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.

7 comments so far

I can’t wait for Jack Spat to wax eloquent about the bouquet of newly-printed money and the disonant clinking of jackpot coins cascading into the gun-metal grey well at the base of a fat slot machine at the new Des Plaines casino.

I firmly believe that a landlord should be allowed to charge what they believe the market will bear. The owner of the building that Johnny’s was believed he could get more for his/her space and they have to live by that decision. If the dpace is open too long they lose money. It is virtually the same as if I choose to sell my house. I can price it at what ever I want but the question is will the market support my price. If we force down rent or lease prices we would be forcing one business person to take a diminished profit on their investment (or even renting their space and losing money) for the benefit of another.

By the way, I agree with your comments about his impressions of the current “regime”. If his point is that we have to take a hard look at the Mayor as he serves his term then I agree. The problem is that his piece, in my opinion, was not a fair look.

Well put ‘Dog. What “Spat” does not know is that Mayor Dave has been pressuring city hall staff, primarily Carrie Davis and her minions, to be far more “customer friendly.”

As far as blaming Dave’s administration for the empty storefronts, I agree it is unacceptable that he has done nothing in his three months in office to reverse a worldwide near-depression. He has also failed to win the war in Afghanistan and is sitting idly by while California goes bankrupt. And why the heck has he not found a cure for the bird flu? Maybe we do need a 24/7 mayor.

What nonsense. Spat…go back to your flowery prose and stay away from anything remotely serious. You just make yourself look (more) like a complete idiot.

“It was a dark and stormy night!” The end.

I agree with everything said above, the first three remarks here. Right on the mark.

I checked (at what you printed about all those other aldermen contributing to Frimark’s campaign, and its true. I also Googled about Schmidt’s “censure”, but all I could find was news of his “condemnation.” (Is that the same thing?)

But that’s enough to convince me that Mayor Schmidt is really up against it with this city council and that they are probably trying to screw him over at every turn. Sure not a “regime” as I see it.

Anonymous 08.15.09 @ 12:18 PM.

Thank you for pointing out that it was a resolution of “condemnation” rather than “censure” that former Mayor Frimark, City Clerk Henneman and a majority of the then-aldermen passed at the meeting on March 3, 2008, although we also note that the condemnation was not of Schmidt personally, but of his release of closed session information – which release was perfectly legal under the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

We have corrected the post accordingly.

Mr. Spatafora would have more credibility if he had spent his energies urging his neighbors to shop in Park Ridge before the retail stores closed due to lack of business. Had the stores been earning a profit, they could have paid the prevailing rent that Mr. Spatafora blames the City for allowing.

Were Park Ridge government to take Mr. Spatafora’s suggestions seriously and force the landlords to rent their property at below market rates, there would surely be a glut of out of business landlords just as there is a glut of failed retailers now.

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