Park Ridge’s “Teflon Mayor”?


Ronald Reagan was dubbed “the Teflon President” because it seemed as if nothing bad stuck to him but, instead, slid right off.  Today we write about “the Teflon Mayor” – who is trying mightily to achieve that same effect here in Park Ridge.

Over the holidays we looked high and low for any evidence of Mayor Howard Frimark ever accepting responsibility for anything bad or unfortunate that occurred in Park Ridge.  We found none.  To the contrary, it seems that nobody in any branch of local government is as adept at deflecting blame than our mayor.

That skill was on display this past Saturday (Jan. 3, 2008) at the meeting of ORD-REST, the newly-formed citizens group that is trying to do, belatedly, what Frimark and the City Council neglected over the past four years: minimize the adverse affects of the new O’Hare runway, 9L27R. 

Frimark, sitting next to his political crony, state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, in the Park Ridge Library’s downstairs meeting room, said little during Saturday afternoon’s two-hour meeting.  We notice, however, that Frimark appeared to become particularly tight-lipped when Mulligan began ripping into local “Democrats” on the City Council a few years back who voted not to keep Park Ridge a member of the Suburban O’Hare Commission (“SOC”) – even though her own community, Des Plaines, bailed on SOC years earlier. 

Frimark apparently wasn’t eager to share with that particular audience the fact that, as a newly-elected 4th Ward alderman in July, 2003, he was (arguably) the deciding vote for the 7-6 majority (only 13 votes, because then-6th Ward Ald. Michael Marous recused himself) – as we reported in our December 22, 2008 post (“Just The Facts Ma’am”).  Nor did Frimark choose to advise those approximately 90 residents about how he did nothing to involve himself or Park Ridge in the planning or construction of the new runway, or to work with the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (“ONCC”) or the City of Chicago to reduce the adverse impacts of that new runway or of O’Hare “modernization” generally.

Of course, that’s not the kind of information Frimark wants the voters to know about, especially now that he’s in full re-election mode and claiming full credit for anything good that’s happened to Park Ridge since May 2005, much like the rooster who claims credit for the dawn just because he’s the one crowing loudest about it.  But just because Frimark might prefer to keep the truth buried on his neglect of O’Hare expansion doesn’t mean we have to go along with him – which is why we took a quick look at Frimark’s record on O’Hare expansion since becoming mayor. 

Let’s start with Page 2 [pdf] of the August 2005 issue of our tax-financed propaganda rag, “The Spokesman,” in which Frimark brags about how he and Alderpuppet Rich DiPietro (2nd Ward) “met with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley at his office in Chicago’s City Hall on June 22,” during which Frimark claims to have asked Daley that Park Ridge “be kept informed about all airport developments that will effect the citizens of Park Ridge” – a request with which Daley agreed, or so Frimark says.

What came out of that meeting?  Nothing that we could find, including no further meetings or correspondence between Frimark and Daley, or Frimark and anybody else from the City of Chicago or the FAA prior to the new runway opening.  And although the ONCC listed Frimark as Park Ridge’s representative [pdf] back in 2005, we are aware of only two ONCC meetings he attended prior to the new runway opening, as he preferred to pawn off his attendance (between May 2005 and their leaving office in May 2007) on “alternates” then-2nd Ward Ald. Jeannie Markech and then-7th Ward Ald. Jeff Cox.

Not surprisingly, we hear that Frimark is already trying to blame them for his negligence of all things O’Hare.  But the records we could find tell a very different story.

For example, Page 3 of the September 19, 2005, City Council meeting minutes [pdf] show Markech reporting on the ONCC agreement and the O’Hare gate report.  Then, as reported on Page 2 of the December 5, 2005, meeting minutes [pdf], she distributed new noise contour maps, warned of increased noise in the 4th, 6th and 7th wards, and asked Frimark to start attending ONCC meetings – which she followed up with a Valentine’s Day 2006 Memorandum to Frimark and the Council in which she again expressed her belief that his “presence at the general meetings [of ONCC] for the purpose of representing all Park Ridgians is imperative.”  And, as reported at Page 3 of the May 15, 2006, City Council meeting minutes [pdf], Markech again asked Frimark to attend ONCC’s general meetings.

This last plea may have had some effect, however, as Frimark finally attended an ONCC meeting in June 2006, although he reportedly did nothing but kibbitz with Des Plaines mayor Tony Arrredia.  And as far as we can tell from the ONCC meeting minutes [pdf] published on its website, from February 2007 (the earliest posted minutes) through November 2008, Frimark attended only one other meeting: On October 5, 2007, where the minutes reveal his only two acts to have been voting to approve ONCC’s September 2007 expenses, and seconding Mayor Arredia’s motion to adjourn.

So for all you ORD-REST people who are spending all of your waking/sleepless moments scrambling to do something, however belatedly, about those planes screaming over your heads, you might want to thank Mayor Frimark for having done nothing but sit on his thumb for the past four years while Chicago built its new $500 million-plus O’Hare runway and the control tower with which to operate it. 

Just don’t expect an acknowledgment or an apology from him.  As we’ve seen from the past four years, the Teflon Mayor doesn’t do accountability.

A New Year’s Two-Fer (Updated 1/2/09)


By now most New Year’s Eve hangovers should have dissipated, but we predict that the following two political hangovers from 2008 will continue to cause headaches for the honest, taxpaying citizens of Park Ridge well into 2009:

It’s Baa-ack!  The Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reported this week that the Park Ridge General Caucus for Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 will meet January 7, 2009, in the Field School auditorium. (“School caucus to endorse candidate for 64, 207 slates,” December 30)

For those of you who don’t pay attention to such things, the Caucus is a semi-official looking but make-believe quasi-organization of unelected “delegates” that springs up every two years to hand-pick candidates for both the District 64 and District 207 school boards for whom it then collects petition signatures and, if somebody dares to run against its slate, campaigns for the slated candidates using unspecified “dues” and a war chest, the amount of which is not disclosed on its website,

Over the past decade, only 2 non-Caucus candidates have dared to challenge a Caucus slate for any of the 18 available slots on the Dist. 64 board – only one successfully.  And that successful candidate, current board member Ted Smart, won election in 2007 in a race that was theater of the absurd: after challenging the Caucus slate Smart tried to drop out of the race, but his decision came too late for his name to be taken off the ballot; and he ended up defeating Caucus candidate Shlomo Crandus, 5,062 to 3,495.

Enraged Caucus members suggested that Smart’s election was the product of anti-Semitism, and they demanded that Smart refuse the seat to which he was lawfully elected.  Those demands were reportedly accompanied by threatening telephone calls to Smart’s home.  But in the almost two years since his election, Smart has shown himself to be the typical go-along-to-get-along, rubber-stamp Dist. 64 board member.

So expect the Caucus to once again round up the usual suspects – basically decent, unremarkable folks whose main qualification is that they are pleasant and unlikely to rock the boat despite the facts that: (a) Dist. 64’s budget keeps going up; (b) its teachers and administrators continue to receive higher salaries for jobs that are more secure, and provide better benefits, than those of the taxpayers who are paying the freight; and (c) no Dist. 64 school shows up on the annual lists of the Top 50 ISAT high achievers for either elementary [pdf] or middle [pdf] schools. 

UPDATE 1/2/09 @ 2:35 p.m.
We just received a copy of an e-mail [pdf] from Caucus Chair Phil Eichman which further illustrates what kind of farce the entire Caucus process appears to be, especially as it relates to Dist. 64: Although the Caucus claims (on its “About Us” web page [pdf]) that its candidates “first undergo a rigorous and lengthy interviewing process…[and] appear several times before Caucus delegates to make policy presentations,” Mr. Eichman’s recruitment e-mail clearly shows how the Caucus leadership seems willing to consider for endorsement anybody who fills out an application and shows up on Jan. 7. 

We can only guess that, at least for the Caucus, “rigorous and lengthy” aren’t what they used to be.

We also wonder why the Caucus hasn’t posted on its website the completed “extensive application” forms for candidates Lawson, Gentile, Uhlig, Mueller, Barsanti and Derrick, so that the public who the Caucus purports to serve can get an idea – before the endorsements are made – of exactly what qualifications and ideas these candidates bring to the process. 

Salt, Overtime, Cause Budget Woes.  The Herald-Advocate also reported this week that that the City’s Public Works department is in full budget-busting mode as it runs low on salt and high on overtime for its snow plow drivers (“Brutal December weather eats through Park Ridge salt supply,” December 30).

Due to escalating prices, the City reportedly is already $190,420 over budget while paying roughly three times the $40 per ton that it spent for salt last year.  And in order to conserve the costly salt the City has utilized more plowing, hence more overtime pay.  We don’t have a problem with that trade off, as roadway safety is of paramount importance.  But with a City budget that was already sporting a yawning budget deficit of $1.7 million – on the heals of a similar hole last year – things are not looking promising for City finances.  Again.

Fortunately, Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim still holds out hope of a “mild winter,” although he has not indicated on what information (the U.S. Weather Service?  The “Farmer’s Almanac”? The color bands on the Wooly Bear caterpillar?) he is pinning that hope.  And The Zinger doesn’t even dare to whisper how much bigger the budget hole will get once the cost of repairing all those potholes that are already springing up all over town is figured in. 

Hey, Wayne, any chance that one of the reasons many Park Ridge streets already look like they belong in a war zone is because last year’s potholes weren’t repaired correctly due to lack of money?  Or should we pose that question to Mayor Howard “The Coward” Frimark, who kicked off his re-election campaign by crowing about how well he has managed City finances?