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Our endorsements:

Mayor of Park Ridge:            Dave Schmidt

Park Ridge Park District:      Rick Biagi
                                          Scott Duerkop
                                          Pawel Matula

School District 64:               None of these

School District 207:              Marijo Bustos
                                          Eric Leys
                                          Margaret McGrath
                                          Edward Mueller

Police Station Ref. No. 1:      No

Police Station Ref. No. 2:      No

Irrespective of whether you accept or reject these endorsements, make sure you vote!

Polls close at 7:00 p.m. 


Why Park Ridge Needs “Mayor Schmidt”


Park Ridge is at a crossroads. 

Under the past four years of Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark’s administration, city expenses have increased faster than revenues, producing multi-million dollar deficits.  Our property taxes are rising at a rate that outpaces inflation and would exceed the tax caps – if the city wasn’t exempt from them. Our basements regularly flood due to aged and inadequate sewers, while our streets and sidewalks crumble.

In short, it is in danger of becoming a far different place than it has been, and that most residents want it to be.

Meanwhile, Frimark has acquired an edifice complex that he is trying to treat by burying us in 20+ years of multi-million dollar debt for a big new police station that is wanted by only a few instead of being needed by many.  And rather than look out for the welfare of the majority of taxpayers and residents, Frimark concerns himself with questionable dealings with “friends,” campaign contributors and the special interests who seem to consider Park Ridge as just another place to make a buck.  Some examples:

  • He cast the tie-breaking vote to give his $1,000 campaign contributor, Napleton Cadillac, up to $2.4 million in outright payments and sales tax revenue sharing from City coffers;

  • He tried to get the city to pay the owner of the American Insurance property at 720 Garden $200,000 more than the price at which the city’s own appraisal valued that property; and

  • He recently accepted $1,500 from Park Ridge Taxi and its owner, who is trying to preserve his taxi monopoly from competition by other taxi companies.

But that’s not all.

In running for mayor in 2005, Frimark reported accepting $84,966 in contributions. Since then, Frimark already has reported collecting another $71,035 for his re-election bid. That’s over $150,000…for a job that is supposed to be very part-time (because we have a $200,000 a year city manager to manage things) and, consequently, pays just $12,000 a year.

But more troubling than those boxcar campaign dollars in light of Illinois’ history of pay-to-play government and Frimark’s own propensity for sweetheart deals, is how that his campaign contributions have been raised. 

Over $24,000 has come from Norridge resident Sam Spiros Markos and a collection of his businesses, many of whom are based out of offices in the strip shopping center on Dempster next to his now-leveled Crystal Palace banquet hall.  $7,200 of that was contributed to Frimark’s original election bid, but a whopping $17,000 has come from Markos Inc. since Frimark’s election – including a few thousand dollars used by Frimark to help elect 6th Ward Alderpuppet Tom Carey in 2007.

And another $30,000-plus has come from just 15 individuals and their businesses, including that $1,500 in the last couple of months from Oakbrook Terrace’s Park Ridge Tax & Livery, Ltd., under new owner (and Oakbrook Terrace resident) Dean Dinev, who is currently trying to keep any spare taxi licenses out of the hands of competitor American Taxi.

In contrast, challenger Dave Schmidt, who is running a true “grass-roots campaign, has collected only $26,062 ($2,600 of his own money). His biggest contributor is Park Ridge resident Tony Svanascini, who contributed $4,646 for a campaign event and whose company, Park Ridge-based, Inc., services the City’s website on a contract given out years ago, before Schmidt became an alderman and in such a small dollar amount that it did not even need Council approval. Schmidt’s next biggest contributors (after himself) are his brother ($1,000), his law firm ($1,000), and one of his law partners ($1,000).

We don’t see many Markos- or Park Ridge Taxi-style pay-to-play opportunities there.

But while Schmidt’s avoidance of the pay-to-play to which Frimark seems to gravitate would be reason enough for us to endorse Schmidt, there are many more reasons that deserve mention. 

Schmidt, although a relative newcomer to Park Ridge, has developed an appreciation for its unique character that befits a lifelong resident.  Yet he is not mindlessly anti-development, favoring projects that enhance the current character of the community rather than substantially change it.  And unlike the current occupant of 505 Butler Place, Schmidt is a true fiscal conservative who believes in balanced budgets and using long-term debt only for long-term needs that won’t mortgage our community’s future for short-sighted wants.  That’s why Schmidt wants to spend our hard-earned tax dollars for better sewers, streets and sidewalks instead of on a big new multi-million dollar police station. 

Even more important, however, is Schmidt’s commitment to defeating the Culture of Secrecy and letting the taxpayers know the truth about how their government works…and how it doesn’t. 

We’ve seen how secrecy has turned the State of Illinois into one of the most corrupt in the nation, and continued secrecy – including abuses of the Illinois Open Meetings Act – has started doing the same to our community.  While Frimark hides in closed sessions and absurdly insists that we can afford both flood relief and a new cop shop, even as we teeter on the edge of yet another multi-million dollar budget hole, Schmidt has blown the whistle on such abuses and lies – and was then condemned by Frimark and his alderpuppets for doing so.

We don’t need another four years of a stereotypical politician who takes credit for everything and accepts blame for nothing, someone for whom truth always runs a distant second to political expediency.  What we do need is a public servant who believes in honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability.

That’s why Park Ridge needs a man like Dave Schmidt as its mayor.  And we need him starting tomorrow.

Election 2009 – Part 2


Park District Provides Real Choices

The Park District is providing a contested race, with six candidates – Rick Biagi, Richard Brandt, Scott Duerkop, Pawel Matula, incumbent Nick Milissis and Steven Vile – seeking four seats.

Brandt is the last man standing of what was originally a slate of candidates promoted by the Service Employees International Union that represents a number of Park District employees.  The other three SEIU candidates, however, weren’t able to figure out how to file their nominating petitions correctly, so they were bounced off the ballot.  Kind of makes you wonder about the competence of the SEIU, doesn’t it?

Even if we discounted his SEIU affiliation, Brandt has shown us nothing that qualifies him for a seat on the Park Board.  But it’s that SEIU affiliation that is troublesome, especially because the Park District has been in ongoing negotiations with the union.  Putting Brandt on the Park Board sure seems like letting the fox into the hen house.  That’s enough to get a “No” from us.

As for Vile, the only thing we know about him is that his signs often appear in tandem with Mayor Howard “The Liar” Frimark’s, proclaiming either “Vile” “Frimark” or “Frimark” “Vile.”  While we concur with both sentiments, that’s not a sufficient qualification for the election of Mr. Vile to the Park Board.

That leaves Biagi, Duerkop, Matula and Milissis, who are running as a “ticket” under the tutelage of Frimark cronies Dick Barton and Bob Dudycz.  That alone is a reason to be wary of what agenda(s) these fellows might be bringing to the Park District, especially given the lightweight nature of their “4 the Parks” campaign literature.

As for Milissis, we keep hearing rumors that he is being groomed by Frimark and Friends for a spot on the City Council, which would explain Frimark’s appointment of him to the City’s civil service and fair housing commissions within the past few years. That’s not enough to disqualify him from the Park Board.  

His Park Board meeting attendance record since his appointment to the Board a little over a year ago, however, has been nothing to write home about.  And, so far, his most notable accomplishment as a Park District commissioner seems to have been his leading the charge in kicking the SEIU candidates off the ballot. That suggests he’s a lot more of a politician than a public servant – which is reason enough for us to give him a “No.”

We don’t know a whole lot about Messrs. Biagi, Duerkop and Matula – as we said earlier, their campaign literature re-defines “vanilla” and doesn’t give us a lot to go on.  But when compared to their competition, they end up being the tallest midgets in this particular circus.  Let’s hope they grow into the job.  

District 207 Provides “Hobson’s Choice”

Unlike for the District 64 election, the General Caucus of District 64 and 207 occasionally doesn’t stand in the way of a contested race, and this is one of those years – with 6 candidates vying for 4 seats.

But unlike with District 64, which draws the vast majority of its students from the friendly confines of Park Ridge, District 207 draws from a much larger territory, the majority of which is outside our boundaries. That adds another dimension to this race: provincialism, primarily a Park Ridge v. Des Plaines celebrity death match.

Many people we have heard from insist that Park Ridge needs to maintain dominance of this 7-member board “or else.” Or else what?  Those barbarians from D.P. will gerrymander the district so as to require at least one-half the starters on the state champion Maine South football team to attend Maines East or West?  Or do the same with the Maine South Constitution team and the Hawkettes?


On the other hand, after attending a few District 207 school board meetings, we can’t totally discount some level of bizarro behavior from people who seem to have a chip on their shoulders – and maybe deservedly so – about the emoluments of growing up in “Pleasantville.”

Carrying the Park Ridge banner this year are incumbent board member Ed Mueller and newcomer Margaret McGrath.  Both are attorneys, but we won’t hold that against them. At least not yet.  But, unfortunately, neither one has given us a whole lot to get excited about, at least not judging by their campaign materials.

Mueller has sent around a mailer [pdf] that, to put it gently, underwhelms – especially for a guy who has sat on this board since 2001.  Okay…frankly, it’s pretty damn pathetic!  After 8 years on this board, is this the best “case” this guy can make for re-election?  Eddie, you’re a high school board member, not the heir to the House of Windsor. Do you really think the voters are going to hand this to you just because you live in Park Ridge and bear the Mark of the Caucus? 

As for Ms. McGrath, we saw her at the Park Ridge train station the other morning, so we’re giving her some bonus points for that effort.  We also got one of her flyers [pdf]100% better than Mueller’s, but also not overwhelming – platitudes instead of principles, and devoid of anything substantive on finances and academic performance. 

She believes “That the entire community benefits from providing the best education possible to all children” and “That a great education system helps define and strengthen a community.”  Sorry, Ms. M, but that’s the kind of stuff that comes out of a can, like artificial cheese.

Looking at the rest of the field, there are incumbents Eric Leys and Marijo Bustos, and newcomers Eldon Burk and Jerry Kellogg, all of (shudder!) Des Plaines. 

We think that District 207 has its flaws, but it appears to be much better run, and has higher achievement levels when adjusted for its varying demographics, than District 64.  That suggests keeping incumbents Leys, Mueller and Bustos in office.  And of the three newcomers, we give the nod to McGrath, despite the Cheez Whiz, because (a) we see a whole lot of potential there, and (b) she is, after all, one of “us.” 

So go ahead and call us “provincial.”  But leave our Hawkettes alone!

Election 2009


Cop Shop Referendums: “No” and “Hell, No!”

There are three advisory referendum issues on Tuesday’s ballot.  Two are limited to the City of Park Ridge, and relate to a new police station, while the third addresses Todd Stroger’s ludicrous Crook County sales tax.

The first question is the citizen-initiated police station referendum:

“Shall the City of Park Ridge replace its current police facility with a new, larger structure at a cost of at least $16.5 million plus additional, but currently unknown, costs for the land on which it will be situated and bond interest?”

That’s really the only legitimate referendum on this issue, placed on the ballot by over 70 resident signature gatherers during the dead of winter after the City Council’s six Alderpuppets sat on their thumbs when Ald. Dave Schmidt proposed putting that question on the ballot by simple Council resolution.

The second question is the attempt by newly-stringed Alderpuppet Frank Wsol to confuse the voters with something that sounds less expensive and harmful than the first question – in the hope of getting a “Yes” vote that he can say negates the “No” vote that the first question is likely to draw:

“In adopting a capital project to improve the administrative/public and police facilities, shall the City of Park Ridge require as conditions of issuing any bonds for such improvements that the total spent, absent interest and operational costs be less than $16.5 million dollars and the facility be located at 505 Butler Place with land already owned by the City?”

Voters need to remember that Wsol has been a new cop shop “whore” since his campaign against former cop Bob Kristie back in 2007, when Wsol supported the 40,000 square foot “Taj Mahal” cop shop to match Kristie’s support of such a facility.  Since that time, and in response to public opposition to such a plan, faux fiscal conservative Wsol has tap-danced around the issue with various twists and tweaks designed to sneak the biggest cop shop he can get away with past the taxpayers – after not wanting to go to referendum with it at all.

The bottom line to both of these referendums: The City is in a financial crisis that nobody but Ald. Dave Schmidt is willing to admit.  Every dollar spent on a new police station is one less dollar that can be spent on more important things like sewers, flooding control, streets and other essential infrastructure items.

Consequently, we strongly encourage a “No/No” vote on both referendums.    

Don’t Waste Your Vote On Caucus’ Dist. 64 Charade

We here at PublicWatchdog have been unabashed critics of what is known as the “District 64 and 207 General Caucus,” that quasi-official “organization” that rises from its slumber every other year to hand-pick and endorse a collection of generally decent but malleable residents who can be counted on to rubber-stamp pretty much anything the administrations of High School District 207 and Elementary School District 64 want to do.

The Caucus so dominates the election process for District 64 that we rarely even have contested races for those school board seats because the Caucus effectively scares away anyone who might consider challenging its candidates.  And from what we understand, this year there weren’t even contests for the Caucus endorsement, as only four people sought the four Caucus slots. 

So it looks like the voters of Park Ridge, who have seen the District 64 portion of their property taxes soar while the District’s overall academic performance and achievement stagnate, once again have no choice for the District 64 Board. 

But maybe we have more of a choice than looks would suggest.

If you are fed up with this monopolistic Caucus system and the unimpressive results it has posted both as to candidates for the District 64 Board and in the classroom, we suggest a protest vote…or, actually, a protest non-vote: When you go to the polls, vote on all offices and referendum issues except the District 64 Board candidates.  That won’t stop them from winning, but it will effectively reduce the electoral “mandate” that these gofers can claim when they get into office.

Even to as smug and insulated a group as the Caucus, 4,000 votes out of 10,000 cast is a lot less convincing than 8,000 out of 10,000.  And a notably lower vote total might also serve to encourage non-Caucus candidates to step up and challenge the Caucus endorsees two years from now.

So give it a try.  All you’ve got to lose is academic mediocrity at a premium price.