The Park Ridge Spiral


In yesterday’s editorial, “The Illinois Spiral,” the Chicago Tribune editorial board noted that Illinois got itself into the economic mess it currently faces via “the Law of Accumulation: Little things add up.” 

A lot of phrases from that Tribune editorial describing State government are equally applicable to City of Park Ridge government. 

Like the State of Illinois, Park Ridge also has gotten itself into a downward spiral of its own by a lot of little things adding up over the years.  For example, previous mayors and aldermen found it easier to pander to a variety of short-term special interests than to comprehensively build toward the City’s long-term future – such as by borrowing tens of millions for a frill like the Uptown Redevelopment TIF that continues to suck millions out of the City treasury, instead of taxing and borrowing fewer millions for infrastructure essentials like sewer maintenance and replacement.  

Emulating their counterparts down in Springfield, another “little thing” our politicians did was form a “mutual admiration society” with our City employees, creating a system of automatic annual raises and increased benefits unrelated to increases in productivity.  And because residents displayed so little interest in demanding a fiscally-responsible City government, the politicians and bureaucrats alike found little to worry about in the way of accountability, either on a day-to-day basis or at the ballot box.

One would think that the recession would have given City government the incentive to re-invent itself.  But like our State Capitol, it appears our City Hall “brims with defensive, small-think pols hoping to survive another election” while “dithering through a crisis, inviting an even more bleak future with their refusal to reform government spending.”

Which might explain (about as well as anything can) Ald. Don “Air Marshall” Bach, joined by Alds. Jim Allegretti, Robert Ryan and Tom Carey, voting for a “little thing” like budgeting $165,000 – including $105,000 for our very own lobbyist! – to once again tilt at the O’Hare windmill, even as the federal government bestows $410 million for O’Hare expansion.  The chances of that $165,000 having any significant effect on the O’Hare situation?  None.  But those aldermen appear to be betting that it will ingratiate them to those Belle Plaine folks who act like O’Hare’s existence was just revealed by a burning bush. 

Another “little thing” those same four aldermen, along with Ald. Rich DiPietro, also approved was to give more unrestricted handouts of tax dollars ($185,680) to private community groups who have no legal accountability to the taxpayers.  Once again, several special interests get greased in the hope that they won’t squeak, and that they will say nice things about their City Council benefactors.

Meanwhile, the Council continues to disregard the prospect of a $936,000 cut in the City’s share of state income tax revenues as proposed by Governor Quinn, which the Council already has been warned about by State Rep. Rosemary Mulligan.  That might be nothing more than political posturing, but the Council ignores it at its – and, more importantly, our – peril. 

The Council plans to vote on adopting this questionable budget Thursday night (April 15), following a public hearing at 7:00 p.m.  In referring the budget from committee to the Council for final approval, DiPietro noted that not many citizens show up for those hearings.  We suspect the Council is sincerely hoping that’s the case again this year, so they can dodge this particular bullet without much more attention. 

That causes us to echo one other comment from yesterday’s Tribune editorial: Park Ridge “needs leaders who [will] unwind the terrible indebtedness that lawmakers past and present have bequeathed to taxpayers and their grandchildren.”

Because one thing is certain: we sure don’t have them now.