Public Watchdog.org

New Cop Shop Widens, Not Plugs, Budget Gap

03.04.09

Yesterday’s Herald-Advocate online published an article on the Park Ridge mayoral candidates’ views of City finances (“Mayoral hopefuls outline plans to plug budget gap,” March 3) which provides a relatively superficial treatment of the views of Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and Ald. Dave Schmidt (1st Ward) on City finances.  But it’s better than nothing, so we suggest you give it a read.

The article reports that both candidates agree that budget cutting needs to focus on staffing levels, and that we need more property tax generators.  That sure doesn’t deserve a Nobel Prize in economics, although the current City administration and past administrations never seemed to be able to get much traction on either of these points – as seen from the fact that both candidates agree on staffing cuts, and from the fact that despite the new businesses added to the Uptown development, the Uptown TIF Fund is still millions in the red and continuing to suck money out of the General Fund.

We have to admit that we were entertained by Frimark’s reference to eliminating “extra frills” – and can’t wait for him to explain the difference between “extra frills” and standard frills.

For us, however, the single most decisive difference between Frimark and Schmidt on City finances is their respective views on issuing more bonds – as much as $16.5 million more, which will end up costing Park Ridge taxpayers as much as $28 million – to pay for a new police station.

In typical politician style, Frimark seems to think he can snooker the voters by describing the funding of a new police station in terms of simply “continuing” the bond payments the City has been making on the Public Works building, instead of telling the truth: that new bonds will be issued; and that their terms will be more than twice as long as the Public Works bonds (20+ years v. 10 years), thereby generating a lot more interest and raising their overall cost to the taxpayers.  That’s the kind of deception that has put government at every level, and many private businesses, behind the financial 8-Ball or completely down for the count.  

Such dissembling also calls into question – again – Frimark’s honesty and forthrightness.

But sophisticated economic thinking – or sophisticated thinking of any kind, for that matter – has never been the strong suit of ol’ Let’s Make A Deal, who told the H-A that he thinks the mayor should be involved hands-on in getting new businesses to come to Park Ridge.  That’s no surprise coming from Frimark, a shameless ribbon cutter and self-promoter who reportedly also never misses the opportunity to let new businesses know exactly what business he’s in.

Schmidt, on the other hand, correctly notes that if new bonds aren’t issued for a big new cop shop, the City will see an approximately $1.6 million annual savings beginning next year.  That’s almost the entire amount of the budget shortfall predicted for the current fiscal year, which makes it a pretty smart budgetary move because it really does pretty much plug the budget gap. 

If somebody at City Hall feels compelled to “grease” some consultants, developers, architects and/or contractors for some public works projects, however, at least let’s spend the money on infrastructure needs that are more important to more Park Ridge residents on a day-to-day basis than a big expensive new cop shop. 

Let’s start with some more relief sewers and street resurfacing.  According to the City’s own “Capital Project Summary’ [pdf], both of those items took budget hits in 2008.  Relief sewer installations dropped from a paltry 1,240 linear feet in 2007 to only 940 linear feet in 2008, despite a $90 per linear foot drop in price that brought the total 2008 cost ($156,000) to less than one-half the budgeted amount ($348,000), while street resurfacing slipped from 7.3 miles in 2007 to 5.8 miles in 2008, although the cost there increased by approximately $40,000 per mile.

But they normally don’t put big shiny plaques with officials’ names on relief sewers or resurfaced streets.  Which might explain why the new cop shop is so high on the list of the self-promoting Frimark and his Alderpuppets.   

5 comments so far

Thank you for pointing out these funding items. My basement floods regularly, yet the city can’t seem to tell me for sure whether we do or don’t have relief sewers. I’ll be voting “NO/NO” against both police station referendum. And I want the city to know that I don’t want a penny spent on a new police station until relief sewers are installed in every area of Park Ridge where flooding occurs on an annual basis or more frequently.

Anon 10:41 AM…

Amen!

I’m on that bandwagon, too. I’d like a bigger house, but I can’t afford it and the one I have works good enough for the time being. The Police should learn the same lesson.

Fred,

I agree 100%. The lesson is so simple; treat the government budget just like you treat the budget at home. Prioritize the spending and don’t buy what you can’t afford. Why can’t the city council learn this lesson?

I read this in the Tribune Editorial today:

The cultural imperative in Springfield is to define present and future commitments as “needs” that you must fund. This isn’t a crowd that likes to look plaintive supplicants in the eye and say “No.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0304edit1mar04,0,126427.story

Boy, doesn’t THAT sound familiar! Watchdog, I appreciate the thoughts in your article today. Thank you.



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