Public Watchdog.org

Howard The Bully (Updated 1/12/09; 1/14/09)

01.09.09

We have referred to Mayor Howard Frimark as “Howard the Coward” for his (and his alderpuppets’) deathly fear of the advisory referendum which Ald. Dave Schmidt (1st Ward) proposed for the big, new, multi-million dollar cop shop for which Frimark has been secretly scurrying around looking to buy land, while at the same time he and his Air Marshall, Alderpuppet Don Bach, have been asleep at the wheel while O’Hare built a new runway that has planes flying through the middle of our city.

Schmidt couldn’t even get a second on his motion to put the referendum on the ballot by City Council resolution, so a group of Park Ridge citizens led by Joe Egan began a petition drive to put the issue on the April ballot anyway.  And from what we hear, they had collected well over 1,000 signatures toward the 2,300-plus that they need.

But because the deadline for filing those petitions is rapidly approaching, Mr. Egan and his merry band of petitioners made arrangements to collect signatures at Oberweis this past weekend.  To describe what happened next, however, we originally relied on two e-mails that Mr. Egan circulated Friday afternoon (which, by the way, we received from several different reliable sources other than Mr. Egan), but which we removed at Mr. Egan’s subsequent request. 

We encourage you to contact Mr. Egan directly (jjegan1@aol.com) if you have any questions that haven’t been fully answered by the account of the incident published today in the on-line Herald-Advocate (“Swoboda investigates charges that officers blocked petition signing,” January 12) – which reports how the cop shop referendum petition drive scheduled for Oberweis Dairy last Friday and Saturday was cancelled in response to complaints to Oberweis corporate headquarters by Mayor Howard “We don’t need no stinking referendum” Frimark.

And if Frimark’s brazen and ham-fisted interference with a lawful citizen initiative isn’t despicable enough, the H-A also reports that some of Park Ridge’s “finest” also may have shown up in uniform at Oberweis to let the local store manager know that hosting a cop shop petition drive wasn’t the smartest idea. That’s the conduct that acting Police Chief Tom Swoboda is investigating.

In a universe of unlimited possibilities, we’re sure that some mathematician could provide calculations showing how there must be at least one plausible explanation that passes the smirk test for how (1) Oberweis corporate could give Mr. Egan permission to collect referendum signatures (2) under some kind of mistaken belief that Egan and friends were city workers taking a “straw poll” on building a new cop shop, (3) which mistaken belief came to Frimark as if in a dream (4) just in time for him to call Oberweis corporate and (5) convince said dairyfolk, based merely on his complaints, that (6) it had landed in a political briar patch (7) also just in time for Oberweis to withdraw its permission (8) before Egan et al. could collect any valuable petition signatures, (9) either before or after uniformed Park Ridge police officers paid a visit to the local Oberweis manager and (10) suggested that referendum petitions and ice cream don’t mix.

There could be a perfectly innocent explanation for all that. Yeah. Sure. Of course.

The H-A reports that Frimark did not return its phone calls on Monday.  Given Frimark’s penchant for publicity, his not returning press inquiries should have the H-A’s Jennifer Johnson either phoning Lutheran General to see if the mayor has been admitted, or dialing up his estimable political operative Linda Ski to see if Frimark has memorized his talking points yet.

None of this, however, changes our opinion that the current mayor is a coward for trying to prevent the voters of Park Ridge from showing their support or opposition for the proposed new cop shop at the polls on April 7.  Or our opinion that mayoral powers can turn even a coward like Howard into a bully.

Update 1/14/09
Today’s Park Ridge Journal reports (“Bullying Charges Fly,” January 14) that in Mayor Frimark explained his call(s) to Oberweis Dairy owner Jim Oberweis as having been motivated by concerns about the effect of referendum petition gathering on the dairy’s business: “I was shocked that businesses would become politically active, possibly hurting their business.”

So if we are to believe Frimark [Insert your own comment here], we wonder if the folks over at Morningfields [pdf] understood the risk they were taking by hosting Frimark’s own campaign kick-off party back in December? 

One further bit of inanity reported in the Journal article relates to a Library staff member forcing a referendum petition circulator off Library property last Sunday.  When questioned as to the authority of Library staff to take such action, City Attorney Everette “Buzz” Hill admitted that there was no such restriction in the City Code, but that there was an “internal” Library policy prohibiting any “solicitation” within 50 feet of the Library entrance, a policy he defended by asserting that “[t]he library grounds are not what are known as a traditional public forum,” permitting Library Staff to regulate the time, place and manner of the exercise of free speech on those grounds.

What this sounds like to us is a twisted version of a scene from the movie “Animal House,” with Librarian Janet Van De Carr (in the Dean Wormer role) putting the Deltas (the referendum petition circulators) on “double secret probation” (the internal Library no-solicitation policy).  So to take this absurdity to its “logical” conclusion, maybe the petition circulators should turn out en masse at tomorrow night’s Library Board meeting, have petition drive leader Joe Egan upbraid Board President Shlomo Crandus (as Greg Marmalard), Van De Carr/”Wormer,” and the rest of the Board for their First Amendment-mocking “internal” rule, and then have Egan (in his best Eric “Otter” Stratton manner) assure them that “we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America” – while his fellow petition circulators hum “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Meanwhile, we invite Buzz Hill to explain the legal authority for his opinion that the 50 feet surrounding a public library entrance cannot be considered “a traditional public forum” for our citizens’ exercise of their First Amendment rights.