Firefighters Subsidize Flood Control Rebates


The letter in this week’s local papers from the president of Park Ridge Firefighter’s IAFF Local 2697 begins: “Rarely is life fair and those least responsible for bad decisions are often those who pay most dearly.”

We agree. 

In this case, we have the unfairness of the firefighters agreeing to forego certain contractually-guaranteed benefits in order to help the City of Park Ridge through its current fiscal crisis, while at the same time the City’s Flood Control Task Force is endorsing a foolish $420,000 flood control rebate giveaway contrived by Seventh Ward Ald. Frank Wsol.

For those who have trouble connecting the dots, the money that the City could/should be paying toward the firefighters benefits previously agreed to by the City may end up going into the pockets of a couple hundred Park Ridge residents as partial reimbursement for the cost of flood control devices they voluntarily installed on their own property – and which actually may make flooding worse for their neighbors.

What’s “fair” about that?  What’s even “reasonable” about that?  Ask Ald. Wsol or Task Force chairman Joe Saccomanno.

Let’s not fool ourselves here: What the firefighters union did was not purely altruistic. Given the City’s sad-and-worsening financial situation, it looks like they may have chosen the benefit freeze to avoid more severe alternatives, like unpaid leave or lay-offs.  If so, enlightened self-interest may well have been the prime motivator for their action.

But the bottom line is that they are going to be taking less than what they are entitled to, while a relatively small number of residents will be getting more than they’re entitled to.  And, as Task Force member Gale Fabisch noted during that body’s July 15 meeting, most of the rebate payments will go to residents who already have installed their flood control systems rather than to those who might actually need a rebate “incentive” to install flood control devices which, we reiterate, may make flooding worse for their neighbors.

So unless residents of this community start whispering not-so-sweet somethings into the ears of their aldermen to keep them from jumping on this bandwagon because it’s the easy thing to do, $420,000 of much-needed tax money will be going to enrich those who really don’t need enriching. 

That’s not just unfair…it’s irresponsible. 

20 comments so far

So true, so true…

Apparently Frank didn’t stop to think about how his attempt to appease a small handful of residents could/might turn the firefighters/public servants against him. Not a good way to get off on your +3year Mayoral campaign Frank!

Thank you to our firefighters for all they do for us.

The inter-relationships between actions and consequences seems to be lost on this City Council.

Stiffing the firefighters, then using what amounts to their money to pay off residents for doing something for themselves with no reasonable expectation of getting reimbursed by the City is beyond irresponsible. It’s reprehensible.

And as to your post from Wednesday, what the Task Force did was hijack itself for what looks to be pure politics. And from as much of the meeting video as I watched, they don’t seem to have gotten any further along on the actual task the Task Force was formed to do.

What City government seems to get away with doing would put a private business into bankruptcy; or get its management fired.


“What City government seems to get away with doing would put a private business into bankruptcy; or get its management fired”.

You forgot a third option. It might also get them a bail out by the federal government.


If the policy actions consistently promoted by Alderman Wsol and most of the Council…

>>proposing a multi-million, decades-long bond issue for building a new police station

>>proposing a 0% increase in property taxes

>>proposing increases in contributions over budgeted amounts for local charities

>>voting to approve an unbalanced budget with a projected deficit of $2million dollars, which assumed BEFORE THE FACT wage concessions, meaning the budget deficit was really almost $3million

>>proposing elimination of some permit fees, further reducing revenue into the City

>>proposing to draw down the fund balance in the water fund to further subsidize consumption, one of the few city funds NOT showing a deficit

>>proposing subsidies for already installed private flood control systems, which have done nothing to stop the system-wide issue of flooding

>>proposing subsidies for the installment of future private flood control systems which might make flooding WORSE for others

>>voting to change commercial property to residential within the TIF district, which will mean lower property tax revenues over time, and increased residential density to an already dense Uptown area, which places greater demands on infrastructure

…are allowed to continually go forward, then you can bet this City WILL be looking at subsection 109(c) of 11 U.S.C. under Chapter 9….which is the section of the Municipal Bankruptcy code that governs eligibility for filing to reorganize a municipalitie’s debt, and is the place a municipality must begin when filing for bankruptcy.

Damn right, Jeannie. Wsol has lost his way. He will single-handedly bankrupt this city.

…and do not forget…

There are two city employee unions who have not yet voted on the issue of wage concessions.

I wonder what the rank and file are thinking about this…? Wonder what an arbitrator would think about this…?

Damn right again. I understand there are already rumblings from the union guys. Wsol really stepped in it this time. The genie is out of the bottle, and he is wreaking havoc on the orderly business of government.

Beautiful. The firemen do a good thing and get kicked in the ass for it.

It’s far from a done deal, but those of you who think it’s a dumb idea need to show up at the meetings and say so. And you need to lean on your aldermen, specifically Allegretti (4th Ward), Ryan (5th Ward) and Carey (6th Ward). They are the key votes, because the other 4 aldermen are split 2-2 on the proposal.

What I can’t understand is why the City would consider doing anything – or financially supporting anything – that would make somebody’s house flood proof and his neighbors’ expense?


Isn’t the city already pretty close to bankrupt? So don’t you really mean Wsol will just help push it over the edge?

Another one of those fake “Republicans.”  



Everybody just calm down. The city has a reserve fund that is some percentage of the budget and those reserves can be used to fill the gap. I do not remember the amount and I am sure the city isn’t as well off as HSD 207, but just stop all this nonsense about bankruptcy.

I swear all of you just love to stir up drama.

Anon @ 5:09:

What percentage of the budget is in the reserve fund? How big is the “gap” we need to fill?

Spouting a bunch of vague generalities with no numbers attached isn’t very reassuring, when I recall that the city has admitted in the past that some of the fund balances consist of IOUs from other city funds.

maybe Alderman Frank Wsol did all this on purpose just to help the unions refuse from taking the paycut. If this rebate program passes it lays out the groundwork for telling people that the city has enough money for this so it doesn’t need to force paycuts to the union members. He works for which is a union services company and his father was a bigshot union leader also. Timing is everything

Just a thought, but it’s not just the firefighters that made “concessions.” Every worker that is not on a contract or unionized, which is a vast majority of supervisors in all departments, got nothing from the City in terms of raise of cost of living. I havn’t heard of many complaining, but given the giveaways that have and are continuing to take place, you can be they will be and I can’t blame them.

5:09…you are right, but you are wrong. The city does have a reserve fund (akin to your savings account). But the reserve/savings account is being depleted at an alarming pace. We have been running bnudget deficits for the past several years. Each year we have dipped into the savings account to balance the budget. At the current rate of dipping, we will be out of money in 2-3 years. That is unless Wsol gets his way, in which case it will be less than 2 years. Think I’m kidding? Stay tuned.

oye. OYE!

The comments made by Anon @ 5:09 beg to be disabused…

When the city talks about reserves, a.k.a. fund balances, what is being talked about is the city’s accounting method. Fund balances are not NOT the equivalent of cash. Rinse and repeat…FUND BALANCES ARE NOT THE SAME AS CASH on hand.

The city’s fund balance policy is to aim for 33% of the city’s budget, but the city has had deficits for years on end, in addition to failing to realize the projected revenue numbers.

Let’s look at some actual numbers.

On EVERY city council agenda, EVERY ONE, there is under the Consent Agenda heading, under the Finance and Budget line item, a sentence that begins with “Warrants reviewed by (Alderman’s name) for the period ending…” These are the city’s bills for the two weeks (give or take a few days) prior to that night’s meeting.

Beginning with Jan. 1, 2009 and ending April 30, 2009, the council approved warrants, at each of their meetings (every two weeks), that total $13,453,944.36 for the first 4 months of 2009, which is also the last one third of the 08/09 fiscal year.

$13,453,944.36 is the amount that has been spent for one third of the year, roughly and very basically.  It is also LESS THAN a “true” one third of the city budget, which is $51,102,800 for fiscal year 09/10. 

A 33% fund balance target might mean that the city would hope to have $17,000,000 accounted for and available “in reserve”, but that is NOT the case and never the same thing as CASH.

I am willing to bet my house that the city does not have anything even close to $13,000,000 in CASH available at this time.

Even during the year in which “my council” had TOTAL control of the budget and managed to book a surplus, which was primarily due to the closing on the sale for the Uptown redevelopment property, the city didn’t have that kind of cash at the ready, and the economy in general and the real estate market in particular were in much MUCH better shape.

I am with you P-Dog on almost all of your points. As for the installation of flood control systems being a detriment to one’s neighbors, I say – too bad? Sorry, it sounds terrible, but we’ve flooded 3x. We are tired of staying up all night manually pumping out water, replacing furniture, flooring, drywall. Literally spending thousands of dollars to band aid the problem. So we recently spent big $ to put in a permanent fix (we hope). We can’t sell our house anytime soon. We are stuck here with this old infrastructure and high taxes. So we might as well enjoy a dry basement.


Yours is a bit of a harsh “too bad for you” attitude, but you are entitled to it.  Indeed, the city building code mandates the installation of overhead sewers for all new construction.  Your taking steps to protect yourself and your family’s belongings can hardly be castigated as some horrible act!

PublicWatchdog isn’t likely to take much offense with you.

What is offensive is that attitude of “too bad for my neighbors”, coupled with the expectation that the neighbors you might be screwing should now subsidize their own screwing by subsidizing your installation of your private “too bad for my neighbors” flood control systems with their tax dollars.

See the point?

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