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?