Making Sausage Out Of City Budget


A quote erroneously attributed to 19th Century Germany’s “Iron Chancellor,” Otto von Bismarck, warns that “laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” 

Anyone who sat through Saturday morning’s special City Council budget meeting and watched the Council “debate” and pass the 2010-11 City budget ordinance can appreciate the sausage quote.  Actually, what came out of City Hall Saturday morning wasn’t even high-quality sausage (although it was a lot of baloney) but more like that second-tier lunchmeat kids never want to find in the sandwiches they pull from their brown bags at school – stuff like olive loaf or head cheese.  

From the comments of the aldermen, it seemed like none of them believed the finished product was actually “balanced” – even Alds. Jim Allegretti, Tom Carey, Rich DiPietro, Robert Ryan and Frank Wsol who, in lemming-like fashion, voted to adopt it. 

Some of them questioned the accuracy of the revenue figures, suggesting that City Mgr. Jim Hock took a page from the playbook of his predecessor, Tim Schuenke, and basically just made up whatever revenue figures he thought he needed to off-set the expenses he and/or the Council were locking in.  Others didn’t like some of the spending, but couldn’t muster enough votes to defeat it.  And at least one alderman said he was voting to approve the budget but would support a mayoral veto of what he was voting for. 

We’ve never been overly impressed with the intelligence, the historical knowledge, or the analytical powers of Allegretti, Carey and Ryan, nor the spine of DiPietro.  So their votes in favor of a bad budget were not unexpected.  

Wsol’s vote, however, was disappointing because he definitely knows better.  So when he explained that he was voting for passage but would consider supporting Mayor Schmidt’s veto, we realized that “Frankie, the Politician” had returned and was playing some political angle either for his own aggrandizement or to put Schmidt in a trick bag.  Because for those of you who don’t remember, this is the same “Frankie the Politician” who wanted to saddle the City with a couple of decades worth of $1 million-a-year debt service payments for the big new cop shop that Frankie (and others on the Council) so desperately wanted. 

It should be noted that Alds. Don “Air Marshall” Bach and Joe Sweeney voted “no” on the budget, although neither really explained why, other than to voice general dissatisfaction with it.  But leave it to Bach to once again display the kind of fiscal policy disconnects that make him seem either exceptionally dull-witted or borderline schizophrenic.

After voting to retain that ridiculous $165,000 appropriation for the City’s O’Hare Airport Commission in the budget, Bach orchestrated the purely symbolic reduction of elected official compensation to $1 per month – from the current $100/month for the aldermen, and from the current $1,000/month for the mayor.  In other words, Bach is willing to waste $165,000 on tilting at the O’Hare windmill in order to save a symbolic $20,400.  Brilliant! 

But coming from the guy who, back in January 2008, vowed not to buy another Cadillac from the “insulting” Bill Napleton but in the next breath voted to give Napleton up to $2.4 million from the City treasury, neither consistency nor reason should be expected when it comes to spending public funds. 

Will the City end up chopping 4 cops from the payroll May 1 because the Council would rather send $165,000 of our tax dollars to the O’Hare Airport Commission and another $186,000 to all those private community organizations that the taxpayers themselves aren’t willing to support with their own direct donations?  

Will Mayor Schmidt veto the whole budget, or just a few line items?  If so, will the Council once again muster the five votes needed to over-ride the mayor’s veto? 

Those questions will be answered in the upcoming few weeks.  Meanwhile, however, we encourage every Park Ridge resident who cares about how our City is being run and how our money is being spent to watch the video of yesterday’s meeting when it becomes available on the City’s website. 

But be forewarned: you might never want to eat sausage again.

2 comments so far

I am in complete agreement with you. For an Alderman or a Mayor to publicly announce that he is going to not accept his salary is completely symbolic.

So, was the budget that was voted upon actually balance? I nkow that the $900,000+ that we likely won’t get wasn’t factored into the budget, which is a huge oversight, but did they manage to balance other than that?

Another point, I am not sure how the argument became cut either the police and fire or the private groups and O’Hare comission. It sounds like to balance to our true projections, including the lost State revenue I mentioned above, we would have to cut all of those items.

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