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.

10 comments so far

I’m starting to get irritated about how the Taste Inc. people are acting.

I hate to think the worst about people, but why – for the love of God, WHY! – do the Taste Inc . people keep trying to avoid full disclosure about the financials of Taste (the event)?

The more they drag their heels and the more lame excuses they come up with for keeping stuff secrets, the more it looks like they really are hiding something (kind of like that Hayes guy who concealed that he owned the medical building he was the broker for when he tried to sell it to the city for a nwe police station).

If it’s all honest, then there should be nothing to hide, right?

I too am sick of this! But, unless I am mistaken, the Taste is operating within the letter of the law. Yet the vast majority of the bashing that goes on is directed at them. I think that is a bunch of crap. The board of TOPR are not elected officials. We elected our government officials. We elected the new mayor – Mr. Transparency. It is our elected officials that let this “travesty” continue. In the above post the Mayor gets credit for finally getting the figure on cost to the city but zero blame all of what you and others bring up related to the taste.

It seems rather simple to me. If the Mayor agrees with you related to this issue, he comes out with a statement. “I do not believe that PR should enter into agreement with……unless we have complete access….yada, yada, yada”. I would hope he would apply this to all third party contracts in PR. Unfortunately, the Aldermen would have to be involved but that is just the way it works. But if the Mayor agrees with you then there could be work to get something enacted. Then it would be up to TOPR to comply or lose the “monoply” you refer to. I hate to bring up a painful analogy but it would be kind of like PADS. In a similar way, the city has a right to put together rules around how a partner must operate and if the partner chooses not to comply they have the right to end that relationship. Then one of the many organizations apparently waiting in the wings could start their own version of the taste – or even better, the city could run their own!!

anon on 08.31.09 11:14 am –

I agree with you on one point. Mayor “Mr. Transparency” Schmidt should ask the City Council (assuming none of those twinkies comes up with the idea themselves) to (1) require reimbursement by Taste Inc. of all city service costs, and (2) require full disclosure of their finances, including who their vendors are and how much they are paid. That’s what should be done.

But I disagree with you that just because Taste Inc. operates within the letter of the law, their secrecy is okay. Why do these community “leaders” like Iglow, Galus and Bruno have to hide behind the “letter of the law” rather than report the whole truth about Taste Inc.’s finances?

That’s like a crook looking for a technical loophole because he’s guilty as sin.

It’s common sense, the money that the city spends in city services should come right off of the top of the profits, then let this group make whatever they want as they do provide a legit service in running the event. They just shouldn’t be pigs.

so why is it that they don’t have to pay for city services? what’s the reason being given by the mayor?


But I digress. 1114 and 1142: I beleive the mayor has done what you asked. He brought the matter to the city council’s attention and told them they need to decide whether to require repayment and/or FULL disclosure. Under our system of city government, there is not much more he can do except raise the issue and hope the City Council does the right thing.


I like the new Mayor and I am very glad he won but you have got to be kidding me. There is more he can do. He certainly did more then that with the suggested 250,000 flood rebate. He wrote a very well worded and appropriate white paper letting all clearly know his position on this issue. I still do not know exactly what his position on this TOPR is. Does he feel that TOPR board is robbing the city? Does he feel that the city providing services is OK? Should we charge? If they refuse to provide anything else beside what they have so far should the city refuse to issue permits? So he gets to weigh in on some issues and not others.

If he writes a white paper on every single issue, people will soon be using them for wiping their fannies. He is already on record as saying the Taste should pay the city back. But he cannot make them do it. Only the city council can. This never would have even been up for discussion at the council if he had not put it on the agenda and made them discuss it.

To our knowledge, the main reason Taste Inc. hasn’t had to pay for City services up until now is because City Staff and the City Council (starting with then-Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, under whose reign Taste Inc. got its no-bid monopoly and $20,000 in “seed” money from the taxpayers back in 2005) never even tried to calculate – much less charge for – the value of those services provided to Taste Inc.

There are those who think $23,000 is chump change when you have a budget of over $50 million. Unfortunately, too many of them are called “aldermen.”

But if the City took that $23,000 and added the $39,000 of additional over-budget funding the Council gave to the private community organizations several months ago, guess what? The City would have enough to pay for one of those four public works people that were recently canned for budgetary reasons.

Of course, our City Council can’t seem to think that linearly or that responsibly. Which is why they’re cutting staff and services while subsidizing water usage…and subsidizing private community organizations like Taste Inc., who act like they are above being held accountable to anybody.

Related to the taste, I think I have made my position clear in my other posts. I do find it amazing that we have all this angst over what I consider to be a very postive event for the community and our merchants at what seems like a very low cost to the city. While we scream about this, Rome is burning.

Thanks to PD and other blogs, I have begun to pay a great deal more attention to the documents released for the meetings at Butler Place. I would call your attention to the committee of the whole minutes for May 11, 2009.

Item number 2 talks about contributions to community groups which has been already been hashed out. What about item number 1????? The vote was unanimous to pay over 250,000 for insurance. DiPietro commented “given the budget he really felt they should have gone out to bid!!!!” Our insurance consultant (what the hell do we pay him???) Michael Nugent said the industry was not receptive to RFP so we negotiated ahead of time. What do we know about these negotiations?? It is mission critical for us to know line by line what is going with the taste but what do we know about any third party negotiations for Insurance? How about those trucks we bought? What about the road paving companies? What about the money spent on the improvements by the library? What about this consultant and, I am sure, others? How did we pick them and determine what we should pay them?

Maybe someone knows the answers to these questions and can provide them to me. PD, your point about 53,000 paying for 1 layed off employee is indisputable. Is it not possible that if the city was keeping their on on all these areas, being proactive rather than reactive, it would yield an exponentially greater return?

I do not offer this as a defense for secracy by the taste. It just amazes me the disproportionate amount of noise this issue seems to receive.

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