Are Park Ridge Taxpayers “Mad As Hell” Yet?


In the 1976 movie satire of the television news industry, Network, the central character, a veteran newscaster being pushed out the door by his younger, ratings-whoring bosses, strikes a responsive chord with the general viewing public by his valedictory rant: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Well, Park Ridge taxpayers, we’ve got a City government that has been mismanaged into a financial sink-hole from which recovery is neither imminent nor assured.  And our City Council recently passed a budget that has an almost $2 million deficit – on the heels of the two most recent budgets which racked up over $3 million in deficits. 

If that has you scratching your head, or looking for some torches and ropes, you are not alone.

Yet this past Monday night, the Council, operating as a Committee of the Whole (“COW”), responded to our new mayor’s call for a balanced budget by, among other things, restoring the taxpayer funding to primarily private community organizations to the level of last year’s appropriations, $271,000, which appropriations contributed to last year’s million dollar-plus budget deficit.  But as Ald. Jim Allegretti (4th Ward) blithely noted: “$38,900 is not going to make or break this budget.”

You’re right, Jimbo…but that’s only because this budget is already broken in so many places that City Mgr. Jim Hock should send the City’s Super Glue contract out for competitive bidding. If fiscal irresponsibility were a crime, Allegretti and the rest of the Alder-dunces over at 505 Butler Place would be wearing orange jumpsuits and addressing each other by number instead of name.

But the mental disconnect over spending money the City doesn’t have – and has no realistic plan for getting – isn’t just Allegretti’s.  7th Ward Ald. Frank Wsol, the Council’s self-proclaimed “fiscal conservative” who lost most of his credibility supporting the ridiculous, multi-million dollar new police station, may have lost the rest of it with his comment Monday night (as quoted in today’s Park Ridge Journal article, “Contributions Back For More Discussion”) about why these private community organizations deserve taxpayer funding: “The volunteers on these boards do things that you can’t pay for, you can’t buy.”

That’s just not true, Frankie. The volunteers on those boards apparently mismanage their organizations’ finances and spend money they don’t have in much the same way you and your fellow Alder-dunces do.  And we pay you guys $100 per month, so that gives us the going rate in Park Ridge for mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility.

Wsol continued to earn his $100 monthly stipend at the same COW meeting when he – indicating his preference for handouts to mismanaged community organizations over maintaining the integrity of City Hall’s physical plant – led the charge against waiving the competitive bidding process for replacing a leaking 70-ton chiller for the City Hall air conditioning system.  Replacement cost: $84,000, or less than 1/3 of what Wsol and the Council want to give the community organizations.

Without the new chiller, or its repair to the tune of about $40,000, Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim warns that air conditioning at City Hall might not be sufficient to keep the City’s computers and servers operating.  He asked for the bidding waiver because he found an available chiller (which otherwise takes 8 to 10 weeks to manufacture) at a dealer in Tennessee, who agreed to hold it for a day or two until the Council could make a decision.   

We here at PublicWatchdog are big fans of the competitive bidding process and don’t take kindly to its waiver.  Whether there should be a waiver of that process in this instance, however, is unclear.  But that’s beside the point of this post.

The point of this post is that the Alder-dunces are delaying the repair or replacement of a key element of City Hall’s air conditioning system – and arguably putting its computer network at risk – in order to go through the competitive bidding process to save a tiny fraction of what they are throwing at the people running those private community organizations which seem unwilling and/or incapable of functioning without government handouts.  That’s just bad government, purely and simply.

Unfortunately, this is only chump change when compared to the $2 million of budget deficit still on the table, and whatever other potential financial catastrophes are lurking out of taxpayer view.  But given their track record, we shudder to think of how the Alder-dunces will end up dealing with any of this – although if past is prologue, expect the same kind of not-so-benign neglect over the past two years that got us to this point.

Are we “mad as hell” yet?