The Watchdog’s Kibbles & Bits – Box 19


Are Billboards Back?  At Monday night’s City Council COW meeting, Ald. Jim “Billboards” Allegretti resumed his fight to get “supermajority” re-defined so that it requires only 5 aldermanic votes rather than the current 6 votes from a combination of the mayor and all 7 aldermen.  That’s a pretty clear indication that Allegretti and his newest best friends at Generation Group, Inc. (“GGI”) will be back trying to end-run the Planning & Zoning Commission’s rejection of billboards for GGI.

With Allegretti’s having voted Monday night against increasing water rates, we can’t wait to hear him renew his impassioned pleas for the needed revenue that GGI’s billboards will bring into the City.  And when that time comes, we hope he brings along his public-spirited law officemate, Frankie DiFranco, whose sincere concern about the City’s financial welfare mysteriously evaporated when the billboard deal fell off the table.

District 64’s Got A Secret  Sounds like the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board has narrowed its choices for the replacement of retiring Supt. Sally Pryor down to five candidates, at least according to a story in this week’s Park Ridge Journal (“District 64 Supt. Search Down To Five Candidates,” Feb. 24).  But we find it strange and troublesome that those candidates weren’t identified in that Journal story.

Whether the cause of that omission is incompetent reporting by Dwight Esau or intentional concealment by the District 64 Board, we see no good reason for this kind of secrecy – especially for any of the candidates who already are Dist. 64 employees and whose application for the superintendant’s position would not cause the same kind of concern by their bosses that an application from another district’s employee might cause his/her bosses.   

Richie D. Talks Trash  This week’s Journal also quotes 2nd Ward Ald. (and Finance Committee chairman) Rich DiPietro about the new budget, thusly: “If I had my way, we’d try to get [the new budget] done by Easter (Apr. 4).”

That’s just a bunch of hooey. 

Why wasn’t Richie D demanding the acceleration of the budget process back in November, December or January – when it might have mattered.  And just as significantly, April 4 is only 3 weeks before the deadline for passing the budget, so Richie D’s “way” is pretty much just more of the same old same old.  Which means we shouldn’t expect a better budget this year than in the past.

Ald. Ryan Solves City Budget Mess!


Maybe Fifth Ward Ald. Robert Ryan didn’t realize the full implication of what he was saying near the end of Monday night’s Committee of the Whole (“COW”) meeting, when he took the opportunity to once again trumpet his idea for a citizens finance task force/committee to do the work City Staff and the City Council seem to be so incapable of doing…or doing right.

Ryan, mustering all of his stiff upper lip resolve, stated that “there is one taxing entity in this town that doesn’t have financial problems” because “they have a tremendously strong financial committee.”  The object of his ardor: Park Ridge-Niles Elementary School District 64.

That’s right, folks.  Ryan wants the City to create a citizens finance task force/committee because the one over at District 64 has done, according to Ryan, “a super job advising the District 64 School Board.”

We don’t know whether to laugh or cry over a statement like that, because we can’t tell whether Ryan actually believes that ridiculous beeswax, or whether he knows it’s beeswax but is just trying to sell it to naive, uninformed Park Ridge residents – like the ones who bailed out District 64 with a massive tax increase 3 years ago in response to that administration’s and Board’s mismanagement of its finances even with the advice of a citizens finance committee!  

Ryan didn’t mention that referendum, which he supported.  And he didn’t mention the $5 million in working cash bonds the District issued without a referendum back in 2005, effectively replenishing the District’s depleted reserves and preventing the Illinois State Board of Education from taking over the District’s finances after several years of it being on the ISBE’s “early warning” or “watch list” for poor financial performance – tied in no small measure to the District’s drawing down its reserves to fund its regular operations, just like Ryan and his buddies have enabled the City to do in the wake of recent budget deficits.

But we suspect that what Ryan really doesn’t want taxpayers remembering is how the deterioration of District 64’s finances can be traced back to the construction of the new Emerson Middle School – for which then-District 64 Board Member Ryan was one of the main cheerleaders – that replaced what was then the newest school in the District.  As best as we can tell, the debt service on that new building and the costs of its operations were underestimated and/or misrepresented in the course of the successful “Yes/Yes” referendum campaign.

So when Ryan praises the District 64 finance committee, what he’s really saying is: “The City needs the same kind of committee that let District 64’s finances go down the drain before recommending a sneaky $5 million bond issue without a referendum, followed by a referendum for a multi-million property tax increase.”

Why didn’t you just say so, Robert?

A multi-million dollar tax increase would solve many of the City’s financial problems.  And, unlike District 64, which has to go to referendum to raise taxes above a modest amount, the City – as a home-rule body – can raise our taxes by mere resolution.  If that’s what Ryan and his fellow big-spenders on the Council are trying to achieve by continuing to jackpot the City treasury, they should have the decency to just say so.

Meanwhile, since neither Ryan nor Finance Committee Chairman Ald. Rich DiPietro (2nd Ward) seems capable of figuring out how to cut the budget in lieu of raising taxes, here’s one free bit of advice for moving forward on the budget while awaiting Hock’s draft document: Tell each department head to cut 10% of the current year’s expenses for the upcoming budget year 2010-11.  Such an exercise might not provide a final answer, but at least it’s more of a start than we’ve seen from the Council so far.

And it didn’t even require a citizens finance committee.

Scapegoat City Mgr. Being Fitted For “The Jacket”


In Chicago and Cook County political circles, wearing “the jacket” means getting saddled with the blame for some governmental snafu or other.  Right now, whether he knows it or not, City Mgr. Jim Hock is being fitted for “the jacket” for the City’s current financial crisis, including the upcoming budget. 

Ironically, the “tailors” doing that fitting are some of the same guys on the City Council whom Hock befriended upon arriving from Oak Park, Michigan, in July 2008. That looked like a savvy political move by Hock at the time, as the aldermen are the ones who voted to approve his hiring and, presumably, could ensure his continued employment.

So Hock curried their favor and that of their political master, then-mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, by proposing a 2009-10 budget that Hock actually called “balanced” despite its $52.6 million of expenses and only $50.7 million of anticipated revenues.  That’s almost $2 million of deficits, coming on the heels of two consecutive years in which the City’s General Operating Fund posted additional deficits totaling $4 million. 

And Hock’s “balanced” budget caused the City’s fund balances to erode even further as money was drawn from them to make up for the budget deficit – just as closer scrutiny began to disclose what looks like significant portions of some of those fund balances being comprised of IOUs from other City funds.  If that truly is the case, it’s a classic “robbing Peter to pay Paul” situation – something the City has also done when it borrows money from the water fund to meet the City’s payroll.

At this point in time it looks like Hock is over his skis on these matters, in no small measure because of the financial mess he inherited from former city mgr. Tim Schuenke, who seemingly pulled budget numbers out of thin air that the Council then mindlessly rubber-stamped because either they didn’t know better, or they just didn’t care. 

Unfortunately, other than playing political footsie with the Council, Hock has done little to clean up that mess.  He has also twiddled his thumbs in replacing departed Finance Director, Diane Lembesis, leaving himself short-handed for the task of budget preparation. 

But when Mayor Dave Schmidt recently called out the Council for all this fiscal irresponsibility in his “State of the City” address, his aldermanic adversaries had to try to make it look like they weren’t the spendthrift boobs the mayor portrayed.  Without any ideas of their own for how to cut spending or raise revenues, however, their strategy was to create a diversion by laying into Hock for not already having a budget document for them to review. 

No discussion of any specific changes to substantive fiscal policy.  No suggestions for what departments might be able to sustain significant budget cuts with the least adverse consequences.  No meaningful debate on the reasons for maintaining and replenishing fund balances rather than depleting them.  Just criticism of Hock and the “process” of producing the draft budget.

Yet despite all the criticism of Hock just a week ago, a peek at tonight’s City Council Committee of the Whole meeting agenda [pdf] shows no such discussions, suggestions or debate on those matters are scheduled under the Finance & Budget section.  We do note, however, that the agenda shows a discussion about amending the City ordinance dealing with…wait for it…the budget “process.”

In many places that would be called “Fiddling while Rome burns.”  But here in Park Ridge, Crook County, Illinois, it has another name.

Any bets on whether Hock is a 36 regular or a 38 short?

Richie D And The Council Pass The Buck… Again


President Harry S Truman got a lot of attention for the sign he kept on his desk in the Oval Office which read: “The Buck Stops Here.”

While watching Ald. Rich DiPietro (2nd Ward) discharge the self-proclaimed “high honor” of reading the aldermen’s “unanimous response” to Mayor Dave Schmidt’s recent “State of the City” address Monday night, we noticed two major differences between his words and those of the mayor; and they both involved where the buck doesn’t stop.

First, the Council, through DiPietro, accepted no – none, zero, zip, nada – responsibility for the City’s current economic condition.  Where Schmidt claimed blame for his votes, as First Ward Alderman, for the last two deficit budgets, DiPietro threw blame at everybody but himself and his fellow aldermen.  It’s the city manager, city staff, our state government in Springfield, and especially “the recession” that are the causes of the City’s financial troubles.

Second, the Council, through DiPietro, did not even commit to the mayor’s demand for an honest, legitimate “balanced budget.”  In fact, the only time those two words – “balanced budget” – escaped his lips was when he was referencing the City’s obligations under state law.

So when DiPietro grandly announced that he and his fellow aldermen agreed with Schmidt, all they actually agreed with him on is Schmidt’s idea of starting the budget “process” earlier. 

Big whoop.

Frankly, we’re tired of all of the “processes” that continue to produce bad results.  What the taxpaying residents of Park Ridge deserve is an honest, legitimate balanced budget based on real numbers, not smoke and mirrors…one that the City will actually live with rather than ignore.  Unfortunately, that’s not something DiPietro promised Monday night.

Instead, he issued a call for “departments within City government [to] be combined, services…to be streamlined and delivered more efficiently.”  

Calling for such sweeping changes less than three months before the budget must be adopted can only mean that DiPietro and his alder-mates, knowing full well those things can’t reasonably be accomplished in time to include their effects in this year’s budget, are simply looking to buy another year of deficit spending by holding out the idle promise of something better.  Next year.

That’s just plain dishonest…and cynical.

Equally dishonest and cynical was his call for a “fiscal commission – a body of citizens that can advise this Council and future Councils on the financial health of this City more often than just once a year.”  As we’ve said before, such a commission is a transparent attempt at off-loading the Staff’s and Council’s budget responsibility onto some group of unelected, unaccountable citizens whom these politicians and bureaucrats can use to deflect criticism of unpleasant financial decisions with the words: “The fiscal commission told us to do it.”

DiPietro also defended further drawing down of the City’s already-depleted reserves to keep on paying the costs of “community-supported projects like the redevelopment of our Uptown area.”  That’s the Uptown project the voters never got a say about (but Richie D. avidly supported) and that accounts for tens of millions of dollars of City bond debt while continuing to suck cash out of the City’s coffers to cover the debt service on those bonds.

DiPietro didn’t explain how those reserves will be built back up again, probably because he knows that will require more taxes.  And neither he nor his Council cronies wanted to talk about increased taxes or fees Monday night.

Ironically, DiPietro is the only alderman to have been on the Council for all of the past 9 years in which the City booked annual deficits in every budget year but one (2006-07), totaling approximately $13 million – yes, $13 million! – in deficits.  And he was also there to rubber-stamp a former Council’s gift of $650,000 of our money to Bensenville and Elk Grove Village for the proposed Peotone airport.

From observing his career on the Council, we sadly conclude that DiPietro is a poster child for what has been wrong, and what remains wrong, with City government: the clueless acting witless while striving to remain blameless.

How To Waste $25,000


As the City of Park Ridge continues to negotiate stormy financial seas with an economically rudder-less City Council, watching the folks over at 505 Butler Place waste even $25,000 is no fun.

Which is why a recent article in the Herald-Advocate (“Planning and Zoning Commission: “Long-range plan has offices, townhouses along Higgins,” February 1) about the Planning and Zoning Commission (“P&Z”) spending $50,000 on a “long-range plan” for the Higgins Corridor annoys us, even though $25,000 of that amount purportedly came from some kind of grant.

One reason for our annoyance is that it sounds like this “long-range plan” is just more activity without achievement, the typical result of far too many consultants’ studies we’ve seen.  In this case, the likely uselessness of the work product from two of the City’s “usual suspect” consultants, Camiros Ltd. and Valerie S. Kretchmer Associates, Inc., was effectively conceded by Camiros’ principal consultant, Jacques Gourgechon, who admitted that the plan they proposed “is a reach, there’s no question about it.”

The stupidity of this way of proceeding, however, is highlighted by the fact – as reported in the H-A article – that the City’s adoption of this new Higgins Corridor “plan” would make it part of the City’s 1996 comprehensive plan, but potential developers are not obligated to follow it.

So what’s the point?

What we’ve seen repeatedly in Park Ridge and in other communities is the simple fact that, despite whatever grand designs government bureaucrats and politicians can muster, the person paying the bill – a/k/a, the “developer” – is the one that ends up pretty much calling the tune.  Which is why, for example, the Uptown complex is effectively six (6) stories even though the “plan” that the Uptown Advisory Task Force devised back in 2000-01 called for only five (5) story structures.

This current exercise in stupidity also ends up costing the City not only the $25,000 it donated to Camiros and Kretchmer to match the grant funding, but also the time and effort P&Z and City staff already has sunk into it, and is continuing to sink into it.

But if anyone needs one more reason to be skeptical about this kind of governmental exercise, one need look no further than the comment from Carrie Davis, the City’s director of community development, who claims the purpose of the plan “is to explore opportunities to create a more vibrant southern gateway to Park Ridge.”

When bureaucrats start using the term “vibrant” in describing some project or another, you can be pretty sure the project already is being set up to cost the taxpayers a bundle.

Meanwhile, the hired-gun consultants like Camiros and Kretchmer just keep diddling away on the public dole.

Ryan’s Rebuttal Predictable, Petty


In last Friday’s post about Mayor Dave Schmidt’s “State of the City” address, we predicted that any response from his City Council “opponents” would be short on competing ideas and long on “petty personal criticisms of…his ‘confrontational’ style of leadership.”

So today we give a big Watchdog bark-out to Ald. Robert Ryan (5th Ward) for his brief but insipid rebuttal at the end of Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting that made us appear prescient, even though predicting what the alder-dwarfs will do isn’t really all that tough.

We admit to being surprised, however, that Ryan was the “opposition’s” designated hitter – if only because he was MIA a week ago when Schmidt gave the address.  We assumed any rebuttal would come from somebody who actually attended and who could be expected to be more combative, like Ald. Don Bach (3rd Ward).

But Ryan got the nod, and his comments were so…so…vintage Robert.

First he claimed that he and his fellow aldermen “are very concerned about the budget.”  Pardon our guffaws.

Unlike Schmidt, neither Ryan nor his colleagues have publicly admitted fault, or accepted responsibility, for the last two budgets and the several million dollars of deficits that have left City finances in shambles.  And five of those aldermen (Allegretti, Bach, Carey, Ryan and Wsol) are the same guys who most recently demonstrated their “concern” about the budget by increasing the deficit spending and then over-riding Schmidt’s veto of that increased spending.

And if they had gotten their way, we also would be saddled with a new $16 million+ police station that would be adding another million or so of annual debt service expense to the wrong side of the budget.

So if that’s what Ryan means by their “concern” about the budget, we’d sure hate to see  their “indifference” to it.

Ryan then mentioned Bach’s heretofore meaningless calls for unspecified personnel cuts, before slamming Schmidt for not embracing Ryan’s own pet initiative: the creation of a “finance committee” of residents to help the Council make “informed decisions” about the budget and City finances generally.  In other words, Ryan is ticked at Schmidt for not appointing a committee to make finance and budget recommendations which Ryan and his Council cronies can then rubber-stamp, thereby gaining plausible deniability – and a handy scapegoat – for whatever difficult and unpopular cuts will have to be made.

On a Council loaded with lightweights, Ryan is its Willie Pep.

But that’s typical “public official” Robert Ryan who, while on the District 64 School Board, led the effort to replace the District’s then-newest school, Emerson Jr. High, with the current Emerson Middle School – a project so financially ill-conceived that it set the District on a road to fiscal ruin before a $5 million non-referendum bond issue in 2005 and the 2007 multi-million dollar tax increase referendum salvaged it, at least temporarily.

Ryan ended his rebuttal by chiding Schmidt: “Don’t undermine, don’t divide.”

What Ryan can’t seem to grasp is that this Council has produced nothing to “undermine” – other than those multi-million dollar deficit budgets and the emasculation of the Planning & Zoning Commission that should have been “undermined.”

As for “dividing” City government, Ryan (along with Allegretti, Bach, Carey and DiPietro) drew the first line in the sand when they signed onto former-mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark’s ridiculous “condemnation” of then-Ald. Schmidt’s totally legal whistle-blowing on the Council’s closed-session briefings about Frimark’s secret negotiations to buy 720 Garden for $200,000 more than the City’s own appraisal valued it.

Ryan and those other four turned that line into a trench when they collectively pumped over $3,800 into Frimark’s re-election campaign (with Ryan’s $864.51 contribution trailing only Allegretti’s $1,500) in their unsuccessful effort to keep their buddy “Let’s Make A Deal” in the big chair at City Hall.

From what we’ve seen over the past few years, the main “divisions” between Schmidt and the Council majority seem like the divisions that exist between common sense and foolishness, between prudence and irresponsibility, between candor and artifice, between courage and cowardice.

People of Park Ridge, the choices are yours.

What Are “Essential City Services”?


Friday’s post about Mayor Schmidt’s “State of the City” address provoked some spirited comments (51 so far), which is a good thing. 

That’s because how well the City handles its current financial challenges may very well determine whether Park Ridge will remain a highly-desirable, inner-ring residential community – or whether it will decline into an over-taxed, under-serviced backwater.

As we noted in Friday’s post, the central point of the mayor’s address was his statement about the upcoming 2010-11 budget: “Everything except essential City services must be on the table.”

The devil being in the details, however, it will be incumbent on the City Manager, City Staff and, ultimately, the City Council, to determine exactly what constitutes an “essential City service.”  And we look forward to that debate.

But to put our two cents in early, what services are not “essential” are those provided by the various private and quasi-private “community groups” – whether by one of our favorites like the Center of Concern, or our least favorite, the arrogantly secretive Taste of Park Ridge NFP (a/k/a, “Taste Inc.”) – that sucked approximately $271,000 out of the City’s coffers this fiscal year, thereby contributing that same amount to the City’s roughly $2 million deficit.

We are mindful of the disingenuous alibis given by Alder-spendthrifts Don Bach, Robert Ryan and Frank Wsol as they merrily added to the deficit, first by appropriating even more of our tax dollars to those community groups and then by over-riding Mayor Schmidt’s veto of their irresponsibility.  We remember how they puffed and blustered about how those organizations purportedly return $6-8 in services for every dollar they take in.

Back then we challenged Wsol to “put up or shut up” on the details of that bogus claim.  Since then, we’ve heard nothing from Wsol (or Bach or Ryan) on that challenge.  No surprise there, but that challenge still stands – to them or to anyone else who thinks that public funds should be handed over willy-nilly to private organizations which have no legal requirement to account to the taxpayers and voters about how they are spending our money to run their operations.

The bottom line – and we use that term intentionally, because the City’s consistent failure to apply sound business decision-making has contributed the lion’s share of its current financial problems – is that, notwithstanding the gushing accolades heaped on those organizations by their supporters and apologists both inside and outside City government, the City has no legal or ethical obligation to spend our money that way.

How do we know?

Because if those services truly were “essential,” then the City itself would be mandated to provide them directly through some City department or other, using City facilities, equipment and employees (and volunteers, if needed) under the supervision of the City Manager and the City Council, all of whom would be accountable to the taxpaying voters.

Or the City would contract out for those services with the private organization providers – and be specifically invoiced for them rather than be asked for annual arbitrary “contributions” unrelated to the dollar value of the actual services provided. 

And if a majority of our taxpaying residents really thought the services provided by those organizations truly were “essential,” they would be making enough voluntary contributions to provide directly the money those organizations are now obtaining indirectly by tapping the residents’ pocketbooks via the City treasury.

Admittedly, $270,000 is only 13.5% of the $2 million deficit.  But it’s also the annual cost of about 3 cops or firemen, or about an average year and one-half of road salt.  And, like it or not, these are the kinds of this-over-that decisions that City Staff and our elected representatives on the City Council will need to make in order to balance the budget without a big tax increase.  

Meanwhile, let the wailing and gnashing of teeth by those special interest community groups, whose oxen we have just gored, begin!

Speaking Truth To The People


Right before Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, Mayor Dave Schmidt gave what is believed to be the first-ever mayoral “State of the City” address.  The picture he presented was not pretty.

As he promised, Schmidt didn’t mince words.  He stated that we have been “misled for years about [the City’s] financial health” and that “the budget process has been a shell game.”

That comes as no surprise to anyone who observed former city manager Tim Schuenke produce a “balanced” budget by seemingly fabricating whatever revenue numbers were needed to equal expenses.  And it explains why the City posted deficits when reality inevitably intruded on Schuenke’s fantasies. 

The departed Schuenke may have been deceptive, but the City’s current financial mess required him to have accomplices: our mayors and aldermen, who provided us with only one non-deficit fiscal year during the past decade – in 2006-07 but, even then, only with the help of the one-time $6 million+ sale of the City property on which the Uptown development now sits.

Current City Manager Jim Hock didn’t distinguish himself with his first budget, which he pronounced as “balanced” even as it dripped $2 million of red ink.  Since then, Hock has ignored Schmidt’s call for the expedited production of a decent discussion-draft budget to start the process earlier and avoid the last-minute scrambling of years past, making himself more problem than solution.

Perhaps that’s because Hock basically serves at the pleasure of the City Council, not the mayor.  Which means that his continued employment depends upon keeping the Council, not the major, happy.  And this Council, with the exception of newcomer Joe Sweeney (1st Ward), seems happiest when budgets are in deficit and spending remains un-examined and unquestioned.

But the most significant line in Schmidt’s address Wednesday night was one he repeated twice for emphasis: “Everything except essential City services must be on the table” and subject to being cut in order to avoid bigger tax hikes.

It’s about time somebody in government – at the federal, state, county, or local levels – had the courage to say that.

Let’s face it, folks…government has grown in size and expense not so much because of increases in the cost of “essential” services, but because of all the non-essential amenities and frills that the special interests and their pandering politician allies have layered on over the years – almost all of which are so non-essential and cost-ineffective that the private sector won’t even touch them (for example, outdoor water parks in Northern Illinois).

That’s why we applauded Schmidt’s prior call for the implementation of zero-based budgeting (“ZBB”) that would force every City department to wipe the slate clean and justify each and every function and task it performs in order to warrant its appropriation of tax dollars.  But Hock and City bureaucrats rejected ZBB; and the Council – despite some disingenuous lip-service by Alds. Don Bach (3rd Ward) and Tom Carey (6th Ward) that is belied by their voting records – has done nothing to move ZBB forward.

Schmidt’s address Wednesday night sounded the alarm, and it also provided some practical suggestions for turning around the City’s irresponsible budgeting and spending practices.  Unfortunately, a majority of the Council is comprised of Schmidt’s political opponents who seem indifferent, if not outright obstructionist, to any of the fiscal reforms the mayor has proposed. 

Which is why we predict his address will be met, if at all, not with competing ideas from the alder-dwarfs but by petty personal criticisms of the mayor and his “confrontational” style of leadership.

But that comes with the territory when one speaks truth to The People…and the opposition has no ideas of its own.

Kudos To District 207 Board…For Now


Monday night the District 207 Board of Education unanimously said “No” to the Maine Teachers Association, a/k/a the teachers union, when it voted to go ahead with its plan to cut 137 jobs, including 75 teaching jobs.

That was the fiscally responsible decision, and we applaud it – even though Board member Eric Leys was visibly uncomfortable bucking the teachers, and Board member Sean Sullivan sent yet another clear signal of the Board’s pliability when he noted that this decision could be rescinded later this month if there were “negotiations.”

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the fiscal buffoonery of our local governments – especially our two school boards – over the past couple of decades, Sullivan’s comments mean that the Board is eager to roll over and dip into the District’s reserves in response to virtually any “concession” the teachers union might offer.

That’s because the management tradition of both the District 207 Board and the District 64 Board (members of whom are hand-picked by the District 64 & District 207 School Caucus, then rubber stamped by the voters in uncontested elections) is one of weakness and fuzzy thinking, when they think at all.  So it’s easy for them to ignore the fact that the teachers (especially the more senior ones) and most of the administrators are already overcompensated, thanks to years of mindless giveaways by teachers in “administrator” clothing and go-along-to-get-along board members.

Want proof of the weakness and fuzzy thinking? 

Just look at the “compromise” District 207 has already offered the union.  Despite saying how important it was not to dip further into the District’s reserve fund, the Board nevertheless offered to do just that – in an unspecified amount – if the union would agree to lower the pay increases that the Board foolishly gave away in the last contract negotiation, and also agree to a one-year freeze on the cost-of-living increase.

In other words, because the District 207 Board previously gave away the store, it is now begging the teachers to return a can of corn.

That’s just plain spineless, and it explains why the union responded so shamelessly, with union president Emma Visee promptly demanding that the District throw its “compromise” money (from the reserve fund) into the pot, irrespective of whether the union agrees to any concessions.

“If you have identified $2 million you can spend for the students, then do so,” said Visee.

Give a mouse a cookie, and he’ll want a glass of milk. 

Except in the case of the teachers union, the mouse is more of a gorilla.  And as we’ve seen time and time again, it’s not going to settle for just a glass of milk.

So kudos for now, District 207 Board. But we’re still sticking with our prediction that you will sell out the taxpayers, once again, before this is over.

Will District 207 Grow A Spine Tonight?


One of our favorite quotes, often attributed to Julian Bond, is: “In a contest between the shameless and the spineless, the shameless always win.”  And nowhere does that seem to be proved more frequently than in local government, where bumbling bureaucrats and feckless elected officials combine to mismanage our institutions and our tax dollars.

Tonight at 7:00 p.m., the District 207 School Board will be meeting at the Maine South H.S. auditorium to discuss what is looking like the latest spineless maneuver by the Board to appease its lord and master: the Maine Teachers Association, a/k/a, the teachers’ union.

As we reported in the 1/30/10 Update to our 1/26/10 post, “When The Inmates Run The Asylum,” District 207 is now planning to dip into its reserves when, just a couple of weeks ago, it was saying that it could not prudently do so.  That kind of flip flop reminds us of the classic courtroom cross examination question: “Are you lying now, or were you lying then?”

But with teachers playing administrators/businesspersons, and elected officials playing politicians, lying and ignorant incompetence are hard to separate.

Whether the District 207 Board and administration is lying, incompetent or just plain gutless, however, is beside the point: The teachers’ union is shameless, and has been so for at least the past decade.  That’s why teachers are getting paid sizeable annual salaries for only 2/3 or 3/4 of an actual work year, depending on how you count and consider vacation days, holidays, sick days, paid leave days, teacher institute (snicker) days, etc.

And they continue to receive something so wonderful, and so costly, that it has become virtually extinct in the real, private-sector world in which most of us toil: the defined benefit pension.  And let’s not forget tenure, and a job which has positively no chance of being relocated to another state or country.

Fed up with teachers’ union greed?  One of our readers, Kenneth Butterly, is.  And he sent us a copy of his letter [pdf] to District 207 and the case study [pdf] he refers to in his letter, along with the permission to publish both of them. 

Just to show we’re not unfair, however, we are also providing the MTA’s “Myth vs. Reality” propaganda sheet [pdf], which we obtained from its website and which focuses primarily on criticizing bad budgeting, accounting and management by the District’s administration and Board. 

We can’t disagree with that.  But that alone doesn’t mean the teachers aren’t greedy and unreasonable, especially when the District’s mismanagement consists in no small measure of constantly caving in to the teachers’ demands. 

Tonight we will see whether the School Board has a spine of steel or of mush. 

We hope we’re wrong, but we’re betting on the latter.  Because we know that, once again, the teachers union will be shameless.