The Watchdog’s Kibbles & Bits – Box 15


Special “Spokesman” Edition: Today’s K&B focuses on the new issue of “The Spokesman,” our City’s bi-monthly, publicly-funded public relations effort. 

“We’re Fine, Just Ask Us.”  The featured cover story is about City government winning the 2009 “Voice of the People Award for Excellence in Code Enforcement” from the International City/County Management Association (“ICMA”).  Having spent a good amount of time checking out these types of fluff-and-stroke “professional” organizations (isn’t ICMA the one whose meeting City Mgr. Hock recently attended and was told by other city managers that our target fund balances were too high and should be lowered to meet actual performance?) and these kinds of feel-good awards, we’ve graduated from snickering up our sleeves to laughing out loud at how the folks running these mutual-admiration societies for government bureaucrats actually believe the public will fall for this kind of tripe…and how a certain gullible segment of the public actually does. 

But just reading The Spokesman’s bureaucratically-earnest account of the award and why the City won it brought a wry smile to our faces, as we hope it does to yours.  And it should, because we’re all paying for it.

“PRC’s Fine, Just Ask Us.”  For the first time in memory, The Spokesman sports a “special” four-page insert “[that] features our outstanding Uptown redevelopment project as it nears completion.”  For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, that’s the big condo and townhouse project in the center of town that was supposed to be (according to the propaganda floated by developer PRC and our City officials during the planning stage) a “partnership” between PRC and the City. 

Well, we haven’t seen any evidence of any “partnership” – or any good-faith, fiduciary-style behavior from PRC.  What we have seen, however, is the roughly $40 million of bonded debt that’s been hung around the taxpayers’ necks, along with a TIF district that in recent years has sucked millions of additional dollars out of City coffers while almost single-handedly pushing our annual budgets into their chronic multi-million dollar deficits. 

But, hey, it’s a really snazzy – and colorful – puff piece.  Did PRC at least pay for it, or is that yet another instance of PRC picking the taxpayers’ pocket?

New Nonprofit Center.  Last Friday we wrote about the Park Ridge Nonprofit Center, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation that is somehow involved in the ownership and/or management of the building at 720 Garden that formerly housed the American Insurance Agency.  The Spokesman appears to gild the lily a bit by reporting that resident John Sasser purchased the site “to save the building and to offer a site for local nonprofits to protect them from a difficult market situation.”

720 Garden is the property that, back in early 2008, then-mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark wanted the City to buy for a big new cop shop.  He wanted it so much that when the City’s own appraisal came in at several hundred thousand dollars under what the owner was asking, Frimark demanded a new, higher appraisal!  But when he caught some well-deserved flak for that, Frimark and his Alderpuppets retreated into closed session and agreed to offer the owner $1.1 million – more than $200,000 above the City’s appraisal.  The owner rejected the offer, and Sasser appears to have picked it up a year and a half later for $950,000.   

Cynics that we are, we wonder whether Mr. Sasser’s devotion to “saving” the building is a long-term commitment, or just a long-enough one…until the real estate market improves and he can turn a nifty profit on his investment.  Only time will tell.  Meanwhile, however, we wonder whether all those nonprofits he’s inviting into his building will be charged rent or other fees to help him with his carry costs…and whether those nonprofits will, in turn, add those costs into the amount of the handouts they regularly seek – and receive – from a heretofore compliant City Council.

Once again, only time will tell.

1 comment so far

Maybe Mayor Dave hasn’t had a chance yet to muzzle “The Spokesman”?

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