Who Should Bear The Cost Of “Special Events”?


Tonight’s City Council Committee of the Whole (“COW”) meeting (7:00 p.m. at City Hall) features the Finance & Budget Committee (“F&B”) and the Procedures & Regulations Committee (“P&R”).  And two of the agenda items under F&B happen to be: “Special Events” and “Review of City’s Financial Condition.” 

That’s fitting, because the City’s overall financial condition should be THE reference point to anything it does, especially when it comes to spending the taxpayers’ money.  And a look at the Finance Review [pdf] that will be discussed tonight gives some indications of why.

As best we can tell, it looks like both the “fund balance” and the City’s “cash” positions are under even the low end of the desired target levels, although the “Review” doesn’t seem to be the most readily understandable document when it comes to the average citizen actually being able to fully understand what’s what.

Of the many things that appear troubling, we note that the Uptown TIF continues to be millions of dollars under water, owing $4,300,000 to the General Operating Fund while having sucked up $42.4 million in bonded debt.  Good thing it’s “projected to be fully paid in 2021.”

Surprisingly, however, it appears that the Dempster TIF (a/k/a, the “Bredemann TIF”) – which purportedly was an unqualified success – is currently struggling, with expenses ($249,088) that exceed revenues ($245,606).  The recession has probably paid a big role in that situation, but we sure can’t tell how from this Review.

Maybe that information will be revealed at tonight’s meeting.

Which brings us to the Special Event expenses, as more fully described in the “Agenda Cover Memorandum” [pdf], which raises some good discussion points, a few of which we would like to specifically address.

“Should all events be required to be financially self-sufficient?”  Why not?  What’s wrong with the concept of pay-as-you-go?  With the City’s finances in distress and essential City services and projects either being cut back or deferred, why should these “events” – which are amenities rather than necessities, and many of which are being run by and for the benefit of private entities rather than the City itself – get a free pass to run up expenses on the taxpayers’ dime? 

“Should the City seek reimbursement from the schools”…for City expenses, such as for additional police officers to direct traffic for Friday night football games?  Again, why not – especially when we’re talking about two separate taxing bodies, one of which (Dist. 207) appears to be far better off financially than the City?  Having one taxing body effectively subsidize the other is a good way of reducing, if only by a little, the accountability of both bodies at a time when we should be demanding more accountability from them, not less.

“Should the City require…community groups we donate funds to, to provide expenditure reports?”  Once again, why not?  In a more accountable, less political world, community groups would live entirely off donations and the revenues they can generate for themselves because “not for profit” shouldn’t be synonymous with “dependent on tax dollars.” So if these groups are going to ask for tax dollars, and if the taxpayers are going to be forced – by the largesse of their elected and appointed representatives, who seem to find Other People’s Money (“OPM”) so easy to spend – to pay “donate” to these groups, why shouldn’t the City require some accountability from those groups in the form of detailed expenditure reports?

And, finally: “How do we define ‘Return On Investment’ to our community?”  We can start by defining “investment,” making sure we distinguish it from mere “expenditure.”  And if the “investment” we’re talking about is of tax dollars, then at least one required measure of the “return” should be in the form of dollars as well – because those warm-and-fuzzy “quality of life” measurements some folks prefer always seem to be more anecdote than measurement.

The old business adage that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” should be every bit as applicable to government as it is to business. And government’s traditional resistance to accurate, objective measurement of its activities is one of the things that has made it so unmanageable…and so unaccountable.

Hopefully tonight’s discussion will start to change all that, at least for the City of Park Ridge.

The Chamber Of Commerce…Or Of Non-Profit?


This week’s Park Ridge Journal reports on the new Park Ridge Nonprofit Center at 720 Garden Street, which has landed the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce as its “anchor” tenant. (“Park Ridge Chamber Keen On New Building,” Sept. 23)

For those keeping score, this is the former home of American Insurance Agency and one of the buildings that former mayor Howard Frimark was secretly negotiating for the City to acquire as the site for the big new police station he and several aldermen were trying to shove down the taxpayers’ throats – until a citizen-led petition drive put a cop shop referendum question on last April’s ballot after the City Council refused the citizens’ (and then-Ald. Dave Schmidt’s) requests that the Council put the question on the ballot.  

Even though it was just an advisory referendum, its overwhelming rejection by the voters, combined with Frimark’s loss to Schmidt in the mayoral election, has put at least a temporary halt on that misguided project.  And that turned out to be a very good thing indeed, because the new cop shop would have added another $1 million-plus a year to the multi-million dollar budget deficits the City was already running under Frimark. 

According to the Journal story, the Chamber is gushing about the Center’s huge event rooms, smaller meeting rooms, and space for several other organizations for offices or storage. And the Chamber’s executive director, Gail Haller, is already talking about hosting “events and…traveling art exhibits.”

That’s just swell, really it is.  But given Park Ridge’s historically underwhelming performance in drawing and supporting tax-generating businesses to our community, doesn’t the Chamber have better things to do than serving as an entertainment booking agent – or than, as the Journal reports, managing and maintaining the 720 Garden building for Park Ridge Nonprofit Center [pdf] (“PRNC”), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation organized in March, 2008, and whose registered agent is the consummate Park Ridge insider, attorney John E. “Jack” Owens? 

Which causes us to wonder why the usually solid Journal reporter, Craig Adams, didn’t include some important information about 720 Garden’s new status, like: “Who actually owns the property?” And: “Will the new ownership and use affect the property taxes paid on the property?” And even: “How does the Chamber’s leaving 32 Main Street affect that property’s economics?”

We raised such concerns about 720 Garden in our post “Another Real Estate Sham…Wow! (05.29.09) and we still think they are significant ones, given that the Cook County Assessor’s office currently lists that property [pdf] as two parcels having a combined assessed value of $277,902, although the parcel valued at $72,262 carries a class code of 4-90, for “Not for profit other minor improvements,” while the larger parcel’s 5-92 code is for “Two or three story building containing part or all retail and/or commercial space.”

As a community, Park Ridge needs to be very concerned and circumspect about anything that could reduce rather than increase property tax revenues to a financially-troubled City government, and to the schools which rely almost entirely on property tax revenues for their operations.  Ostensibly, that was the principal driving force behind the Uptown TIF and PRC’s mixed-use development in Uptown.

We believe that while Park Ridge has historically been a haven for a number of non-profits who have contributed to the character of our community, it sure wouldn’t hurt for the City to focus more on attracting and retaining for profit entities and activities.  And we would expect our local Chamber of Commerce to be a leader in that effort.

Which is why we wonder, if only a little bit, about the Chamber and 720 Garden.

Getting Closer To Preserving Our Character?


The City of Park Ridge is one step closer to voting on an ordinance intended to encourage the preservation of old and historically significant buildings following Monday night’s City Council Procedures & Regulation (“P&R”) Committee of the Whole (“COW”) meeting to discuss the draft ordinance crafted by the Historic Preservation Task Force.

We like old buildings that add character to the neighborhoods they grace, and we prefer them to some of those F.A.R.-fudging, cookie-cutter structures that have popped up around town in recent years.  But we also favor the rights of individual property owners to decide what to build on their land, unless those rights are in conflict with an over-riding public purpose.

We also are naturally suspicious of grandiose and factually suspect government pronouncements, like some of those we found in Section 23-1-1 D [pdf] of the proposed ordinance, such as that preservation will  “[s]tablilize and improve the economic vitality and value of the City in general” and “[e]nhance the City’s appeal to visitors so as to support and stimulate commerce.”  

We’re surprised somebody couldn’t find a way to stick “vibrant” in there somewhere.

But unless and until we can identify and ensure the preservation of a lot more “historically significant” buildings in Park Ridge than we here at PublicWatchdog currently are aware of, we don’t see our community becoming a national attraction akin to “Colonial Williamsburg” anytime soon.  That means our City Council and Staff better figure out how to close the multi-million dollar budget holes without counting on an avalanche of tourist dollars.    
The concept is a good one in principle, however, and we hope the proposed ordinance gets a thorough hearing on issues such as whether, and at what cost, the City will be able to effectively preserve historically significant buildings from being torn down or dramatically altered by their owners or developers – unless the City uses already-scarce public funds to acquire them.

We would also like to see somebody (the to-be-created Historic Preservation Commission?) begin pro-actively identifying, at least on a threshold basis, all the structures that are likely to qualify for historic preservation status and why, so as to give both their owners and the City some idea of the scope of the preservation task at hand.

We understand that the ordinance will be on the City Council’s agenda this coming Monday (September 28, 7:30 p.m.).  For those who believe in the preserving the character of our community, that might be a meeting worth attending.

Another Odd Executive Office Plaza Development


An agenda item at tonight’s City Council meeting (7:30 p.m., City Hall) is a request from Park Ridge 2004 LLC, the developer of Executive Office Plaza (“EOP”), to defer the City’s consideration of the Stage 2 development plan for 18 more months, until March 2011.

Back in November 2007, a 4-3 majority of the City Council voted to sweeten the pot for the developer – a joint venture that included Norwood Builders and Chody Real Estate – by giving it 8 more residential units than the City’s zoning code allows, notwithstanding the vigorous opposition of neighboring residents and others in the community who saw no reason for such a variance and/or who suspected it to be the product of insider wheeling and dealing.

As can be seen from the Staff memo dated September 21, 2009 [pdf], the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission (“P&Z”) recommended, back on November 24, 2008, that the Council approve the developer’s Stage 2 plan, but with four conditions. Under the City’s zoning code the Council was supposed to review that recommendation within 30 days, which would have been in December 2008. 

But because “the applicant was not prepared to move forward,” the Council apparently took no action, although we find it puzzling that we can’t seem to find anything in any Council minutes that would explain the legal and/or factual basis for the Council’s inaction – which effectively has given the developer an almost 9-month de facto extension because either someone at City Hall was asleep at the wheel or somebody intentionally (but inexplicably) left it off the Council’s agenda.


In any event, according to a letter from the developer’s attorney [pdf], the “current economic climate does not permit the Developer to secure financing for the Project nor is it advisable to compel the Developer to commence construction of the Project at this time.”  The letter goes on to say that “[i]t benefits neither [sic] the Developer, the City, nor local residents for construction of the Project to occur on the Property at this time.”

Says who?

First of all, we’re more than a little confused by the attorney’s citation to provisions of the City’s zoning code (e.g., Section 5.5(D)(2)(b)(i) and Section 5.5(C)) which – based on the version that’s available on the City’s website – don’t seem to support or even reference the arguments the attorney is making.  Surprisingly, there’s no mention of that in the Staff Memo.

But, more importantly, it seems to us that if this project is going to go forward, there is no benefit to the City or its residents to delay it; and the developer’s attorney didn’t identify any such benefit in his letter.  That also wasn’t questioned in the Staff Memo.

Oddly enough, Community Preservation & Development Director Carrie Davis, the author of the Staff Memo, doesn’t provide the Council with an actual substantive recommendation on the 18-month extension request under the “Recommendation” heading.  Instead, she simply, and without explanation, ignores it – stating only that, if the Council goes with the extension, then the developer should be required to immediately replace all boarded-up windows with glass and remove all the litter.


Questions About District 64’s “Strategic Plan”


If you check out the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 website, you will find a reference to the District’s August 2009 “update” of its efforts to recruit members of five “Action Teams” to devise ways to implement the District’s “Strategic Plan,” which is currently still in draft form [pdf].

We have to confess we find that most “strategic plans” – especially those devised by governmental bodies – come off like a collection of stereotypes, riddled with clichés and salted with aphorisms.  And District 64’s seems to fit that bill, starting with a “Mission” statement that reads like it was the blue-light special in the “educational” section of Mission Statements R Us.

Instead of the gobbledy-gook that jams “inspire,” “embrace,” “discover,” “achieve, “thrive,” “providing,” “integrating” and “fostering” into one quasi-Faulknerian sentence, why not simply adopt as its mission the definition of the “supreme end of education” often attributed (some say, incorrectly) to Samuel Johnson:

Expert discernment in all things – the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and the counterfeit.

But since most people pay little attention to mission statements after they’re drafted, we’re going to focus on a few of the draft plan’s “Parameters” and a couple of its “Beliefs.”

            Parameter (No. 1) says that “[n]o new program or service will be accepted unless…it[s] benefits clearly justify the costs….”  We can’t wait to see the District implement this one, maybe because in more than a decade we have yet to see or hear about anything coming out of the ESC that comes anywhere close to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis…about anything.

            Parameter (No. 2) insists that “[n]o program or service will be retained unless it provides an optimal contribution to the mission and [the] benefits continue to justify the cost.”  So not only does this Parameter reiterate cost-benefit analysis, but it also moves into the realm of that superlative known as “optimal.”  Can anybody remember the last time the District achieved anything that fit the “optimal” description?

            Parameter (No. 3) promises that performance on the ISAT standardized tests “will always compare favorably with other high-achieving districts.”  Depending on how the District defines “other high-achieving districts,” the next time this happens will be the first – as evidenced by the fact that no District 64 elementary or middle school has ranked among the Top 50 in ISAT scoring since those rankings began several years ago.

            Parameter (No. 4) promises that “[a]bsent dire unforeseen financial circumstances, the District will honor its commitment to not seek a referendum before 2017.”  We realize this reflects the “deal with the devil” the District made with the voters in order to garner enough support to pass the big tax increase referendum in 2007, but it’s this kind of foolish promise, also mentioned during the 1997 “new Emerson” referendum campaign, that pushed the District’s finances perilously close to a State Board of Education takeover during the period of 2003-2005.

But if you don’t get the warm-and-fuzzies from those Parameters, maybe you can try some of the “Beliefs.”  The two we like best are:

            Belief (No. 5), which states that “[h]igh expectations and a positive attitude result in higher performance.”  Okay, but that must mean it’s time to jack up those expectations, or get a lot more positive with the attitude – in view of the District’s lackluster performance when compared to those “other high-achieving districts.”

            Finally, Belief (No. 6) makes “[e]veryone within our community…responsible for the education and development of our children.”  Hey, we can buy into that “it takes a village” business from Park Ridge’s own Hillary Clinton, but putting responsibility on “everyone” usually results in responsibility being taken by no one.  And that’s the kind of government plan we’ve come to know and pay for, handsomely, on a regular basis.

We just never realized it was “strategic.”  

Concealing The Details Of A “Fair” Contract Raises Questions


Last week, both local papers reported on the new teacher contract approved by Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, under which the teachers will receive a 2.5% increase per year over the next 3 years.

Both newspaper articles similarly pointed out that the teachers will also get annual “step” increases, although only the Journal noted that those step increases will average approximately 2% – making the raises on average approximately 4.5% per year, or approximately 13.5% guaranteed over the three years of the contract.

What we find troubling about both accounts, however, is that there is no mention of exactly what that 2% – or 4.5% – translates to, either over the range of more than 360 individual teacher salaries or, more importantly, for the overall cost to the District. 

That’s not the best reporting by our two local newspapers, but we suspect that one reason for the absence of such information is that it wasn’t offered up by either the District or the Union.  And local governments around these parts know that not offering such information to overworked and underpaid suburban reporters pretty much ensures that it won’t show up in their stories.

So if you’re either Board president John Heyde or Union president Fred Klonsky, saying nothing about the total extra dollars this contract will cost the taxpayers means that they can get away with patting each other on the back while telling the stiffs who pay the bills that the contract was “fair.”  Who’s in a position to beef when they don’t have any hard numbers to beef about?

Even District 64’s own website posts only a press release [pdf] which, not surprisingly, is silent on these overall costs.  And if you go to the District’s website and look up its “Education Finance Fact Book,” you will find that the District’s teachers were paid $22.3 million…in 2006 [pdf], the last year the District has reported. 

In a world of truly transparent government, the District would keep such information up to date – which shouldn’t be that hard when it’s just a matter of website management.  So we have to wonder whether there’s a reason why subsequent years’ figures aren’t reported, especially because we have to assume the District and the Union had them to use during their 2.5% negotiations.

Could it be that lack of information beyond 2006 is a convenient way for the District to avoid reporting on salaries for 2007 and 2008, the years in which there was an influx of extra money coming from the most recent tax increase referendum?  You remember that referendum, don’t you…the one in which the District, the Union, and their respective supporters virtually swore on a stack of Bibles that those tax increases wouldn’t be going for higher teacher salaries?

Well, no matter how you spin it, a 4.5% (general and step) annual increase means over $1 million in extra salaries, even based on that outdated 2006 salary figure.   Which means that some of that referendum tax money is, indeed, going for higher teacher salaries.

So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and “he” is all the taxpayers of District 64 who continue to fill the stockings of the District 64 teachers – and those well-paid administrators, whose salary increases have a “Compound Annual Growth Rate” that’s almost 2% higher than the teachers’ raises over that 2002-2006 period – without regard for the educational performance (e.g., standardized testing) of the District’s students. 

But for all you taxpayers who may have lost your private sector jobs, or have watched your private sector pay cut, or seen your private sector 401(k) turn into a 41(k), the District wants you to know that its “teachers will continue to contribute toward the cost of their own health insurance coverage.”

Just like private sector employees have been doing for decades, even without those guaranteed 4%+ salary increases.

Zoning Ordinance? What Zoning Ordinance?


This week’s editions of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate and the Park Ridge Journal carried accounts of how the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission (“P&Z”) is addressing the development proposal for the three residential properties located at 1963 through 1975 W. Touhy – immediately east of the Town of Maine Cemetery (“Commission suggests changes for Touhy condo developer,” Herald-Advocate Sept. 10; “Park Ridge Condo Plan Requires Variances,” Journal Sept. 9).

In case you missed it, Hoffman Homes, Inc. wants a change those parcels from their current R-2 status to R-4, and then construct 32 (per the H-A) or 20 (per the Journal) condominium units where only 12 would normally be allowed.  For the record, the City’s own report for the August 25th P&Z meeting [pdf] references the 32 unit figure, so we’ll go with that – and we wonder where the Journal came up with only 20. 

Which means that Hoffman is looking for 20 units more than the R-4 designation permits for that site!  Absurd?  Not from what we’ve seen from P&Z or our City Council over the years. 

In fact, with the way land is re-zoned and variances handed out over at City Hall, a development that observes the zoning code and doesn’t ask for variances – like the Neri Companies’ Gateway Estates at 315 S. Northwest Hwy. – is the rare exception rather than the rule.

Remember the proposed Heinz development at Greenwood and Northwest Hwy.?  Or Norwood Builders’ Executive Office Plaza development on Northwest Hwy. and Washington?  Each one of those got a significant number of additional units, although it looks like the recession has put both of those developments on the back burner for the time being. But that’s why we aren’t surprised when Hoffman shows up asking for all those extra units.

Oh, we hear Community Development Director Carrie Davis saying that “density is probably the biggest issue.”  No, Ms. Davis, an overage of almost 200% in residential units, or “density,” is DEFINITELY the biggest issue, or at least it should be. 

Because Hoffman Homes has not yet submitted a formal application for a planned development, P&Z considered what is known under our zoning code as a “concept plan review.” 

The City’s Community Preservation and Development Department recommendation was that P&Z should “[p]rovide comments” on the concept plan and ask Hoffman to “provide some indication…as to what public benefits listed in Section 5.5 [of the zoning code] are to be provided in exchange for the exceptions….”

We wonder why they didn’t simply tell Hoffman: “Come back after you have read our zoning code and have a project that conforms to it”? 

For Want Of A Tree, A Design Is Lost?


Last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reports that the Park Ridge Public Library Board recently voted to give the Lakota Group a $5,860 contract to redesign the area south of the Library entrance, in the wake of the destruction of a tree during a June storm. (“Board selects firm to redesign reading area,” September 3)

The redesign is supposed to include the “removal of the bluestone gravel surface” and the addition of more trees “to create more shade in that area for people to sit” – according to Library Director Janet Van De Carr. 

We realize that in the scheme of the Library’s annual budget – which, incidentally, we could not find on the Library’s website – $5,860 might be considered chump change.  But we noticed that the Library Board is spending this money to redesign an area that was designed just two short years ago by…wait for it…the Lakota Group.  

We assume, or at least we would hope, that the original Lakota Group design for the “City Commons” was worth the money spent on it, which we recall as exceeding $1 million, all in.  So unless that Lakota design has somehow become obsolete in the intervening two years, why is the Library Board voting to redesign that entire area?  

C’mon, folks!  If destruction of the tree on that site is what’s driving this effort, then instead of spending almost $6,000 to redesign that area why not put that money toward replacing the fallen tree? 

We subscribe to the theory that when somebody says “It’s not the money, it’s the principle,” it’s usually the money.  But in this case, with the City’s finances in shambles and the recession impacting virtually every revenue source the City has, it should be about both money and principle. 

And if Lakota Group can’t come up with a design that remains viable for more than two years, why is the Library Board giving them yet another design (or “redesign”) contract?   

Labor Day 2009


Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, thanks to legislation promoted by labor unions and signed by President Grover Cleveland.  But after decades of actually celebrating working people, Labor Day seems to have become more of a generic holiday, in this case marking the unofficial end of summer.

But this year Labor Day may have a more poignant meaning for more Americans than it has had for a generation, because this Labor Day finds more of us unemployed – 9.7% in August – than since the Recession of 1983.  That’s nothing to celebrate.  And if we count those who have settled for part-time work or have entirely given up looking for work, we have an “under-employment” rate of 16.8%.

So we encourage our readers with jobs to “celebrate” Labor Day 2009 by doing something nice for someone you know who is unemployed or under-employed.  Invite them and their families over for a barbecue.  Maybe make an introduction to a friend or acquaintance who can serve as a new networking connection.  Or just drop by with a cold six-pack and shoot the breeze.

Meanwhile, we leave you with the following quotes about work:

  • “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” (Thomas Edison)
  • “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” (Theodore Roosevelt)
  • “God sells us all things at the price of labor.” (Leonardo da Vinci)
  • “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” (Thomas Jefferson)
  • “I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with the head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.” (John D. Rockefeller)
  • “No great achievement is possible without persistent work.” (Bertrand Russell)
  • “There is no labor a person does that is undignified; if they do it right.” (Bill Cosby)
  • “What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures.” (Samuel Gompers)

And one light-hearted one:

  • “I like work: it fascinates me.  I can sit and look at it for hours.” (Jerome K. Jerome)

Crumbling Sewers


This week the Herald-Advocate reports that the City of Park Ridge is experiencing an increase in sewer collapses. (“Sewers collapsing more frequently,” Sept. 1)  

Some of the descriptions of this problem are disturbing, like the 21-inch clay-tile sewer in front of 496 N. Northwest Hwy. that “basically disintegrated on one side,” according to Water & Sewer Dept. foreman Ron Brubaker.  He also warned that these older sewers would continue to crumble, and pointed to “the lack of funding in the past several years” as the culprit in the reduction in the number of sewers being replaced or reinforced.

Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim echoed Brubaker’s concern, noting that a half-million dollars for sewer reinforcement – lining the old clay tile sewers with a stronger material – was cut from this year’s budget by the City Council.  He also advocated for funding to put television cameras throughout the sewer system so that conditions could be regularly monitored.

What these comments suggest is that our elected officials, and City Staff, have neglected these infrastructure problems not just for the past several years but for most of the past decade, if not longer.  Of course, sewer maintenance, repair and replacement isn’t very glamorous, and it certainly isn’t as much “fun” as throwing millions of dollars at the developers of a snazzy residential complex in Uptown, or the landscaping around the Library. 

It also doesn’t give elected officials their political jollies the way pandering to a couple hundred residents looking for $2,500 windfalls in the name of “flood control” does for Aldermen Frank Wsol and Don Bach.  Both of them also wanted to borrow $16 million or more to build a big new cop shop, too, but at least the voters were given the opportunity to tell them to pound sand (at least for the time being), thanks to the citizen-initiated referendum organized by resident Joe Egan – which was so good it couldn’t even be bollixed up by the ridiculous, last-minute referendum question submitted by…wait for it…Ald. Wsol.

And let’s not forget that it was Wsol who led the boneheaded effort to prevent Richie Daley’s water rate increase to be passed through to water users, adding at least $400,000 to this year’s budget deficit.  Bach led the cheers for Wsol on that one, too.

But Bach and Wsol aren’t alone in their financial foolishness.  You haven’t heard Alds. Jim Allegretti, Tom Carey, Rich DiPietro or Robert Ryan worrying publicly about the sewers when they are discussing how to continue and even increase their deficit spending, like by voting to give even more feel-good money to private community groups who just can’t seem to gain the public support needed to fund themselves without going on the taxpayers’ dole.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, it should become painfully obvious soon: The City is in a world of economic hurt, and the officials who are supposed to be solving these problems are whistling past the graveyard – when they’re not throwing gasoline on the fire!

Until the Council and Staff figure out that every $2,500 spent on a back-check valve is $2,500 less for repair or replacement of a crumbling sewer, the quality of our community’s infrastructure is going to continue to disintegrate like those clay tiles running 10 feet under our streets.