A Final Word (For Now) On Taste Of Park Ridge


After almost five years of stonewalling and secrecy, the private corporation that enjoys a no-bid monopoly on running Taste of Park Ridge finally provided a peek behind the curtain when it recently disclosed a few facts about its operation of that signature civic event. 

As a result, we now know that Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”) claims to have taken in $266,000 over the three days of operating Taste, the event, last month; that its expenses were “$90,000+” (even though we’re not exactly sure what that means, because no actual expense numbers have been furnished); and that it has given $5,200 to “various [unidentified] community groups” this year. 

We also now know for the first time – courtesy of the City, apparently in response to an inquiry from Mayor Schmidt – that Taste, the event, costs the City (i.e., us taxpayers) almost $23,000 in services by our police, fire and public works departments because Taste Inc. doesn’t reimburse the City for those expenses.

Unfortunately, it is still impossible to determine how much “profit” (i.e., revenues over expenses) Taste Inc. generates because its operators are still keeping secret the amount of those costs – disclosing only the rough percentages of how those costs are “allocated.”  

As we’ve said many times before, we think the Taste is a fine event – even if we question why the Taste Inc. folks and a few “friendly” aldermen insist on claiming that Taste, the event, is a “source of pride for our community.”  But that’s only because we think Park Ridge has many more, and better, sources of pride than the mere staging of a three day street festival that seems little different from similar festivals staged by virtually every other neighboring community. 

Just because the people of Park Ridge have finally been given a tiny glimpse of the big bucks involved in Taste, the event, however, doesn’t mean that Taste Inc. is operating with an adequate degree of transparency – especially given its continuing no-bid monopoly on the event and its receipt of that $23,000 in free City services. 

It seems to us that any event that generates $266,000 in revenues over just three days using almost entirely a “volunteer” labor force should be producing enough “profit” to pay the City in full for any and all services the event requires.  So why isn’t such payment being required by the City?  Or, better yet, why aren’t those self-proclaimed altruists who run Taste Inc. offering such reimbursement without having to be asked, especially in view of the City’s annual budget deficits?

We also question why Taste Inc. is so close-mouthed about who its vendors are and how much it pays them.  We’re not buying Taste Inc.’s palaver about its “respecting the confidentiality of the private businesses and organizations that contract with [it]” because disclosing that information “would be disrespectful to all parties involved and actually be detrimental to the success of the event.”

What a bunch of horse hockey.

Most/all of the people with whom Taste Inc. contracts seem delighted to plaster their names and their association with Taste, the event, everywhere they can.  What could possibly be so secret about what Taste’s vendors provide (and at what price) that it would be “disrespectful” to disclose?

Frankly, that sounds like something we have come to expect from Richie Daley whenever he’s asked about sweetheart deals to sell City of Chicago land at bargain prices to his buddies, or when giving out arguably-inflated wrought-iron fence contracts.  While that might be S.O.P. in Daley-ville, that should not be acceptable here in Park Ridge; and we think that kind of “policy” is a lot more “disrespectful” to the taxpayers than full disclosure would be to the vendors who presumably are making a buck or two from Taste, the event.

And it’s also “disrespectful” to the taxpayers for Taste Inc. to dodge transparency by pointing out that “[t]he law allows public access” to Taste Inc.’s federal and state tax filings, as it did in its recent public relations statement [pdf].  The respectful thing for Taste Inc. to do would be to post those tax filing documents on its nifty web site – for every year it has operated its no-bid monopoly.  That way, any interested residents could check it out at their convenience, without having to contact Taste Inc. and make arrangements to get or view those forms.

Of course, when you’re trying to conceal information while appearing to be forthcoming, any obstacle you can throw up – even minor inconveniences, like requiring a specific request for the information – is an ally in obstructionism, something most governmental bodies discovered about the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) years ago.  

But don’t expect the folks who run Taste Inc. to admit to that.  They’re too busy patting themselves on the back, and counting the money.

The First Taste Of Budget-Cutting 101


We can’t believe we’re saying this, but here goes: We agree with Ald. Don Bach (3rd Ward) that City Mgr. Jim Hock has not done enough to cut City expenses. 

There…we did it.  Whew! 

We suspect that Bach, like the proverbial stopped clock, is right on something no more than twice a day.  But this just happens to be one of those instances, because it is simply unacceptable for the City Mgr. to propose a budget with a $1.8 million deficit [pdf] of expenses over revenues, especially on the heels of several additional years of budget deficits that have shrunk the City’s reserves to an uncomfortably low level.

That’s where our agreement with Bach stops, however.  Because not only did he and his City Council allies adopt Hock’s deficit budget, but they have irresponsibly added to that deficit by approving increased spending since that budget’s adoption.  And now Bach and his spendthrift wing-man, Ald. Frank “The Politician” Wsol (7th Ward), want to add another $400,000+ in spending on their totally wrongheaded flood control rebate program.

So when Bach proclaims – as he did at Monday night’s City Council meeting – that “I would like to see us with no red ink on the books in two years, and I think that’s possible, but only with quick, decisive action regarding staffing levels,” we have to wonder what he’s smoking…and whether the FDA has approved it for over-the-counter sale without a prescription. 

Despite his big, blustery talk about staffing cuts, Bach doesn’t appear even to have attempted any of the heavy lifting that goes into figuring out exactly who should be cut to reduce the size of the current budget hole City government has dug for us.  Nor have we heard him publicly endorse the first cuts that have been made to City staff: the recent termination of four employees of the Public Works Department.  

Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim is reporting that those cuts will result in the elimination of the City’s curbside brush pick-up.  It will also eliminate one of the city’s two street sweepers, thereby cutting in half the number of rounds the sweeper makes across the city each year.  And Zingsheim warns that these cuts also will adversely affect snow removal this winter. 

Hey, Ald. Bach…are you happy with those cuts, both in staff and in services?  And can you tell us what the next staffing cuts should be? 

Not surprisingly, Frankie the Politician also threw his two faces…um, we mean, his two cents… into this debate, claiming that while he doesn’t “like the idea of adopting” these cuts, he does “like the idea of us pushing staff and the city manager to justify every full-time employee we have or present us with real reductions that make sense.”   

That’s a real hoot, coming from a guy that wants to blow $400,000+ on flood control rebates, led the vote against passing through to water users the $400,000+ in water rate increases from the City of Chicago, and would have saddled us with the debt service on $16,000,000+ of bonds for a new cop shop if he could have had his way.  But what else can we realistically expect from a “politician” like Frankie? 

Bach (and Wsol) can talk the budget-cut talk, but so far they haven’t measured up when it comes to walking the budget-cut walk.  And neither has the rest of the City Council. 

The First Cracks In Taste Inc.’s Culture of Secrecy


Whether because of Mayor Dave Schmidt’s quest for transparency in all aspects of City government, or because of questions raised by this blog, Taste of Park Ridge, NFP (“Taste Inc.”) has finally, after five years of operating Taste of Park Ridge (“Taste, the event”), issued a written statement [pdf] about its history and its operations.  

While solidly self-serving (and perhaps a bit revisionist?), it does reveal some surprising information about what Taste Inc. is and how it operates, starting with its claim that its 2009 gross receipts were $266,652!

That’s right: $266,652…for a three day event.  Suh-weet!

Taste Inc.’s statement also reports that this “civic celebration…costs $90,000+.”  If we take that to mean that Taste Inc.’s expenses are $90,000+, then Taste Inc. is making a cool $176,000 in annual “profit.” 

That’s not too shabby for three days of actual business, although Taste Inc. insists that its “management committee volunteers approximately 8,000-10,000 hours over the course of every year,” worth “over $50,000.”  Fair enough…drop the “profit” down to $126,000.  That’s not too shabby, either. 

Taste Inc. contends that “[t]he $5,000 costs to the city are the services it provides as its sponsorship.” Apparently Taste Inc. didn’t get the City memo that Taste the event is costing the City almost $23,000 a year in City services, not merely $5,000.  That’s one heck of a “sponsorship” – especially for a public body (the City) that is running multi-million dollar budget deficits.

And if Taste Inc. is generating an annual “profit” of $176,000, what’s it doing with all that money – considering that it claims to have contributed only $5,200 “to various community groups in 2009”? 

But the most intriguing item Taste Inc. reports is its status as a 501(c)(6) enterprise. That designation is reserved not for “charitable” organizations, but for associations of persons having common business interests with a purpose of promoting those common business interests. 

While we’re not even close to “transparency” with Taste Inc., this initial disclosure – after five years of secrecy – makes it a bit more understandable why Taste Inc. has been so protective and close-mouthed about its no-bid monopoly on Taste the event.

Time For Taste Inc. To Put Up Or Shut Up


We have finally discovered at least one financial fact about Taste of Park Ridge, NFP (“Taste, Inc.”), the private corporation formed in 2005 to receive a no-bid deal to run “Taste of Park Ridge” (the event) from the administration of newly-elected Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, and which – according to reports [pdf] available on the Illinois Sec’y of State’s website – inexplicably dissolved itself on February 20, 2009, before inexplicably re-incorporating on March 4, 2009. 

That one financial fact?  That, just this year alone, the City spent almost $23,000 of our tax dollars on City services for Taste, Inc.’s 3-day event.  Or so says the City’s “Special Events 2009” report [pdf], which is one of the agenda items for tonight’s Park Ridge City Council Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting (City Hall, 7:00 p.m.).

With the City now routinely running multi-million dollar budget deficits and the City’s reserves dwindling, the cost of everything it does, and the value provided for that cost, has become more important than ever before.  So a review of the 10 community events listed by the City shows that Taste (the event) consumes more City resources than any other event – even more than the City-run July 3rd fireworks show.

What does the City get in return for our $22,838 investment?  We have no idea – and, apparently, neither does the City: as best we can tell, this is the first time it has even tried to figure out what Taste (the event) costs…which is at least a reasonable, albeit belated, first step.

For the 5 years Taste, Inc. has run Taste (the event), the people running Taste, Inc. – currently, president Dave Iglow, vice-president/secretary Albert Galus, treasurer Jim Bruno, and directors Dean Patras, Sandy Svizzero, Barb Tyksinski and John Warnimont – have operated under a strict “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as to how much Taste, Inc. takes in, how much it spends, who it spends it with, and how much it gives away through its “Community Cares” fund.

At the August 17 City Council meeting, Iglow and Galus showed up in their signature orange Taste, Inc. shirts to read a self-congratulatory statement about just how wonderful they and their event are – which you can see and hear at, starting at approximately the 43.00 minute mark of the video.  

Not surprisingly, they spoke nary a word about Taste, Inc.’ s revenues, expenses or finances, other than (a) to make pointed references to the “dedicated, non-compensated” Taste, Inc. organizers and the numerous volunteers who provide Taste, Inc. with a dependable pool of free labor, and (b) to laud the un-quantified contributions Taste, Inc. claims to have made to other community organizations.

If you go to the Taste, Inc. website,, you’ll find more of the same vague, self-congratulatory bluster about Taste, Inc.’s “Community Cares” fund, which purportedly supports other community groups and projects “[w]hen we can, based on available funds.”  Of course, nothing on the website discloses when Taste, Inc. had any “available funds” and how much of them it gave away to whom.

Frankly, we’re getting fed up with Taste, Inc.’s public displays of self-indulgent back-slapping while it keeps all its financial information completely hidden from public scrutiny.  When a private corporation, “non-profit” or “for-profit,” holds a monopoly on the City’s biggest civic event and sucks up $20,000+ a year in tax dollars to run it on a no-bid, no accountability basis, we’re going to be pretty darn suspicious of exactly who is getting what, and why – especially when you can’t even find Taste, Inc.’s IRS Form 990s on, unlike such smaller local organizations as the Kalo Foundation.

So what’s up with that, Taste, Inc.?

After all, we share a boundary with the ethically-challenged City of Chicago, we are located in “Crook” County, and we live in what the Chicago Tribune has rightly termed the “State of Corruption” – all of which have provided us with plenty of examples of how private business interests can glom onto public funds by questionable means.  To think that what goes on all around us couldn’t happen here in Park Ridge is so naïve, we’d rather bet that not only is there an Easter Bunny, but that he sometimes moonlights as the tooth fairy.

But before the Taste, Inc. apologists start whining about our criticism, we remind our readers of one other fact we discovered about Taste, Inc.’s finances, although we had to get it from the Illinois State Board of Elections because Taste, Inc. sure wasn’t publicizing it: Taste, Inc.’s $1,000 political contribution [pdf] to “Friends of Bob Dudycz” in September 2007, shortly after “The Dude” resigned his position as vice-president of Taste, Inc. and as he was exiting his position as Maine Township Supervisor.

So we’ll say it once again: If Taste, Inc. isn’t a kinked-up organization with “insiders” cashing in on their positions within the company or feeding sweetheart deals to favored vendors while portraying themselves as disciples of Mother Teresa, the best – no, the only – way to show it is for Taste, Inc. to open up its books for inspection by the people who are pouring all that money into its coffers – both voluntarily as Taste (the event) customers and involuntarily as Park Ridge taxpayers.

It’s time for Taste, Inc. and its proprietors to put up (provide the financial information) or shut up (their bragging).  And if they won’t put up, then maybe it’s time they give up…their no-bid monopoly on Taste, the event.

Another Kudo For The Journal’s Craig Adams


Once before, we here at PublicWatchdog wrote a post in praise of reporter Craig Adams of The Journal for some plain old good reporting (“Hurray For Craig Adams,” Nov. 9, 2007).  Today we do so again, this time for good reporting and some incisive thinking about the folly of the way government – in this case, the State of Illinois – spends our money.   

In his article on State Rep. Rosemary Mulligan’s recent attempts at pork-barrel politics (“Show Me The Money?” August 19), Adams reports on Mulligan’s crowing about how she can get Park Ridge nearly $400,000 of state funds…but only if the people of Illinois lose enough money at video gambling.  He quotes Mulligan thusly: “I gave the city of Park Ridge $330,000 for relief sewers,” along with additional funds for other projects – although she also warned that it won’t be available for at least 9 months.  And that’s assuming Park Ridge is willing to go video, because those communities that aren’t willing to play won’t get any pay.    

We’re not sure whether Rep. Mulligan remembers her 6th grade civics lessons but, if not, here’s a simple refresher course: Unless the cash is coming out of your personal bank account, Rosie, you aren’t giving us squat.  That money is coming from state coffers and belongs to the taxpayers and residents of this state.  In other words, you’re simply giving us back our money. 

Typical Illinois politician that she is, Mulligan apparently still thinks that good government means “bringing home the bacon,” although compared to the way her fellow pols are squandering the public purse in their own districts, Rosie’s $400,000 is more Bacos than bacon.

But we digress.  

Adams notes that this particular cut of pork depends on video gambling throwing off $1.1 billion a year in revenues for the state, based on the state’s cut of 25%.  That, in turn, requires that each of the nearly 13 million state residents, including kids, loses about $350 on video gambling each year.  So for a family with 2 kids under 18, mom and dad each have to lose $700 in order to do their part for Gov. Quinn’s goofy revenue plan.   

But where Adams’ analysis shines is in his observation that if each Park Ridge resident simply paid that same $350 directly to the City instead of gambling it away on video poker, Park Ridge would receive $13 million each year instead of Mulligan’s measly one-time $400,000.

Exactly right, Mr. A.  In some governmental circles, that’s called “shrinkage” – and we don’t mean the cold-water kind.

Even if the City chose a more modest plan and merely charged each of Park Ridge’s approximately 13,000 households an additional $350, however, that would raise over $4.5 million – more than 10 times what Mulligan’s self-styled “gift” to Park Ridge would provide.  

Whether the Park Ridge City Council sells out to video poker as a way to throw a few shovels full of cash into the gaping budget hole it dug for us because our aldermen lacked the self-control, the courage and the integrity to bite the bullet and actually balance the budget, remains to be seen. 

But from what we’ve seen of those guys over the past couple of years, we’re not placing any bets.

Mayor States His Case Against Taxpayer-Funded Flood Control Rebates


(Mayor Dave Schmidt authored the following “white paper” on his opposition to what he has termed the “Wsol/Bach plan” for using as much as $400,000 of City of Park Ridge tax dollars to provide rebates of up to $2,500 each to residents who have installed or will install flood control devices in their homes.)

The City of Park Ridge is at a financial crossroads, faced with the decision of whether to continue down the current path of irresponsible budget deficits and asset depletion, or to chart a new course of sane, fiscally-responsible budgeting and spending.

In his 2009-10 budget message, City Manager James Hock warned that the City’s cash solvency and its ability to maintain the present level of services was “a concern,” in large part because of a damaging string of four consecutive budget deficits totaling in excess of $10 million, with another $1.9 million deficit already being projected for 2010-11. 

What has that done to the City’s overall financial health?  It has drained the City’s financial reserves – our “savings account” – which protects us from significant losses of revenue and unexpected major expenses.  In April 2006, the City had a $15 million reserve balance.  That reserve fund has dwindled to $8.4 million in just three short years!  This is roughly 16%, or less than one-half, of the minimum 33% of annual operating expenses that sound municipal government principles and our City’s stated policy proscribes for its reserves.  Worse yet, more than 75% of that amount, $6.4 million, is not even from regular periodic revenue sources, but is due to a one-time sale of City-owned land.

In a nutshell, if the City continues to run budget deficits at close to the same rate it has over the past few years, the City will exhaust its reserves in a very short time.  Or put a different way, the City of Park Ridge is headed toward economic disaster unless we drastically change our budgeting and spending habits.

Against that backdrop of disturbing economic reality, Alderman Frank Wsol of the Seventh Ward and Alderman Don Bach of the Third Ward are promoting their plan for offering cash rebates up to $2,500 to residents who have already installed or plan to install certain types of flood control devices.  Alderman Wsol’s own estimate is that the cost of such a program will be over $400,000 during the first year alone, although City Staff calculates that figure to be much higher even without including the cost of Staff time and money to administer such a plan.

Based on information already available to us, there appears to be little doubt that installing “private” flood control devices in individual homes improves the flooding situation for the individuals who install such devices.  They do not, however, improve the flooding situation of our community as a whole, or of any other individual residents.  To the contrary, they actually may contribute to an incremental increase in the flooding experienced by other residents.   The bitter irony of such a plan, therefore, is that a resident who cannot afford the first 75% of the cost of the private flood control device he would be required to pay in order to receive a rebate under the Wsol/Bach proposal would end up seeing his taxes used to subsidize a neighbor’s device that might actually make the resident’s flooding worse!

The Wsol/Bach plan, as currently structured, would also be unfair to many individuals who installed private flood control devices in their homes prior to the completely arbitrary January 1, 2008 retroactive start date for when rebates would be available.  Similar unfairness would occur even if the rebates were only prospective, beginning from the time the rebate program is adopted.

I believe that the City Council has absolutely no business even entertaining such a drain on the City’s precarious finances for a program which provides what amounts to public welfare, a principally “private” benefit to only a small group of property owners.  This program is no less ill-conceived than Alderman Wsol’s plan (endorsed by Alderman Bach) to spend $16.5 million on a new police station which was soundly, and rightfully, rejected by over 80% of the votes cast in the April 2009 referendum.  And it deserves the same fate.

Alderman Wsol and Alderman Bach have already vigorously opposed passing on the full cost of water usage to the people who actually use the most water.  That decision took another $400,000 slice out of the City’s reserves at a time when we continue to bleed red ink.  Now they want to cut deeper into the bleeding wound by slicing an even bigger piece out what is left.

If this were not bad enough for the majority of residents, the cost of the Wsol/Bach plan will also be borne on the backs of the non-union City staff members whose wages have been frozen, and the firemen who have agreed to help this City overcome its financial crisis by effectively sacrificing pay raises to which they were contractually entitled, and the policeman who will soon vote on whether to do the same.  And it is grossly unfair to the four public works employees who just lost their jobs due to the City’s budget woes.

The proponents of this plan claim that the public is clamoring for its implementation.  Claims like that are easy to make because they are so hard to disprove.  Nevertheless, I call upon those residents who oppose reckless spending and who care about returning this City to sound economic health to contact their aldermen and let them know how you feel about the Wsol/Bach rebate plan, and about the City’s deficit spending and overall financial condition.

And I encourage those same residents to attend the upcoming meetings when this proposal will be debated and voted upon.

I am fully committed to doing whatever it takes to return this City to sound financial health.   Anything less would be a dereliction of my duty to safeguard the well-being of City and all of its residents.

More Problems Of Misinformation


Last Friday we wrote about how misinformation creates more disagreements than legitimate differences of opinion.  Today we deal with two more examples of that problem.

Last week’s (August 12) edition of the Park Ridge Journal contained two O’Hare Airport pieces with their own fair share of misinformation.  The first was a story about resident Gene Spanos’ “survey” of approximately 100 residents who had previously expressed opposition to O’Hare expansion (“Spanos Hopes Mayor Will Use O’Hare Survey Results”) – not exactly a “random” sampling.  The second was a letter to the editor from resident Tim Perry (“Residents Must Voice Opinions”).

Spanos wants Park Ridge Mayor Dave Schmidt to use those survey results when he meets with U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (6th Dist.), presumably in support of reductions in flights, stopping construction of the runway whose path will extend over Granville, noise abatement, and other concessions Spanos wants in connection with the new runway 9L/27R.

While we don’t doubt that Spanos is well meaning, a 100-response survey – from people who have already expressed opposition to O’Hare expansion – isn’t even remotely close to being “statistically significant” (i.e., its results actually have meaning instead of being products of mere chance).  For a survey of Park Ridge residents to have statistical significance, Spanos would have needed approximately 800 responses from a random (rather than a pre-selected) pool.  

So Spanos’ survey results are statistically worthless for use by anybody for any legitimate purpose. In other words, they are just misinformation that actually detracts from legitimate O’Hare arguments and interferes with sound decision-making.

Perry’s letter in the Journal, which also ran as a guest essay in last week’s Herald-Advocate (“Resident begins his final reproach”), blames O’Hare expansion not just for more noise and pollution – as does Spanos’ letter – but also for the increased flooding Park Ridge has been experiencing: “There is information that links the O’Hare expansion to the flooding we now have on a regular basis.”

We trust Perry is also well-meaning, but when we looked for that “information” about the new runway causing our flooding we couldn’t find it anywhere.  And given the half-cocked way that too many residents seem to be going off about the new runway, flooding, and anything else that annoys them, we suspect that Perry’s “information” may have been somebody else’s fabrication. 

We also looked for proof of Perry’s contention that “when O’Hare built the new runway they had to reroute a stream and eliminate 150 acres of wetlands…[that] are no longer there to accept the water” that, presumably, flows into Park Ridge.  We couldn’t find anything about stream relocation, either, but we did find several references to the wetlands elimination – along with reports that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required the creation of 1.5 acres or more of new wetlands for every acre of wetlands that was destroyed during construction of the new runway. 

So unless Richie Daley and his minions were able to pull a “Chicago Way” con on the Army Corps of Engineers and get them to overlook the replacement of those eliminated wetlands, there appears to be no factual support for Perry’s contentions that the flooding in Park Ridge is attributable to the new runway.   

Noise and pollution from O’Hare air traffic is a serious issue for our community, as is flooding.  To deal effectively and successfully with those problems, we will need to enlist the cooperation of other governments and governmental officials – the federal government, the State of Illinois, and our neighboring municipalities.  To do that, we will need to project reason and credibility in the positions we take with them.

Misinformation, in the form of unfounded accusations and meaningless surveys, is exactly what we don’t need.

The Problem Of Misinformation


Over the course of many years of living in this relatively homogenous community, we have observed (anecdotally, not scientifically) that the vast majority of disagreements on public issues seem to occur not because of differences in values or concerns, but because of differences in the amount and quality of the information used to inform the conflicting viewpoints. 

In other words, we have met the enemy and it is misinformation. 

Which brings us to the letter in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate by resident Jack Spatafora (“Lean on landlords for retail relief,” August 12), an oft-published letter writer whose subjects tend toward puppies, the smell of newly-mowed grass, and general nostalgia.  Kind of like a cross between Andy Rooney and Garrison Keillor. 

But this week Mr. Spatafora left his comfort zone and strayed into the world of local government, complaining about how our community is losing retail businesses because of rent-gouging landlords and an unresponsive City government that let’s them get away with it.  

That’s a topic worthy of discussion and debate; and it has been a topic we have addressed in various ways over the past couple of years.

Our bone to pick with Mr. Spatafora, however, involves the factual inaccuracies which permeate his letter – starting with his opening sentence of  “[e]ver since the new Mayor and new council members took office” and continuing with his reference to “the new regime in City Hall.” 

Now, we know about “regimes” in City Hall. Over the past two years when we wrote about former mayor Howard Frimark, his guarantied four-member Council majority (Alderpuppets Allegretti, Bach, Carey and Ryan) and the two other alderpuppet reserves (DiPietro and Wsol), we regularly referred to the “Frimark Administration” at City Hall, although we could just as easily, and accurately, have called it the “Frimark regime.” 

But Spatafora seems oblivious to the fact that no “new” aldermen have been elected since 2007.  And its pretty hard for new Mayor Dave Schmidt to have a “regime” in City Hall when five of the current aldermen not only regularly opposed positions taken by then-Ald. Schmidt during the past two years, but they also voted for an official “condemnation” of Schmidt’s lawful release of information about their and Frimark’s closed session dealings – and then they contributed to Frimark’s campaign against Schmidt to the cumulative tune of over $3,800: Allegretti ($1,500), Bach ($400), Carey ($500), DiPietro ($565 in-kind from his business, Cross-Tech Communications) and Ryan ($864.51).  

Spatafora must even have missed the first Park Ridge mayoral veto in at least 20+ years, when Schmidt vetoed the Council’s appropriation of $39,000 in extra handouts to private community groups even though the City budget is already $2.5 million-plus in deficit – a veto the Council promptly over-rode. 

With “regimes” like that, who needs enemies? 

But putting aside Spatafora’s ignorance of who’s who and what’s what at City Hall, his substantive arguments display a troubling view of government and market economics when he advocates for the City meddling in the local real estate market by applying “pressure other city governments have exerted” on landlords to keep rents where they are. 

Hey, Jack…we miss Johnny’s Place, too.  But as far as we can tell, “rent controls” has never been the right answer to any question other than: “What’s one way to screw up the retail market?”  

Spatafora also wants the City to do something about “generating more retail trade” for our local retailers, because “City Hall keeps attracting new retail competition more than retail trade.”  We’re not quite sure what he means by those comments.  But we’ve got a City government that can’t come within $2 million of balancing a budget.  Do we really want those folks trying to micro-manage the local retail market? 

Finally, Spatafora wants Park Ridge to display the same kind of “progress” he sees in Des Plaines and Rosemont.  

We think that statement says it all.

Will Taxpayers Ever Get To Savor “Taste” Details?


Since the Taste of Park Ridge was handed over to private not-for-profit corporation Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”) in 2005 after the Chamber of Commerce abandoned the event, Taste Inc. has often stated that it would provide the City of Park Ridge with a report on Taste Inc.’s finances.

Taste Inc., however, never delivered; and City staff under Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark never followed up.  But new Mayor Dave Schmidt has expressed an interest in getting that information for the taxpayers who support Taste (the event) with their taxes, their volunteerism, and their patronage.  And Taste Inc. has once again stated that it will provide a report.

Early indications, however, are not promising – if comments by Taste Inc. honcho Albert Galus are any indication.  As reported in the July 22, 2009, issue of The Journal (“Organizers Bask In Success Of Another ‘Taste’”), Galus bragged about the “great success” of this year’s event, bragged about attendance, bragged about vendors and prices, and bragged about the “between $30,000 and $40,000” Taste Inc. spends each year on the event.  

Galus was less than forthcoming about the financial details, however, stating: “We are working with the city in terms of providing them the information we can provide” and claiming that some of that information is “proprietary.”

Hey, Albert!  You guys are running a self-proclaimed not-for-profit corporation that has a no-bid monopoly on running an allegedly not-for-profit community event using not-for-profit City and community volunteer resources.  What the H-E-double hockey sticks could be “proprietary” about that?

As we’ve said before, if Taste Inc. really is on the up and up and if no “insiders” are fattening their wallets on this not-for-profit event, the best way to show it is for Taste Inc. to do the honorable thing and make a full disclosure of this year’s operations and Taste Inc.’s overall financial condition. Produce line-item revenue and expense statements (including the names and amounts paid to each and every vendor), profit & loss statements, and all the other information that shows exactly what’s coming in, what’s going out, and to whom.

That’s the kind of detail the taxpayers have a right to expect from Taste Inc. and its principals who control the City’s premier community event, especially when those principals consistently claim that they do all the heavy lifting for the good of the community rather than for personal gain.
And that’s what’s called “transparency,” something that is way overdue from the folks who run Taste Inc.

Political Manuvering at the COW


Tonight’s City Council Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting (7:00 p.m., City Hall) is scheduled to be devoted to two committees: Public Works and Public Safety.  So we were more than a little curious to see that one of the Public Works’ discussion items on the agenda is titled “Subsidy for Overhead Sewers.”  

A discussion of overhead sewers and their desirability as flood control measures is clearly a Public Works issue.  But as we understand the English language, “subsidy” involves money; and money issues have historically been the province of the City’s Finance & Budget Committee (“F&B”), chaired by Ald. Rich DiPietro (2nd Ward).  

So what gives? 

Could it be that Public Works Committee chairman Ald. Don Bach (3rd Ward) is trying to hi-jack that discussion for himself and his fellow PW committee member, Ald. Frank Wsol?  After all, Bach is an ardent supporter of Wsol’s plan to spend $420,000 this year alone on “rebates” of as much as $2,500 per residence for the installation of flood control systems – such as overhead sewers – even though this year’s budget is already more than $2.5 million in deficit. 

Back during the F&B portion of the July 6, 2009, City Council meeting, Wsol tried to push through both his “rebate” proposal and his proposal for suspending permit fees – but DiPietro raised a point of order to those matters being presented to the full Council without first being addressed and forwarded by the F&B Committee.  City Attorney Buzz Hill upheld DiPietro’s point of order, and those matters were referred to the July 13, 2009, Finance & Budget COW meeting. 

At that July 13th COW meeting, however, nothing about flood control was discussed during the F&B portion.  Instead, it was addressed during the Public Works portion.  Although City Mgr. Jim Hock, joined by Mayor Dave Schmidt, suggested waiting until the Flood Control Task Force completes its report and recommendations for how flooding should be addressed before talking about how any of those recommendations could be paid for, Wsol continued to push for spending money on his rebate program now, even mentioning increasing property taxes to pay for his program. 

It’s pretty obvious that Wsol and Bach are leading the rebate charge and don’t care whether the City has to tax or borrow that money so long as they can dish out the rebate goodies – without waiting for the Flood Control Task Force’s final report.  That’s the ready-fire-aim way these things go when taxpayer money is burning a hole in the politicians’ pockets.