONCC home page,, states that the new runway is designed to accommodate “planes as large as the 747” and is “intended mainly to be used for planes like “the Airbus A318, A319, A320, the MD-80, the DC-9 and the Boeing 727, 737, and 757.”  We couldn’t find any mention of Piper Cubs, Beechcraft Bonanzas, or even Gulfstream business jets.

This new runway plan was announced back in 2005 which, coincidentally, was the year Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark was elected to the big chair at 505 Butler Place.  But we’ve been unable to find anything Frimark has done since taking office to try to minimize the adverse effects of this new runway on our community. 

Maybe that’s why it was no surprise that Mayor Howard was nowhere to be seen at Friday’s ONCC meeting.  Instead, Bach was there, criticizing Chicago and the FAA and – according to Saturday’s Chicago Tribune article (“Noise from new O’Hare runway angers Park Ridge residents”) – suggesting that Park Ridge might be better off re-joining the Suburban O’Hare Commission (“SOC”) from which it withdrew in 2003.

Just because the new runway is causing a lot of problems for Park Ridge, however, doesn’t make re-joining SOC a good solution – unless our goal is to help Bensenville and Elk Grove Village further enrich long-time SOC attorney Joe Karaganis by financing his endlessly unsuccessful court battles.

The sad fact appears to be that for the past three years, while Chicago was building its new $500 million runway, our City officials – starting with Mayor Frimark – were asleep at the switch and doing nothing – NOTHING – to address the potential problems that the new runway could cause. 

And they didn’t wake up until they heard the jet roar overhead.


Space: The Final Library Frontier


Since as far back as 1991, the Park Ridge Library has been whining about not having enough space. 

Back then, in the heat of a Library expansion referendum campaign, the Library staff piled books on the floors to create the false impression that there wasn’t enough shelf space to hold them.  But as soon as the voters rejected the expansion proposal and there was no need to continue that charade, those books mysteriously vanished.

Several years later, the Library Board’s and Staff’s edifice complex was resurrected with plans for Uptown Redevelopment – and the suggestion by then-City Mgr. Tim Schuenke that a new Library could be rolled into that TIF-financed project.  So while Board and Staff deferred needed maintenance and repairs on the existing building, the Uptown Advisory Task Farce included a new Library in its deliberations.

Fast forward to 2002, when plans for a new Library were steaming ahead to the point where the City distributed promotional materials about our community at a national convention that mentioned a new library as if it were a fait accompli.  That kind of arrogance ticked off plenty of citizens, who appealed to members of the City Council to pass a resolution putting an advisory Library referendum on the November 2002 ballot.

When the Council declined, a group of citizen activists conducted a petition drive that collected over 3,700 signatures and put three Library–related issues on the ballot: whether a new library should be built on the current site; whether a new one should be built on a different site; and whether retail should be added to the Library block.

The voters overwhelmingly rejected all three.

But ever since that November 2002 defeat, the Library Board and Staff have been trying to come up with a new scheme to get a bigger building.  Their latest: Create a shortage of staff space by converting some of that space into more room for kids programs, and then tack on a cheesy-looking office trailer or “modular building” to hold the displaced staffers.  

Librarian Janet Van De Carr’s explanation: “We get a lot of requests from parents to provide more programs for children, but right now we have the one library meeting room that must be shared with young adult programs as well as community groups, so we can’t offer any more than we’re offering now.”  

Of course you’ll get “a lot of requests” for kids programs, especially free ones.  We seem to have plenty of parents who want their kids to be as programmed as possible, especially if somebody else (i.e., the taxpayers) is paying for it.  And for the Library Board and Staff, it’s a great way to increase those usage totals they use to argue for that bigger Library that has never left their radar screen. 

But the best part of this plan for the Library Administration is that it will create an “eyesore” – as an office trailer or “modular building” is likely to do – that they expect to be so offensive and irritating to enough Park Ridge residents that it will start a groundswell of support for a new Library, or at least a decent-sized addition.

Actually, it’s a pretty clever scheme, and the Library Crew is pretty devious to come up with it.  The only question is whether the taxpayers are dumb enough to fall for it.