Public Watchdog.org

The Park Ridge Spiral

04.12.10

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.

30 comments so far

This is another good post PD.

Park Ridge is circling the drain and there isn’t anyone in our so called leadership doing anything about it.

Can you link to the Trbune editorial? The way I see it, the state’s unfunded pension liability is now currently estimated at $77.8 BILLION. That’s not little things adding up … that’s one giant whopper.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125076655

FitQ,

Done. Good suggestion.

Call a Plumber,

Schmitty is doing something. He’s saving us by declaring that the Park Ridge flag should fly at half-mast for dead Polish officials. Doesn’t that make you feel better about Park Ridge circling the drain?

Why didn’t the mayor lower the flag for the Haitian earthquake victims? Not enough Haitian votes in Park Ridge, mayor Dave?

As somebody said on the other blog, it seems to be a numbers game for mourning a tragedy. The concentration of diaspora must be what makes it that way.

I do wonder where the tipping point is though. Is it 20%? 25%? As low as 10% of the population? When do we officially mourn another country’s tragic accident?

Mayor Dave is making a nice gesture I guess. I’m not sure I want my elected officials gesturing this way though. It comes off as political more than anything else and it’s not like he doesn’t have other serious city business to work on.

I’m on Mayor Dave’s email list and I was sort of hoping to hear his thoughts on the O’Hare commission funding issue.

Anonymous on 04.13.10 8:14 am:

We don’t know if there is any official “etiquette” for this sort of thing; but the way we see it, any governmental recognition (including flag-related) of another nation’s tragedy should occur at the national level, not at the local level.  Otherwise, we could just fly the Park Ridge flag at half-staff on a regular basis, because there’s always some tragedy du jour somewhere in the world.

Frankly, we don’t care how many residents of Polish heritage, or any other heritage, there are in Park Ridge: if you chose to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, then you took an oath in which you pledged to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which [you]I have heretofore been a subject or citizen…so help [you] God.”

And if you damn well didn’t mean it, then here’s your hat.

We suggest that a “nice gesture” by Mayor Schmidt would be to leave official mourning of foreign dignitaries to President Obama and devote his time and attention to trying to run our City properly – the job he was elected to perform. 

You are right. After all, doing a flag thing like this takes a huge amount of commitment and resourses. God lord the wheels of government must have completely ground to a halt as the Mayor pondered this difficult decision…”Oh my god…do I or don’t I???” That does not even consider the amount of time to map out and identify exactly who will go out and lower the flag!! I certainly noticed the Mayor’s performance literelly drop off the charts while his attentions were focused on this issue. Why just the other day my wife said to me, “Gee, what is with the Mayor? He seems VERY distracted the last few days.” Surely he would have made significant progress on all these other issues had it not been for his blatant attempt to curry favor with the HUGELY influential polish voting block here in Park Ridge.

anon on 04.13.10 10:44 am:

Are you the same person that was on PRU pushing this? Were you the one who asked the mayor for this special ceremony because you feel loyalty to the Polish government or something?

If so, like Pubdog said, here’s your hat.

I agree too that our mayor should concentrate on the job we elected him to do and leave ceremonies like this for Obama and international diplomats.

I haven’t heard our mayor say much over the last few weeks about the city budget that meant much of anything or told me what he thinks about it.

I would like to see a white paper like he wrote for the flood rebates. What happened to the mayor who wrote that paper? I too want to know what the mayor thinks about the airport fight.

Good points, 11:48. Other than saying he’s going to veto any unbalanced budget, the mayor has lockjaw over the wisdom of spending $165,000 to fight O’Hare, giving $185,000 to community groups, raising taxes and fees as much as they are being raised, etc.

Where’s the leadership, except on something as superficial as lowering the flag?

11:48:

Here is my problem. I do not like stupid issues!! I do not disagree about the city issues you bring up and the way the Mayor has m=handled and/or mishandled them. I just think that this connections between those issues and the the flag issue is a joke. The flag issue did cause him to concentrate any more or less then prior to the polish plane crash or next week or the week after. There are many legitimate reasons to be very disappointed with Schmidts performance since his election. The flag issue is not one of them.

By the way, I do not come from Polish heritage. I am mainly German. I do enjoy a good Octoberfest celebration. I hope that does not make you think I am unamerican.

Just so we’re clear, the “issue” isn’t “stupid” because the “issue” isn’t flying the Park Ridge flag at half-staff. The “issue” is why something as irrelevant to the functioning of Park Ridge city government as the tragic demise of Polish officials even shows up on our mayor’s official radar.

We like Oktoberfest, too. But just don’t expect us to lower the PW flag to half staff if something bad were to happen to President Horst Koehler or Chancellor Angela Merkel.

PD:

I would not lower the flag and would not be offended if you choose not to as well. Conversely, if the Mayor choose to do it, I would not consider it outrageous and paint this silly picture about distractions from all the issues he should be addressing.

In terms of how it reached his radar, who the hell knows. Perhaps a resident called or e-mailed him and he considered it a good idea. Perhaps a client or business assiciate was touched by this.

This is ridiculous. The post is about the budget and all the flapping gums can do is talk about lowering the flag. Nonsense. And ‘Dog, you are simply encouraging the nonsense.

WHAT ABOUT THE BUDGET MR. MAYOR???

Anonymous on 04.13.10 3:56 pm:

Irony, right?

418…Time for a civics lesson. The mayor told the Council he would veto an unbalanced budget. He then proceeded to call the aldermen into multiple sessions to go over the budget with a fine-toothed comb. He also told the aldermen they should be cognizant of the Governor’s threat to cut the City’s share of income tax revenues. He has questioned the City Manager’s assumptions regarding projected revenues. He has reiterated his position that infrastructure expenditures, such as sewer maintenance and street repair, should be preserved.

But 418, he does not have a vote. He cannot introduce amendments to the proposed budget. He only has veto power, and he cannot exercise that until the aldermen are finished with their part of the process. So lighten up, and withhold your judgment until it is his turn.

“Ironic” is not the word I’m thinking of ‘Dog. More along the lines of “infantile.”

All together now, in honor of A9:33/9:55,

Where never is heard
a discouraging word!
And the skies are not cloudy all day!

And, for added good measure,

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell

Or, perhaps the phrase “show AND TELL” is more your speed of understanding.

Mayor Schmidt’s leadership has been decidedly lacking during the the bulk of the budget process, and that is a judgement I am personally unwilling to withhold.

What a shocker.

What a dullard.

Will the mayor veto the budget (or a line item, if that’s permissible) if it contains $165,000 for those ridiculous O’Hare expenses, or $185,000 for those ridiculous community group expenses? Will he veto the budget if it includes the $930,000 of state revenue that the governor and our state representatives said is likely to be cut? Answers, please.

Hmmmmm…interesting question. I may be mistaken but I think the mayor has left himself some wiggle room on this one. I think he has said he would veto an unbalanced budget (no?) and has mentioned/cautioned about the state revenue but he never connected all of these dots. In other words, there may be a budget that meets his definition of balanced and yet includes the things you mention. As to whether you and the rest of his constituents will by that is another matter.

BusinessWeek yesterday calls Illinois the ‘Poster Child’ of Debt

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-04-13/illinois-poster-child-of-debt-crisis-draining-state-services.html

FinQ,

Interesting article, which I’ve not read through as yet.

I have a question and am feeling too lazy to Google for an answer at the moment; do you have any knowledge beyond what may be in the public domain about the “The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago?”

I’m curious and, to some degree, skeptical of most sources.

Do you have an opinion on that groups’ membership?

Without doing a huge amount of research there are tow things that strike me.

1. In general, these are some very heavy hitters.

2. One could make a case they have a dog in the fight. I am not saying that what they say is wrong but, like you I am a skeptic. I get this uneasy feeling when a guy was chairman and CEO of ITW letcures about pensions. Gee it is shocking what side he is on. That is like being shocked Jamie Dimon is against banking regs. I wonder if he would like to talk about CEO compensation.

Alpha:

Interesting thing about Farell. First of all he did an AMAZING job. ITW experienced huge growth under his leadership. Second of all, he was paid VERY well for it. His year prior to retirement he was paid 3.5, 1.2 of it in salary. I cannot find stock transactions but I am sure it was a boat load.

Here is the funny one. He is currently drawing a 1.5 million dollar annual…..you guessed it!!!!……pension!!

A4:02,

Yes, the issue of CEO compensation crossed my mind rather quickly when I began reading the article. It’s fairly comical on some level to talk and/or rail about pensions, etc. for the average employee, in either the public or private sector, while you’ve got a rather secure CEO golden parachute hitched to your own hinie.

But still, opinions about financial oversight, of the level my instinct tells me can be expected from this groups’ membership, is well worth consideration.

Having an agenda doesn’t make a suggestion or opinion wrong, in and of itself.

A4:14,

Oh! HAH!!!!!!!!

Alpha:

On a similar tact, There was an interesting poll that came out this week (NY times I believe – liberal bastards!!!!) but your breif discussion yesterday made me think about it. As a preface, of course there is much about polls on which to be skeptical, but they are an interesting starting point.

It was a poll of “tea partiers” and most answers would not shock you. Direction of the country, Obama, health care were all off the charts negative of course. They were well above what the general population was. But one of the questions was what is the financial condition of your household. The answer here was that most ,like 80%, had no current major issues (paraphrasing) – way better that the general population. So it would appear that those who are the loudest are doing better than most but trying to protect what they have.



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