Another Side To The “Culture Of Secrecy”


This week’s Park Ridge Journal carried a story about the October 12 City Council Committee of the Whole meeting, at which was discussed the owner of the building at 31-33 S. Prospect re-claiming 8 parking spots that had been leased to the City since 1986 for $1 per year (“Businesses Want Parking Lot Back,” Oct. 14).

The City acquired the right to those spaces in the rear of that building and other adjoining buildings to create “Pickwick Plaza” by installing lights and landscaping.  According to Director of Community Development Carrie Davis, all of the leases for the Pickwick Plaza have come due, and none of the seven property owners have expressed interest in renewing the leases.

Apparently the lease for 31-33 S. Prospect was “the only one…that required a restoration” of the property to its pre-Pickwick Plaza condition, according to City Attorney Everette “Buzz” Hill.

Actually, the owner of that property is willing to re-up the lease with the City, but at market rates rather than the token $1 per year.  That would have put the rent at approximately $2,000 a month.  If the City chooses not to re-up, however, it is required under the lease to restore the area to its 1986 condition of 8 parking spaces and a dumpster pad, for which the City has received a bid of $62,369.

Whether maintaining that portion of Pickwick Plaza is worth $24,000 a year is an open question, especially in view of the cost of restoration.  But we find two aspects of this situation particularly interesting – one troubling, the other surprising to the point of humor.

The troubling aspect of this situation is the fact that neither the Journal account of it, nor the City’s “Agenda Cover Memorandum” [pdf] by Director of Community Development Carrie Davis, identifies the owner of that property.  And, even more amazingly, a review of the video of that meeting reveals that even during the almost one-half hour Council/Staff discussion, the owner’s name was not mentioned once!

What’s so secret about the identity of this particular property owner that he can only be referred to as “the owner”?  And why does he appear to be playing games with the City, as suggested by the conflicting assertions of his need for the 8 parking spaces but yet being willing to forego those needed 8 spaces for a rental payment of $24,000 a year?   


As for the surprising/humorous aspect, try Ald. Don Bach’s (3rd Ward) having “broached the idea” of the City just grabbing the land by condemnation under eminent domain.  Although eminent domain condemnation is a perfectly legitimate and constitutionally-approved power of government to acquire property for an identifiable public purpose, our local politicians and bureaucrats historically have treated this “ED” as if it were the medical problem with the same abbreviation: they didn’t want to even talk about it.

Over the past couple of years, Bach and the rest of the aldermen dared not even whisper the words “eminent domain” while their mentor, former mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, negotiated behind the scenes with various property owners around town, ostensibly to cut a deal on a site for the big new cop shop Frimark – and Bach – desired. The party line then was that a negotiated deal was better than condemnation, even though eminent domain provides for the owner to receive Fair Market Value for his property.

Yet here’s Bach, speaking those words publicly about what seems to us to be a pretty insignificant piece of ground. 

We have to wonder whether Bach’s apparent change of heart has anything to do with the identity of the owner, he whose name must not be spoken?