How About Some Leadership…And Journalism?


If you spend any time around Mayor Howard “the Coward” Frimark, you are likely to hear him rail against “the evil blogs,” which for him means PublicWatchdog and Park Ridge Underground.  Not surprisingly, several of Frimark’s Alderpuppets on the City Council share his opinion.

That’s fine with us.  We believe that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion.  Everyone, however, is not entitled to his/her own set of facts.  And as no less an authority than John Adams noted, “facts are stubborn things,” which explains why politicians have such difficulties with them.

But we do, and should, expect more from our news media than we do our politicians. Which is why the editorial in yesterday’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate – “Wanted: leadership from City Council” (January 29) – is troubling. 

Forget for a moment how that editorial schizophrenically jumps from one bald assertion to the next, without making any real point – unless the point is to insult the intelligence of Park Ridge voters by suggesting they are too dumb to understand the referendums on which they cast their votes.  That’s the media’s equivalent of the politician’s “you elect us to make those decisions” rationalization for opposing referendums when they fear the voters don’t agree with what the politicians want to do.

But what we find more problematic than the editorial’s viewpoint is the simply incorrect presentation of some of the facts that form at least one of the premises for that viewpoint.

Let’s start with: “Consider the four conflicting library questions a few years back.”  Okay, but can we start with something as basic as getting the number of questions right – as in only “three” library questions on the November 2002 ballot.  C’mon, H-A…if you don’t have anybody on staff who remembers back to 2002, at least check the Cook County Clerk’s “elections” web page for the basic election info.

As for those three referendum questions being “conflicting,” that’s not factually accurate, either.  The first question was about money (whether to spend $20 million on a new library); the second was a “use” question (whether retail structures should be constructed on the “library block”); and the third was a “location” question (whether, if a new library is built, it should be built someplace other than the “library block”).
Conflicting?  Only if apples, oranges and bananas are “conflicting.”

But the editorial’s misinformation doesn’t stop with library referendum questions.  It goes on to criticize “the series of questions over several elections from the Park Ridge Recreation and Park Board” without even attempting to distinguish between those questions which were “binding” – i.e., if approved, they would have mandated the appropriation of funds (and the issuance of bonded debt to provide those funds) – and those which were merely advisory.   

But apparently because those referendums were voted down, the H-A editorialists seem to suggest that the voters must have been bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the questions.  Of course, that’s yet another clever politician’s trick to explain away an unappetizing referendum result.

We wonder whether it ever occurred to the editors over at the H-A that maybe, just maybe, the taxpaying voters are fed up with our politicians and bureaucrats spending and borrowing far too much money – mortgaging our community’s future, as it were – for things we don’t really need, and that many don’t even want?  Might it even be that the best sign the voters truly have been bamboozled is when they actually vote for one of those tax, borrow and spend referendums?

If the H-A editorial board wanted to point out an abuse of the referendum process, however, it should have checked out its own story about Alderpuppet Don “Air Marshall” Bach, who had hoped to have the Council, by resolution, adopt his advisory referendum question about spending up to $150,000 a year on the problems caused by O’Hare expansion (“No room for O’Hare question on crowded Park Ridge ballot,” updated 1/29).  At the very least, the H-A editorialists could have opined on the common sense of putting a $150,000 question to referendum but not a $16.5 million one.

So while the H-A editorial board may be looking for some leadership from the City Council, we’d be content if we could count on factually accurate journalism from the H-A.