Pay-To-Play and “Mayor Liar”


The final mayoral debate last Thursday night, sponsored by the Park Ridge Journal, provided another opportunity to assess the respective positions and philosophies of incumbent Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and his challenger, First Ward Alderman Dave Schmidt, on city government and the issues it faces. 

For those of you who could not attend, resident Charles Melidosian (communications director of the Dave Schmidt mayoral campaign) has posted the debate on YouTube in segments related to each question asked by the moderator, along with opening and closing statements by the candidates.  We strongly encourage you to view those segments, all of which highlight the many differences between Frimark and Schmidt on matters of public policy, on the issues, and on personal style. 

Some of them also suggest that the current mayor may deserve another nickname besides “Let’s Make A Deal” – like Howard “The Liar” Frimark.  Or if that term offends the sensibilities of some of our more gentle readers, perhaps Howard “The Prevaricator” Frimark.  And the question which we believe best illustrates how truth is a stranger to Frimark is the one about taking campaign contributions from those who do business with the city – what’s commonly known here in Illinois as “pay-to-play.”  

Frimark begins with the blanket denial, “I have not taken any money from any business that does business with the city,” which he nevertheless tries to excuse by stating that he doesn’t have a problem with such contributions “as long as I don’t vote on the issue.”  He then launches into his big finish, first claiming that Schmidt “says that I’ve taken two million dollars from Napleton” before going into full Bill Clinton (“I have not had sexual relations with that woman”) mode by staring straight at the audience while insisting: “I haven’t taken one red cent from Mr. Napleton.”

Well, Mayor Liar, we have checked and checked and checked, and we can’t find any evidence whatsoever that Schmidt ever accused you of taking $2 million from Mr. Napleton – or from anybody else, for that matter.  What he has accused you of doing, as have we, is taking a $1,000 contribution from Napleton Cadillac [pdf], an accusation which the State Board of Elections confirms as true by reporting on its website that you received that exact contribution back on November 5, 2004, early on in your first mayoral campaign.  And as Ald. Schmidt and we have repeatedly pointed out, you paid off on that contribution on January 28, 2008, when you cast the tie-breaking vote [pdf] to give that same Napleton Cadillac $400,000 to clean up the soil contamination on its site, and up to an additional $2 million of city sales tax revenues over 15 years.

So much for not voting on things that benefit your campaign contributors, eh Mayor Liar?

Fortunately for Park Ridge taxpayers, that sweetheart deal fell through before any money could be paid when GM/Cadillac pulled Napleton’s franchise.  As reported in the April 14, 2008, edition of the Park Ridge Journal (“Park Ridge: Car Dealership’s $400,000 Incentive Out The Window”), however, that didn’t stop Frimark from trying to get at least the $400,000 of clean-up funds into Napleton’s hands – until the City Attorney said such a payment would be improper. 

And the Journal article goes on to point out that GM/Cadillac usually takes from 6 to 18 months to negotiate a closure with dealers such as Napleton Cadillac, which suggests that Frimark and the City likely were negotiating Napleton’s sweetheart deal at the same time Napleton was negotiating its closure with GM/Cadillac.  Gee, could Mayor Liar have known that Napleton Cadillac was going to be closing all the while he was negotiating that sweetheart deal?  Might Mayor Liar have been trying to make sure Napleton could get the $400,000 to clean up the site so that it could be sold in a “clean” (i.e., more valuable) condition to Park Ridge Corp., LLC (more commonly known as “PRC”, the developers of the Uptown shops and residences), as the Journal article also reports?   

And since we’re talking about pay-to-play, we think it’s appropriate to point out that Park RidgeTaxi just tossed another $500 [pdf] into Frimark’s war chest to go with the $1,000 it contributed last month [pdf].  Now we can watch how Frimark’s alderpuppets on the City Council further stonewall the application of American Taxi for five of the City’s eight unused taxi licenses in order to preserve Park Ridge Taxi’s monopoly on taxi service in Park Ridge.  

Frimark will tell you this isn’t pay-to-play, however, because the current owner of Park Ridge Taxi (Dean Dinev of Oakbrook Terrace) is “a good friend” of his who he’s known for about five years – which would make that before Mr. Dinev acquired Park Ridge Taxi from Lee Carpenter, whose wife contributed $500 to Frimark’s first mayoral campaign [pdf] back in February, 2005, just two days after Frimark voted to preserve Park Ridge Taxi’s monopoly from competition by…wait for it…American Taxi.

Pay-to-play in Park Ridge city government?  How about it, Mayor Liar?  

A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse: Part 2


In A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse: Part 1, we noted that our number one resident politician, Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, appears to have mastered the technique of telling the voters things that appear superficially truthful but which really aren’t.  In that post, we took on Frimark’s published statements about the current budget deficit and the new police station.

Today we will look at two more of his “Q & A with Mayor Frimark” from his campaign website:

What is your plan to increase revenues?
I am investigating a number of valid proposals, all of which have benefits and consequences. As mayor, I gather all the information and seek the opinion and counsel of local businesses, residents, the city council and subject matter experts in order to fully understand the impacts of any proposal. Some that I am feel have merit include: licensing of bill boards, a special tax on cell towers, increasing non-resident commuter parking prices, aggressive promotion of the Taste of Park Ridge to bring more patrons to the businesses in Park Ridge, corporate sponsorship for Taste of Park Ridge events and festivities, expanded marketing of our successful “shop-local” programs and ultimately continue our business-friendly overtures to attract and retain sales tax producing establishments into the Uptown, Higgins corridor and other city business areas.

Frimark has been mayor for four years, an alderman for two years before that, and – according to his incessant self-promotion – he has lived (and sold insurance) in Park Ridge for 38 years while being a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, United Way, Jaycees and the now-defunct Economic Development Board. 

So why is it that only now is he “investigating a number of valid proposals”?  And for the proposals he has identified, why doesn’t he have some dollar figures attached?  Could it be because he already knows that none of these ideas have any chance in the world of generating enough additional revenue to even merit serious discussion?

Take “licensing of bill boards” – what the heck is that about?  Unless somebody’s hiding them, we can’t think of enough bill boards within the City limits to make a meaningful revenue difference no matter how much the licensing fee might be.  Or is Frimark suggesting that Park Ridge turn into a bill board “farm” – kind of like a “wind farm,” except that instead of a scores of wind turbines you get scores of bill boards all over town.  Now that sounds attractive, doesn’t it?

Or how his proposal for “a special tax on cell towers”?  As best as our research discloses, that’s not even legal – although that probably wouldn’t stop Frimark from proposing it if he thought people might fall for it.

Or “aggressive promotion of the Taste of Park Ridge”?  How much more “aggressive” should the City be with our tax dollars to promote an event run by the private “Taste of Park Ridge, NFP” corporation (“Taste, Inc.”)?  Oh, but wait…it looks like there are some changes going on over at Taste, Inc., because the old Taste, Inc. was  voluntarily dissolved [pdf] just last month and a new Taste, Inc. [pdf] has been formed.  Could that mean another behind-the-scenes sweetheart deal is in the works for whoever the new “owners” are?

What is being done to help control flooding?
We been [sic] working diligently to balance the need for flood control and other infrastructure improvements as much as possible during difficult times. In my campaign in 2005, I promised we would do these things, and progress has been made. New relief sewers have been designed and constructed, and more are on the way. I would have liked to have seen more of these things done, but in a declining economy, which is resulting in a corresponding decline in property, sales and other tax revenues for the city as well; it is simply bad government to raise your taxes to pay for these things to a greater degree than we have.

As we noted in our post New Cop Shop Widens, Not Plugs, Budget Gap, under Frimark’s “leadership” relief sewer installations dropped from a paltry 1,240 linear feet in 2007 (before the economy cratered) to only 940 linear feet – about three blocks’ worth – in 2008.  Of course, Frimark isn’t very forthcoming about those figures, most likely because both totals are outright pathetic for an upscale community such as ours, especially given the chronic nature of our flooding and the adverse effects it has on both our quality of life and our property values.

And only someone as totally shameless as our mayor would insist that it’s “simply bad government” to invest any more in relief sewers while at the same time pushing the pedal to the metal for a big new multi-million dollar police station – or asking the State of Illinois for $20 million in stimulus funding for the new cop shop, but only $3.5 million for sewers. 
To our citizens who are easily bamboozled, Frimark’s pronouncements can easily pass for something akin to the truth. 

But one thing is certainly true: if anybody in Park Ridge is an expert on “simply bad government,” it’s ol’ “Let’s Make A Deal” himself.         

Taxi-Cab Confessions – Part II


In Taxi-Cab Confessions, we wrote about how Park Ridge Taxi, the Oakbrook Terrace based company apparently owned by Oakbrook Terrace resident Dean Dinev, was putting on a public relations blitz that might be directed to the renewed application of American Taxi for five taxi licenses that would allow it to pick up residents in Park Ridge – a market Park Ridge Taxi currently monopolizes.

In that same post we also wrote about how, back in February of 2005, when Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark was still just an alderman and mayoral candidate, he voted against American Taxi’s application for a Park Ridge license. Two days later, Frimark’s mayoral campaign fund got a $500 contribution from the wife of Park Ridge Taxi’s then-owner, Lee Carpenter.  What a coincidence!

So Monday night’s City Council Committee of the Whole meeting should be of interest to Park Ridge residents, especially those who consider themselves free-market types, because it featured a guest appearance by Dean Dinev and about 10 of his drivers.  Mr. Dinev spoke at length in favor of his company’s monopoly and against American Taxi’s even getting so much as a City Council hearing on whether the residents of Park Ridge might be better served to have a more open taxi market.

Which makes sense, given that his monopoly extends not only to the regular taxi service that most of us know and sometimes use but also to a proposed contract [pdf] for transportation services for high school District 207’s Special Education Program – because a Park Ridge license appears to be needed in order to qualify for that contract.

Can you say “Bingo!”?  We’re betting Mr. Dinev can, both in English and in Russian.

This being the final weeks of a hotly-contested mayoral election between Frimark and 1st Ward Ald. Dave Schmidt, however, the focus of the COW discussion went beyond just taxi service.  Schmidt noted that Dinev’s company recently (Feb. 25) made a $1,000 contribution to Frimark’s campaign fund, and he suggested that the contribution might look like classic Illinois pay-to-play government in light of Dinev’s lobbying of the Council to deny a licensing hearing to competitor American Taxi.

That last remark drew an immediate rebuke from meeting chair and Frimark lapdog, Alderpuppet Jim Allegretti (4th Ward), who banged his hand for lack of a gavel and sharply noted that, as mayor, Frimark doesn’t vote. 

But that’s not quite true.  Or maybe Allegretti just didn’t remember the January 28, 2008, Council meeting when he and fellow Alderpuppets Don “Air Marshall” Bach (3rd Ward) and Robert Ryan needed and got Frimark’s vote to break the 3-3 deadlock and give Napleton Cadillac (a $1,000 contributor to Frimark’s 2005 campaign fund) up to $2.4 million of our tax dollars in what amounted to a quasi-bribe to keep his dealership in Park Ridge. The relevant excerpts from the minutes of that Council meeting can be found by clicking here [pdf].

So while Frimark normally doesn’t vote on matters before the Council, who’s to say that he wouldn’t get a chance to vote on American Taxi’s license application if it were to come to a vote and…oh…say…Alderpuppet Tom Carey (6th Ward) decided to once again vote “Present”?  Or if…oh…maybe…Ryan missed yet another meeting?

On the other hand, it’s looking less and less like there will be a vote on taxi licenses, given the comments of Frimark’s alderpuppets Monday night that American’s application doesn’t even deserve a public hearing, much less a Council vote.  “There obviously is not a need [for taxi competition] because no one has said that there is,” posited “Air Marshall” Bach. 

Yes, we guess that a cool $1,000 to help get ol’ “Let’s Make A Deal” re-elected says more than enough for Bach and the rest of Frimark’s Council.  

Ald. Allegretti’s Priorities


4th Ward Alderpuppet Jim Allegretti was the topic of an article in last week’s Herald-Advocate that deserves special mention – not just for what it says about Allegretti himself, but for how it reflects on his political lord and master, Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark.

In “Alderman: Work interferes with budget meetings” (March 19), the H-A pointed out that for the fourth straight year he’s been in office, Allegretti has missed the City Council’s annual Saturday budget workshop.  His excuse: He works on Saturday afternoons when the workshops are held. 

We don’t begrudge anybody making a living, and a lot of people in Park Ridge work Saturdays and even Sundays.  In a tough economy, many of us are just darn happy to have a job that requires Saturday and/or Sunday hours.

But public service requires more than just phoning it in; and we already have seen another of Frimark’s Alderpuppets, Robert Ryan (5th Ward), get well-deserved criticism from the H-A for having the worst attendance of anybody on the City Council despite having the least responbilities of any member.  So the last thing we need is yet another alderpuppet joining the MIA ranks, even so predictable a Frimark “yes”-man as Jimmy A. 

Allegretti’s missing budget workshops may be even more problematic than Ryan’s absences, however, if only because he might be the biggest spendthrift on the Council – which is saying a lot when he’s surrounded by the likes of Alderpuppet Don “Air Marshall” Bach (3rd Ward), who was willing to throw $2.4 million of our money at Frimark campaign contributor Napleton Cadillac weeks before it announced it was closing; Ryan, who never met a consultant’s study on which he wouldn’t spend bushels of City funds; and Alderpuppet Rich “Richie D” DiPietro, who has been mindlessly rubber-stamping City giveaways of our tax dollars since before the City’s 2002 waste of $650,000 on a Peotone airport.   

Allegretti, you might remember, also is perhaps the biggest cheerleader for a new multi-million dollar police station.  Heck, he even opposes any kind of advisory referendum on a new cop shop because he thinks he was elected to make decisions like that without citizen input.  And he also has been a strong opponent of reinstating the City’s debt ceiling – a voluntary cap on how much debt the City can undertake.  When it comes to fiscal responsibility, Allegretti makes drunken sailors look positively frugal. 

So when Allegretti misses a budget workshop, it’s a lot like an illiterate missing a reading lesson – or an alcoholic skipping an AA session.

Allegretti, however, understands at least one type of money matter: making sure Mayor Frimark’s re-election committee is well funded.  Which is why, just last week, Allegretti added another $500 to the $1,000 he previously contributed, making him (at least for the time being) the single biggest reported contributor to Frimark’s campaign – even bigger than usual suspects like James Davlin ($1,000), Bredemann Toyota ($1,000), Joe Dickerson ($500), Owen Hayes ($500) and Marilyn Goll ($500); and newest “big-hitter” Joseph Chiczewski ($1,000), a real estate guy who gives his address as 505 N. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.  

Being Frimark’s lapdog apparently doesn’t come cheap.  But in a State like Illinois, where pay-to-play politics is the rule rather than the exception, we can’t help but wonder whether continued lapdog status is the only thing Allegretti expects in return for his big-bucks contribution to our “Let’s Make A Deal” mayor.  

A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To Blind Horse: Part 1


The way dishonest politicians – yes, that probably is redundant – continue to get elected is by telling lies to voters who are too ignorant of the facts to know they’re being lied to. 

So we’re going to devote two or three posts over the remaining weeks of the current campaign season to identifying statements that just aren’t truthful but which might not be readily identifiable as untruths to the average reader.  And when looking for campaign statements that just aren’t truthful, the most target-rich environment we can find is the campaign website of Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark. 

Let’s start with his “Q & A with Mayor Frimark.”

What should we do about the current budget deficit?
The deficit will be discussed during the upcoming budget meetings. I have every confidence that the 7 aldermen will come to a consensus to resolve the deficit that is acceptable to the citizens. I believe we should be able reduce the deficit and obtain a balanced budget without raising taxes in the upcoming budget hearings, but we also must consider the need for added revenue to do this and simultaneously do more flood relief work. It is important to remember that the state controls the spending of the stimulus money, and at this point has made no commitment to using those funds for local flood relief. If we are to spend more on flood relief and we accept that the state will not fund these projects, it may not be possible to do without a tax hike or cutting some city programs and services. I am confident that the council will come to a decision that will balance all of these factors.

Read that answer carefully and see if you can find anything that suggests Frimark himself has any idea of how to (a) “reduce the deficit”, (b) “obtain a balanced budget without raising taxes”, (c) “consider the need for added revenue,” or (d) “do more flood relief work.”  Frankly, folks, even the federal government can’t do all that…and they get to print their own money.

By this statement, however, Frimark shows himself to be a master of buck-passing: first he passes the budget buck to the City Council, and then he passes it to the State of Illinois because “the state controls the spending of the stimulus money.” (Hey, at least he didn’t call it “stimulation” money, like he did at the first debate)  And although he mentions flood relief twice but says nary a word about a new cop shop, his City administration’s stimulus fund request (according to the H-A story “Schmidt: Request more flood relief funds,” 3/12/09) earmarked a whopping $20 million for a new cop shop, and only a measly $2.5 million for about 10 blocks worth of relief sewers. 

Assuming that we get any of that stimulus funding for flood relief, maybe Howard can have his Taste of Park Ridge, Inc. buddies stage a community-wide reality show (“Survivor: Park Ridge”?) and let the residents of individual city blocks form teams to compete against each other for one of those 10 relief sewers? 

On this one we give Frimark a “0” for leadership and a “0” for accountability, but a solid “8” for concealing his lack of real commitment to flood control.  

What is your position on the police station?
The answers to the referendum questions will give us a good gauge of the citizen’s feelings regarding the police station. We all agree that a safer, updated facility is long past due. The only questions we have to resolve are what to do and when, and how much we should spend.

I support the plan that our public safety committee is working on. It calls for no new taxes, no new property purchases and addresses the minimum needs as recommended by the committee. The process for this facility has not even gotten through the conceptual planning stage and we are a long way from allocating tax money to pay for it.  I ask all citizens to remember that no money has been included in the 2009 budget for this because we are nowhere near complete with the concept and plan.  Since we are not ready to do any spending for the police facility yet, and may not be for two more years, it is obvious that choosing between the police station and immediate flood relief is a non-issue.

By his saying “[w]e all agree that a safer, updated facility is long past due,” it sure sounds like he isn’t sitting on the edge of his seat waiting to see how the voters will vote on those cop shop referendum questions. We believe, however, that dry basements are long past due.

But the more creative deceptions are to be found in his second paragraph, where he says that “we are nowhere near complete with the concept and plan” for the cop shop, yet he put in for $20 million of stimulus funds which are supposed to be awarded to “shovel ready” projects!  So, Mr. Mayor, are you lying to us when you say that a decision on the cop shop is nowhere close to ready, or are you trying to pull a fast one on the State of Illinois by looking to grab $20 million for a cop shop project that isn’t “shovel ready”?

And we fail to see how choosing between a new cop shop and flood relief is a “non-issue” – especially since Frimark himself made just such a choice when he requested $20 million for a cop shop and only $2.5 million for relief sewers – a choice we’re pretty darn sure the vast majority of Park Ridge residents would not have made. 

But so long as blind voters can’t tell a nod from a wink, and so long as they keep believing Frimark’s bunkum, he just might get another four years to tell them what they want to hear while he and his cronies continue to do what they want to do.

Every Week Needs To Be “Sunshine Week”


According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, this week (March 15 through March 21) is “Sunshine Week” – a time to celebrate our right to know what our various governmental bodies are doing, and why.

This special week, although created and celebrated by the news organizations who are supposed to keep us ordinary citizens informed about our governments and the people who run them, should be even more important to those of us who live here in what the Chicago Tribune recently labeled the “State of Corruption” because of all the graft and corruption that permeates government at all levels, much of which is embodied in secret deals that favor special interests while driving up the cost of government for the rest of us.

Not surprisingly, there are Pollyannas who will actually insist, with a straight face, that there is no graft and corruption here in Park Ridge.  And the most prominent of those is our very own mayor, Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, who brags that his is the most open government in the history of Park Ridge.

Of course, Frimark conveniently fails to mention that his is the first Park Ridge administration to receive a “Worsty” – a dubious achievement award given out by the Illinois Press Association to those governmental bodies and officials who ignore the requirements of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”).  The Frimark Administration earned its 3rd Place “Worsty” for trying to hold what should have been a public meeting (involving the interviewing of city manager candidates) at the private Park Ridge Country Club, where Frimark is a member. 

But that “Worsty” is little more than the tip of the iceberg regarding the extent the Frimark Administration will go in its attempts at subverting IOMA and keeping the doings of Park Ridge government concealed from the voters. 

For example, Frimark himself held “private” discussions with the owner of the American Insurance building at 720 Garden, which Frimark wanted to buy as the site for a new police station even though the City had not yet committed to building a new station or had agreed on the specific size of such a facility.  And when the City’s appraisal came in at approximately $400,000 less than the owner’s appraisal, Frimark was critical of the City’s appraisal and requested a new one.

But when Ald. Dave Schmidt (1st Ward) blew the whistle on those secret dealings by going public with them – something he had every right to do under IOMA – Frimark and his Alderpuppets made a grand show of “condemning” Schmidt, even though they knew in advance that such a “condemnation” had no legal effect because Schmidt’s conduct was completely lawful under IOMA.

Frimark was also involved in the behind-the-scenes negotiations of a planned $2.4 million tax windfall to his campaign contributor, Napleton Cadillac, for which he also cast the deciding “yes” vote; and in the behind-the-scenes negotiations to give the developers of the Executive Office Plaza development, his campaign contributors Norwood Builders and Bruce Adreani, a variance to build 8 units more than our Zoning Code allowed.  Neither of those secret dealings saw the “sunshine” until right before it came time for the vote on them, too late for the public to react in a meaningful fashion.

And on a more basic level, take a look at the names of all the people whom the mayor has appointed to serve on the various City boards and commissions.  Unless you know any of them personally, chances are you know nothing at all about them – not even the ward they live in or their occupations – because nothing about them is posted on the City’s website.  Not much “sunshine” there, either.

We applaud the ASNE for formally identifying a “Sunshine Week” to honor and advocate for more openness in government.  But for the people of Park Ridge to get honest government, we need “Sunshine Week” every week of the year.

Taxi-Cab Confessions


Dick Barton likes the spotlight.  Which is what one would expect from a friend and political confidante of Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark.

Barton, who is in the home stretch of his one-term career on the Park Ridge Park District Board of Commissioners, is reputed to be – along with former Maine Twp. Supervisor Bob “The Dude” Dudycz – the juice behind the slate of Park Board candidates headed by “best boy” Nick Milissis.  Barton also is the head of Barton & Barton Ltd., a public relations firm that got a nice contract to do public relations for Maine Twp. when The Dude was top dog there.

But we’ve heard that Barton inadvertently caused a bit of a stir over at Mary Seat of Wisdom by mixing business with pleasure – or, in this case, mixing business with the recent Knights of Columbus fish fry held at MSW.

Barton, a Knight of Columbus himself, appears to have arranged for Park Ridge Taxi – which we have heard (but have not confirmed) is a current or prospective Barton & Barton client – to “donate” free taxi service to whoever wanted/needed a ride home from the fish fry.  As we hear it, some “moderate” MSW parishioners interpreted the free taxi service as an invitation to over-indulge – in something other than the batter-dipped, deep-fried cod.

If that was all there was to it, however, we would let the local “Carry Nation”s slug it out with Dickie Barton and the Knights, and call it a day.

But Barton, consummate promoter that he is, was unwilling to leave it at that.  So he wrote a letter to the Herald-Advocate (March 5, 2009) praising Park Ridge Taxi owner Dean Dinev and his “hometown company” for its free rides for over-codded fish fry patrons, who Barton proudly admitted to (over?)-serving.  And that’s okay, too – although we’ve heard talk that Barton’s signing of the letter as a representative of the Knights of Columbus may have overstepped his authority just a tad. 

It also appears that Barton was fudging the truth a little bit when he called Park Ridge Taxi a “hometown company,” because Illinois Secretary of State records [pdf] show that both “Park Ridge Taxi & Livery Ltd.” (formerly known as “Park Ridge Taxi & Limousine Limited”) and Mr. Dinev himself are based in Oakbrook Terrace; and we can’t find any record of him or his company in Park Ridge, even though his dispatch office is in the Park Ridge Metra station. 

But where this fish-fry incident could really get interesting is when Frimark and his Alderpuppets consider the application by American Taxi Dispatch, Inc. for five (5) taxi licenses.  American is making another attempt to break into the Park Ridge market currently monopolized by Park Ridge Taxi, a task which has proven to be about as easy as an American company gaining membership in a Japanese keiretsu

American’s latest effort was on the agenda for the City Council’s February 23 Committee of the Whole meeting, where an American representative sat through almost the entire agenda before finding out that his license issue was being kicked over to a future meeting.  A review of the City Mgr’s “Cover Memorandum” [pdf] for that February 23 COW meeting, however, reveals that American came before the Procedures & Regulations Committee back on February 1, 2005. 

At that meeting, Park Ridge Taxi’s then-owner, Lee Carpenter, speaking like a true monopolist, objected to competition from American on the grounds that another taxi company would hurt his business.  And apparently moved by Carpenter’s plea, the P&R Committee voted 4-2 to reject American’s application – with one of those 4 “no” votes coming from then-Ald. (and then-mayoral candidate) Howard Frimark.

So can you imagine what a coincidence it must have been that just two days after Frimark’s vote to preserve Park Ridge Taxi’s monopoly, his mayoral campaign fund received a $500 contribution from Lee Carpenter’s wife, Patricia? [pdf] (originally reported on the Park Ridge Underground) Cynics might consider that a version of a typically corrupt Illinois pay-to-play government deal, but we’re sure that Frimark has a perfectly logical explanation for it.

Meanwhile, however, we offer a couple of suggestions to the owner of American Taxi: If you want to improve your chance at those five licenses, your check – preferably written by your wife – should be made payable to “Friends for Frimark for Mayor.”  And it probably wouldn’t hurt if you hired Barton & Barton as your p.r. company.

Under Water And All Wet


Today’s Park Ridge Journal reports that that City Mgr. Jim Hock has released a draft 2009-10 City budget that projects a deficit of almost $2 million, based on anticipated revenues of $50.7 million and expenses of $52.6 million. (“Budget Plan Shows $2 Mil. Deficit,” March 11).

Coming on the heels of two straight years of shortfalls totaling approximately $3 million that have cut into the City’s reserves, this latest news is not encouraging just standing on its own.  But it becomes even more troubling in light of how the current City administration of Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and his merry band of Alderpuppets appears to be out to lunch when it comes to finances and infrastructure.

Consider the flooding problem, which earned a front-page mention in today’s Journal (“Sewer Back-Ups, Flooding: Is There No End?”).  That story reports on flooding this past weekend, much of it up in the Second Ward.  The problem has become so chronic and the City so unresponsive that people are taking such drastic action as building their own water storage vaults or, in one instance, even tearing down and rebuilding their home!

That story also shows the cluelessness of Frimark and his most senior City Council lieutenant, Alderpuppet Rich DiPietro.
According to the Journal story, Frimark reportedly visited several flooded neighborhoods and determined that there were sewer problems.  Brilliant!  DiPietro reminisced about the construction of a relief sewer in his own Manor neighborhood 14 years ago, noting that it worked wonderfully until about a year ago.  Brilliant! 

So, guys, how about telling all these flooded taxpayers why the City cut back its relief sewer installation from an already meager 1,240 linear feet (@ $318,749) in budget year 2007 to a positively paltry 940 linear feet (@ $156,000) in budget year 2008?  That 940 linear feet is basically a whopping 3 city blocks!

In typical alderpuppet fashion, DiPietro – who has been little more than the sounds of silence on flooding in his ward and everywhere else until now – suddenly wants to authorize the spending of $80,000 for…wait for it… “an engineering study.”  And that’s for just the Manor Lane area, up in his Second Ward.  But $80,000, however, is more than half of the relief sewer construction budget for 2008, and it won’t keep one basement any drier when it’s done.  Brilliant! 

But the last word on this problem, at least for now, goes to Frimark the Politician, who hoists the empty assurance and the empty promise that: “We have solutions in mind and we will dedicate as much money as we possibly can to fixing these problems.”  In typical Frimark fashion, the solutions and the source of the money are his little secret.

So what we’ve got, it seems, is a community under water; a budget under water; and a mayor who’s all wet.

Harsh Reality Emerging On City Finances


Like the typical incumbent politician running for re-election, current Park Ridge Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark brags up a storm about how well the City is humming along under his stewardship.  Until recently, his bragging included keeping the City’s property tax increase at around three percent per year by “streamlining” City government.

But that kind of self-promotion is becoming a harder sell as the actual facts about City finances continue to emerge from City Hall.  And those facts, unlike Frimark’s propaganda, suggest that what he calls “streamlining” is really cutting into important City services – while at the same time digging us an increasingly bigger financial hole.

For example, the budget for fiscal year 2007-08 had a $1.7 million hole in it: budget “reality” was $1.7 million worse than budget “fantasy.”  And a similar reality v. fantasy is emerging for the current year’s (2008-09) budget as well. 

According to a Herald-Advocate story (“Higher fees or reduced services may hit Park Ridge,” March 6), building permit revenues were projected at $2 Million (fantasy) but are looking to be a lot closer to $800,000 (reality).  That’s a $1.2 Million – yes, $1.2 MILLION! – fantasy/reality differential.  And while that may be the single worst such differential, the H-A story notes that there is a combined $1 million-plus of additional revenue shortfalls in other taxing categories, like property transfers and telecommunications.

Not surprisingly, Frimark the Politician has already started off-loading responsibility (a/k/a “blame”) for those troubles on his former right-hand man, departed city manager Tim Schuenke.  But, as the H-A reports, the post-Schuenke proposed budget for 2009-10 is already projecting a $1 Million-plus deficit, which likely will lead to higher fees and/or reduced services. 

Worse yet, all these budget holes are occurring even though City expenses have generally decreased, partly because (as you already might have guessed from rattling over our pothole-scarred streets or kayaking in your basements) the Frimark Administration reduced – or should we say “streamlined” – the amount of street resurfacing and relief sewer installations. 

For those of you who enjoy the parallel universe of government fund accounting, we have to point out – again – that the “positive” balance in the City’s General Fund looks to be made up of a lot of I.O.U.s from some of the City’s other funds, like the Uptown TIF fund and the pension fund.  Given the precarious nature of City finances, does anybody want to guess where the money to pay off those IOU’s will be coming from?

Meanwhile, our mayor continues on his hell-bent crusade to borrow and spend boxcar numbers on a new police station, the exact number of millions depending on the day of the week and the composition of the audience he’s talking to.  And when he’s not doing that, he seems to be on the lookout for opportunities to throw our scarce, hard-earned tax dollars at his friends and campaign contributors.

Could that be his version of a Park Ridge “stimulus” package?

Mulligan, Frimark, Bach Prove Park Ridge Powerless On O’Hare


We’ve pointed out on several occasions how Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark was asleep at the wheel while the new $500 million-plus runway was being built at O’Hare. 

Whether it was the roar of the planes overhead or the howls of residents living in the Belle Plaine corridor that woke him, since wiping the sleep from his eyes and realizing that there’s an election April 7, Frimark has been scrambling to make it look like he was on top of things all along.  So far, however, all he has succeeded in showing is just how inept and powerless he is on yet another issue of major importance to our community.

As reported in yesterday’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Officials testify on airports,” March 5), Frimark, 3rd Ward Alderpuppet Don “Air Marshall” Bach, and two leaders of ORD-REST testified last week before the Illinois General Assembly’s Environmental Health Committee in support of another too little, too late effort – this one from Frimark political ally and our state Representative, Rosemary “Cracklin’ Rosie” Mulligan, to require a study of the impact of air and noise pollution on the health of people living near airports.

Hey, Rosie!  Where were you with this brilliant idea when it might have mattered…like two, three, four or eight years ago, before the tons of concrete were poured and the new control tower built? 

The H-A doesn’t report whether Frimark treated the Committee to a replay of his other too little, too late effort – his anti-casino mumble & bumble before the Illinois Gaming Board.  And apparently no citizen with a handy-cam “jumped out” at him during that Committee appearance and then posted the results on YouTube. 

We also don’t know whether “Air Marshall” Bach tried to dazzle the Committee members with tales of how he talked to tens/hundreds/thousands of his constituents, all of whom told him they want the new runway shut down immediately – except for super-fuel Funny Car drag racing every third Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  

But whatever that Park Ridge contingent did wasn’t enough to even get Rosie’s bill out of committee.  So what do you think the chances of passage will be if it ever does make it to the Mike Madigan-dominated House floor? 

If somebody will take “snowball’s chance in hell,” we’ll take the under.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: When it comes to the new runway, the fat lady has finished her solo and is back in her dressing room washing down a platter of fettuccini Alfredo with a quart of Diet Coke.  And the best chance we have for meaningful relief from noise and pollution is if they hurry up and build that southern-most runway, or if the federal government requires the airlines to retro-fit their planes with quieter, cleaner engines.  But neither of those is going to happen anytime soon.

Had “Let’s Make A Deal” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” been awake and engaged on this issue two, three or four years ago, we might be two, three or four years closer to a solution.  But they weren’t, and we’re not.

Just chalk it up to yet another example of your government inaction.