Public Watchdog.org

Are Park Ridge Taxpayers “Mad As Hell” Yet?

05.13.09

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?

11 comments so far

Yes we are!

The City finances are a disaster, but the people running city government have no idea what’s going on. Ald. Bach sounds retarded, literally, when he talks about cutting employees rather than cutting money to these various organizations that can’t run themselves prudently.

And then he wants the City to SUBSIDIZE the installation of overhead sewers when we’re already 2 million in hole and can’t even afford a new piece of air conditioning equipment. What the heck is he smoking?

I was apalled when he voted for the Napleton giveaway. He sounded like a nut job then, and he sounds like a nut job now. I’m just glad I don’t live in the Third Ward.

Yes I am!!! Why the heck is Schmidt not exhibiting better leadership here? That meeting (and future ones) should focus on closing the deficit gap. They are wasting time on chump change issues. Let’s get business into the empty Taj Mahal we built in Uptown. Let’s cut what we need to, get better pricing on purchases, and (last resort) increase taxes until we get out of this mess. $1200 a year – you get what you pay for.

A12:27,

What “better leadership” are you looking for from Mayor Schmidt? When he said to the Aldermen, “We’re two million dollars in the hole, so unless one of you has a printing press in your basement, we have to find this money” and “I don’t see why you’re adding an expense to the budget when you don’t have a revenue to match it”, those seemed to me to be very clear statements from leadership to the council.

What more should Mayor Schmidt have done at the Committee of the Whole meeting, chaired by the respective committee heads? What would you suggest Mayor Schmidt do at the next council meeting?

Yes indeed…you get what you pay for. The thing is, all these jokers ASKED for people to vote for them and promised to represent their constituents. Nobody went to any of these jokers and said ‘here’s $1200 a year, please by my Alderman’. They VOLUNTEERED. I don’t have any sympathy for any of them.

It is not a matter of sympathy, it is a matter of reality. I am all for expressions of opinion to any and all of our elected officials – loud expression of opinion when necessary. You are correct, they put their name on the ballot and with that they get the scrutiny.

Along with that, I also acknowledge that they do a job that I would never want. You would not want me to be an alderman anyway, but I cannot even imagine the time committment that is put in vesus the compensation, not to mention the political infighting and pure crap. I many not agree with their decisions at times or even often, but I do respect their willingness to serve. I believe 3 of 7 ran with opposition last time. I would also guess of all the Monday morning quaterbacking and all the valid criticism and suggestions, virtually all the posters on the blogs are just like me – they would never, ever run for alderman.

As an example, Dipietro, if I am not mistaken, has been an alderman for a long freakin’ time. He is constantly slammed. Yet with all this anger and all these rants about what a terrible alderman he is, with all this history of him in the job, not one person decided it was worth running against him.

Some of these guys do a very bad job, but they have the benefit of doing a very bad job in a job that no one else wants.

Anon on 05.14.09 6:22 am:

I agree with you. I would never want you to be an alderman, if for no other reason than you sound like a whiny apologist for elected officials who don’t need or deserve one.

Anybody who runs for public office and wins gets the privilege and honor of being the elected representative of their fellow citizens, along with the responsibility to do a good job and put the citizens’ interest first, ahead of their own. That’s something Frimark never understood, and that’s a big part of why he’s now the “ex” mayor.  If the job gets too hard for them, or it the criticism gets too tough for them, then they should quit and someone else will give it a try. We’ve never had a public official who’s irreplaceable, and never will.

If DiPietro wasn’t “the guy” of the dominant Homeowners Party in the 1990s and early 2000s that handed him the office and then deterred any challengers, he never would have even been an alderman. The one time he had a challenger (2003), he won by only 21 votes against a political nobody with no funding.  If the voters in the Second Ward were actually paying any attention, they’d realize that one of the reasons they’ve got all the flooding problems is because DiPietro has done nothing about sewers and infrastructure in all the years he’s been in office.   

Talk to a guy like Allegretti about City issues and you’ll be amazed by how narrow and shallow his knowledge of those issues really is.  He’s not alone, which is why after two years on the Council most of them didn’t understand until a week or so ago that all of the City’s money is basically in one bank account, but accounted for by several different funds.

D’oh!

You sure make being an alderman sound noble. I wonder why more people don’t run. Let’s assume DiPietro took your suggestion and resigned. Who exactly will “give it a try?” All those people that ran against him over the years I suppose.

anon on 05.14.09 11:40 am,

If DiPietro or any of the other Aldermen resigned, or if there is an opening for some other reason, it’s always amazing to see how many folks step up to be appointed. Same goes for every other local government body.

Serving well is what is noble. Just simply being an Alderman isn’t jack.

Jeannie:

I guess you are right and I would be grateful to those who did. I certainly would not do it.

If your are correct, it is odd how people would step up to fill the void and yet were not willing to contest an election in the first place….which takes me back to my original thoughts on the matter. People doing a bad job at a job no one wants.

Cutting the city council in half, and theoretically doubling the work of each alderman, sure looks even DUMBER now than it did at the time of Frimark’s reduce the council referendum. But the voters supported it, so their stuck with the results (and all the deficits we’ve had since we went to 7 aldermen)

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it, good and hard.” ~~H.L. Mencken



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