Public Watchdog.org

Time For Fuss About City Budget

04.15.09

Just slightly more than a week ago, the six Alderpuppets of lame-duck Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark were still touting the need for a new $16.5 million (real cost, all in: $28 million) police station, while assuring us that such a project was affordable despite multi-million dollar budget deficits over the past two years and more of the same on the horizon.

What a difference a week makes.

With the voters having decisively rejected both cop shop referendums, Monday night’s City Council COW (Committee of the Whole) meeting featured a discussion of the proposed 2009-10 budget which focused on flooding reduction – and how to pay for it.

The City staff proposal for revenue increases focuses on increases in water rates and sewer fees, but with the proviso that the sewer revenues would go into a special sewer enterprise fund to be used only for that purpose.  Which sounds like a sound precaution, given what is known or suspected about the state of the City’s finances.

City Mgr. Jim Hock acknowledged that the $1.2 million of “new” revenues (expected from the water and sewer tax increases) to pay for sewer repair and improvements would normally come out of the General Fund “but there is not enough money there at this time.”  Two reasons for that: the Uptown TIF fund is awash in red ink, and public works expenses were more than $800,000 over budget.

Uh oh.

We would have hoped such sobering news would cause some deep thinking from our representatives on the Council, but such was not the case.  With the exception of Ald. (and mayor-elect) Dave Schmidt and Wsol, deep thoughts were pretty much at a premium.

Frimark lap dog Ald. Jim Allegretti (4th Ward) – who was so convinced the voters wanted a new cop shop that he even opposed any referendum on the issue – did his best to de-rail efforts to begin building the sewer enterprise fund, arguing that no such fund should be established or budgeted for until the results of the pending sewer study are received.  Perhaps he’s holding out hope that the study will report that we really don’t have a flooding problem, or at least the kind of problem that can be remediated by sewer improvements and/or the addition of relief sewers.  Would that put the cop shop back in play, Jimbo?

Not to be outdone by Allegretti when it comes to having no grasp of City finances, Ald. Don “Air Marshall” Bach (3rd Ward) – who wouldn’t spend his money on another Cadillac from Napleton, but who happily voted to give Napleton up to $2.4 million of our money – claimed to be “disheartened” by the proposed cuts in funding to various community organizations. “I can’t stand to watch these social and cultural programs be cut,” he said after hearing a plea for continued funding from Perry Fisher, president of The Park Ridge Cultural Arts Council, Inc. (“CACInc.”), one of the many 501(c)(3) not-for-profit private corporations which find ways to suck up public funds while keeping disclosures about their finances and operations pretty much to themselves. 

CACInc.’s website claims that it’s “a resource for the active promotion, coordination, and support of cultural arts activities in and for the Park Ridge Community.”  According to Fisher, CACInc. has been receiving $5,500 a year from the City, which he stated is more than half its budget.  Whether that’s true or not is not readily verifiable, as CACInc.’s website doesn’t post any financial information; and its last IRS Form 990 available on GuideStar is from 2000 [pdf] – and shows it getting $2,250 in “Direct public support” versus $10,650 in “Government contributions (grants).”

We’re big fans of cultural arts, really we are.  But we think it’s pretty pathetic when an organization like CACInc. has to rely on handouts from the taxpayers for more than half of its rather modest budget.  Maybe the folks at CACInc. should try a few bake sales, pancake breakfasts or car washes rather than government welfare. 
 
With the City facing what is starting to look like a financial meltdown, with flooding becoming a routine occurrence, with Public Works scrambling to afford road salt and pave our streets, it is patently irresponsible to continue to fund frills – yes, frills – like cultural arts, and especially those organizations which either can’t or won’t generate enough community support to pay their own way and, instead, demand annual entitlements from the taxpayers.

The City Council has until May 1 to adopt its new budget, and there’s a public hearing this coming Monday (April 20) at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall that should at least be worth the price of admission – which is free, as usual.  It isn’t likely to be pretty, but it’s at meetings like this where the real city government “rubber” meets the road.  Who knows, maybe Alderpuppet Robert Ryan (5th Ward), MIA this past Monday night, might even show up.

Hopefully the taxpayers who have kept this City afloat all these years and will be expected to do so in the future will be well represented in the audience, because – with the exception of Schmidt and perhaps Wsol – we can’t expect much from the rest of the crowd sitting around “the Horseshoe.”

12 comments so far

CAC should sell popcorn to the April 20 budget meeting.
I wish I lived in Allegretti’s LA-LA land of make-believe. Do Howard’s lips move when Allegretti talks?

Yikes:

At least popcorn sales would show some initiative. 

No, you really don’t want to live in that parallel universe.

Howard is an adept ventriloquist, so we’ve never seen his lips move. But as we’ve said on other occasions, we’ve also never heard Allegretti (or the other Alderpuppets) speak while Howard is drinking water.

Sitting through the meeting the other night all
I could think was… we are doomed.

Particularly when after some +2 hours of discussion that took the budget backwards in terms of its need to be breakeven DiPietro said from the chair… well, we might be voting on this budget next Monday night at the City Council meeting. WTF???

After spending that $19,000 on the “strategic planning” meeting so many month ago, all of the City Staff time that must have gone into the process and time expended by the City Council these guys aren’t even close. And if DiPietro thinks they are then he is sure as shit abdicating his Aldermanic responsibility to work toward a balanced and sensible budget to Jim Hock.

And I don’t know if I read it here or elsewhere but what the hell is with Hock and the lack of public information in advance of these budget meetings. To him it all appears to be a game of hide the banana. WTF!!! again.

I do believe we is all in trouble… and my advice is for as many of you as possible to show up Monday night to keep an eye on all of these characters.

Pardon my positive attitude, but I take it as a good thing that the aldermen are cutting back on the public money being donated to all the different community groups.

My big thing with government spending is all the money that always goes to little pet projects and programs because somebody knows so and so and likes to be liked.

These are tough economic times and our city budget is in the toilet. I think it is a very good and positive thing that our aldermen are getting tough on spending that isn’t totally necessary.

I know the arts lovers will bash me for saying so, but public money needs to go to covering the public basics before we frost our civic cake with bronze statues and oil paintings.

Thank you.

I haven’t read or heard anything about them cutting back on money to those organizations. From what I’ve heard, it’s just the opposite – they (like Bach) want to keep those in place, and cut elsewhere.

Knuckleheads.

anonymous on 04.15.09 7:41 pm,

The Watchdog quoted alderman Bach saying there have been cuts proposed and he is disheartened by the idea.

I’m not a big fan of cutting funding for community groups, but as someone here said earlier, we have to concentrate on the core efficiencies during lean economic times.

We all have to tighten our belts.

What about the Taste of Park Ridge. Is the city going to give free support to the private organization that has been profiting off of The Taste?

I hope we are not giving our public works personnel, City Staff and police overtime on this event. If we are having The Taste of Park Ridge this year we have a right to know who owns it and how much money they are making off of the Taste. This give away of our resources has to end!

Taste of Park Ridge, and I mean the private corporation, not the event, is a great example of the secrecy that surrounds these so-called “charitable” or “non-profit” organizations that sprout up and almost immediately start grabbing tax dollars because the people on the city council can’t say no to all there wonderful “volunteers.”

Do they pay full value for all the city services they use? Who knows. Do any businesses or individuals get “favored nation” status when Taste the corporation chooses its vendors (like for insurance)? Who knows. Is it sitting on a boatload of cash? Who knows. Their website doesn’t have any “finance” section to check, and they aren’t even listed with GuideStar.

I’m convinced that the only reason PADS wanted to be in Park Ridge is so that it could have a Park Ridge platform for fundraising, which would include the city.

Taste of Park Ridge is the biggest government kick back scheme in Park Ridge History. Thousands of dollars in beer and tent rental revenues, free public works services, free security and where does all the money go? Who knows where it goes because it’s a “private corporation”. Well I bet I can come up with a name list of the usual suspects who are receiving payouts from this thing.

I bet Dick Barton is on that list. He has his hands in everyone’s pockets!

Mr. Barton has been prominently involved with Taste of Park Ridge for a number of years.

However, we have no idea whether he or his business has been paid for his services or has received payouts as a vendor of goods or services – because the private Taste, Inc. refuses to publish its financials.

Mayor Elect Dave Schmidt!

You may want to look into Taste of Park Ridge. We should not be paying our city employees out of the city budget to help in running this event if the city is not receiving part of the profits. There might be some more revenue here! Look into it!



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