The Wsol Train To Nowhere


What’s the best way to combat flooding throughout Park Ridge?  How much will it cost?  How will we pay for it…and how will it affect the City’s ability to continue to provide the customary services we rely on?

These are all good questions.  Too bad Seventh Ward Ald. Frank Wsol and at least a few of his City Council colleagues don’t seem to know and don’t seem to care.

Instead, they’re busy pushing a $420,000 rebate plan that would use already-scarce tax dollars to provide up to $2,500 to residents who have installed private flood control devices (such as overhead sewers, backflow valves and the like) since January 1, 2008.  And from what we’ve seen and heard so far, there may be more than a few residents with the chutzpah to think and act like they’re entitled to such a reimbursement.

We understand how some residents, tired of what has become a fairly regular event of sewer back-up into their basements, would invest $5-10-15,000 to combat the problem.  But we also understand that when one resident prevents his basement from flooding, that means a bit more water remains in the system that has to go somewhere else – like into a neighbor’s basement, or into the street.

While that kind of “collateral damage” may be acceptable under our scheme of individual property rights, the idea that the City would commit public money to reimburse and encourage such efforts that ultimately pit neighbor against neighbor is foolish beyond words.  But let’s try the following words, just for starters:

1.  The City doesn’t have the money for such a program.  This year’s budget was passed with an approximately $2.5 million deficit that has already grown because of spending decisions by a Council that seems unwilling or unable to manage our money responsibly.  And given the economic indicators so far this year, it’s looking like more of the same next year.

2.  It’s welfare, pure and simple.  But it’s not even “good” welfare, because Wsol’s plan (such as it is) does not appear to be based on financial need.  So the well-off can get a quick $2,500 just as easily as the not-so-well-off.

3.  It’s unfair, because the time period fixed for the rebate – currently for work done since Jan. 1, 2008 – is totally arbitrary.  Why should someone who happened to put in his/her flood control system following the August 2007 flooding get shut out of this giveaway?

4.  It’s a willy-nilly, piece-meal response that ignores the root causes of the problem – which makes it look, sound and smell like nothing more than political grandstanding of the worst kind.

5.  It detracts and distracts from efforts to come up with a meaningful, comprehensive, community-wide solution to the problem.

From what we’re hearing, anything approaching a real solution to the problem will require a bond issue of $30-60 million, which would be (as best as we can tell) the largest bond issue in Park Ridge history.  That means we’re going to be looking at a significant tax increase to service that debt unless the same officials who already have shown that they can’t balance a budget suddenly develop the ability and the will to cut expenses enough to compensate for the additional debt service costs of those bonds.

Fortunately, in April the voters rejected Wsol’s previous hare-brained scheme for a big new police station.  So at least we aren’t already saddled with multi-millions in bond debt for a project that is nowhere near as important to our property values and quality of life as an improved sewer system.

Compared to $30-60 million, $420,000 might seem like chump change.  And it is – for the chumps who would sit back and let it get spent for what is either a plain mistake or an inherently bad idea.  That’s why it’s time for all non-chumps to let your aldermen know you don’t want to see them waste any more time and effort on something as ridiculous and wasteful as the Wsol plan.

For the good of the entire community, let’s hope Wsol’s “private rebate” train doesn’t leave the station.

7 comments so far

Why make it $2500? Who came up with that figure? Why not make it $5k? or $10k? The randomness of these decisions is beyond ridiculous. Has anyone determined HOW we will deal with the budget deficit? Are we going to get bank loans? Float more bonds? Does anyone know???


I found your point number two to be particularly ammusing. It reminded me of one of the things that I found so confusing after the September floods. FEMA (remember all the people on the bridges in New Orleans?? Some may still be there) was throwing around big bucks here in PR with no consideration at all for financial need. There are people in this town who received thousands from FEMA who could have easily afforded to eat the cost of replacing lost items in their basement. The well-off took the money just like the not-so-well off.

anon at 8:13 a.m.

your observation is just another indictment of fema and federal programs run by it (and the other federal agencies that operate similarly). but that doesn’t justify park ridge making the same kind of mistakes and wasting even more money that we don’t have because – as somebody pointed out in the past – park ridge can’t print its own money like the federal government can.


My intent was not to justify Wsol’s plan. I absolutely agree that any proposal like this (if ever) should be made after the complete report and analysis of the problem and what the solutions might be is completed.

Having said that, there is a group of people that I have empathy for. There are people in town who flood and cannot afford to buy a flood control system. So they are left to rely on the city to fix the problem. Under the prior administration, the city failed them and they continue to flood.

So now they are left with ever is coming down the pike to “bail” the out. Of course this is going to mean increased taxes which will hit them harder (remember they could not afford the flood control system), but even more than that it is going to mean time. It is hard to say without seeing the final plan, but this is going to take many years, no?? That means they have at least a few floods to go before the problem is fixed.

Which leads to my last point. Whatever they end up doing it is not as if there is going to be some guarantee that it will never fail. Who in their right mind would not still want to have a flood control system?? Many of us already have systems, those who can afford it are getting them and all new construction homes have them. Yet there is this group that has to completely rely on the city to have dry basements. Good luck with that!!!

When was the last time the city council seriously discussed flood control to the point of talking real dollars? According to new flood task force chair Joe Saccomanno, it was in March 2007, when then-first ward alderman Don Crampton proposed issuing $10 million in bonds for several infrastructure projects, including $900,000 for flood relief. And that plan never even got out of committee because the city council was still too busy patting itself on the back for that wonderful Uptown project that has sucked millions out of city coffers and returned zippo so far.

And before that was pretty much nothing. So our sewer system has basically been neglected for decades. Which is why it’s going to cost a ton to fix.

Wsol’s plan is a silly side show that takes money away from the real solution to the problem, which is repairing damaged sewers and adding capacity through either more relief sewers or a form of undergroud vault for rainwater storage.

The previous city council was busy fending off faulse accusations about being Daley’s army coming to take over PR, being irresponsible liberal spenders of people’s money who would be writing nothing but welfare checks to the legions of poor they’d be bringing to PR, keeping the budget in balance while increasing spending for infrastructure like street resurfacing, and trying to stop Frimark from padding his personal pockets and the pockets of his pals.

With the exceptions of the budget and more street resurfacing, they miserably failed.

So folks, how’s your all-Republican Frimark council working for you now?

anon on 07.21.09 8:38 am,

…:::plink:::…< -- that's the sound of a pin dropping... However, to be fair to the poster you responded to; former Alderman Crampton's Bonding Plan never did make it out of committee and that was for lack of support within and outside of the council.  I distinctly recall not supporting the idea, myself.  It would have been massively expensive and debt heavy, and I was and remain opposed to avoidable debt.  Additionally, it was a "50 year plan" of sorts, meaning that 50 years from now some massively expensive debt heavy bonds would have to be issued again to address all the work that would again have to be done, seemingly "all at once." Also, at the time, flooding was not the hot button topic it is these days.  Instead, the hot topic was street paving, sidewalk repairs, tree trimming and sewer lining, along with the building of a new police station, which would have required another bond issue.  Oh, and the horrible no good rotten Democrats taking over Park Ridge.  Yes.  There was that too. Finally, as I recall, some "notable" conservatives in the community accused former Ald. Crampton of attempting a Johnson-esque "Grand Society" program for Park Ridge with his infrastructure plan, and of course the "Democrat" moniker, used as a pejorative, followed. What a difference a few years makes.

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