Two Interesting Items On Tonight’s COW Agenda


Two agenda items for tonight’s City Council COW meeting caught our attention: Fourth Ward Ald. Jim Allegretti’s attempt to scale-back the “supermajority” requirement for over-riding decisions of the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission (“P&Z”); and the renewal of the City’s lease for parking spaces on the Scharringhausen family’s 20-22 S. Fairview lot.

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For those who haven’t been paying attention, Allegretti has been trying to finagle a way for the City Council to get around P&Z’s refusal to approve a zoning code amendment to permit Generation Group, Inc. to erect 4 billboards along the Tri-State Tollway.  On November 16, 2009, the Council rejected Allegretti’s proposal to let the Council trump P&Z decisions by simple majority vote and, instead, approved Third Ward Ald. Don Bach’s proposal to give the Council P&Z trumping power by a “supermajority” vote.

From the video of that 11/16 meeting (in contrast to City Clerk Betty Henneman’s sanitized meeting minutes), however, it is clear that Bach understood “supermajority” to be measured by only the aldermen, not by the aldermen and the mayor – the latter of which is how the term “city council” is defined in the State of Illinois municipal code and not otherwise defined in the Park Ridge municipal code.  That would explain why Bach, on at least two occasions during that November meeting, referred to “four versus five” when comparing majority to supermajority voting.   

So when Bach pointedly proclaimed, at the 2:31:55 mark of the April 12, 2010, COW meeting video, that “[he] knew [he] was asking for six votes” when he made his “supermajority” proposal back on November 16th, he may have been engaging in a bit of creative truth-telling, as well as some character re-building.  Which is understandable, considering how mindful he needs to be of having his competence doubted as he begins gearing up for a re-election bid next April that could serve as a springboard to a possible run for mayor in 2013.

But if Bach really meant it when he said at that April 12, 2010, COW meeting – that, back in November, he wanted “to make it as difficult for [the Council] to overturn [P&Z’s] expert recommendations as [the Council] could without leaving too much …wiggle room” – then we’ve got what we will call, immodestly, the best solution to this issue: forget about all this “supermajority” foolishness and simply require nothing less than a unanimous Council vote to trump any P&Z decision.

If a P&Z decision is so wrong the Council needs to trump it, then the Council should be able to muster a unanimous vote to do so.

We doubt that Bach has the stones to propose such a thing but it would be worth the price of admission, if only to see how quickly Allegretti could turn purple and start spinning dervishly in his chair.

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In June 2008, we questioned the City’s leasing of 50 spaces from the SCH Real Estate, LLC, a venture operated by the Scharringhausen family and represented by Patrick Owens of Park Ridge’s first family of law, Owens Owens & Rinn (“The Politics Of Park Ridge Parking,” 06/04/08). Back then we questioned the deal in view of the fact that the City was going to pay the Scharringhausens $500/space/year while it was leasing spaces from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists for only $140/space/year. 

Last year’s lease [pdf] changed that from 50 spaces to 57 spaces, and from $500/space/year to $360/space/year.

This year’s lease [pdf] has the City paying the same rental for the same number of spaces.  But for some strange reason the proposed lease term is only for 6 months with an automatic six month renewal, instead of for one year.  And for some other strange reason the lease can be terminated on one-month’s notice rather than on six-month’s notice.

We’re not necessarily saying there’s anything kinky about this latest lease, but we do wonder why those two points weren’t flagged as notable changes from last year’s deal in Cathy Doczekalski’s “Agenda Cover Memorandum” to the COW [pdf].

Could it be that the Scharringhausens have some plans in the works for that lot that may come due before the end of the upcoming lease year?  Or is this 6-month lease with a 1-month out simply designed to give the Scharringhausens some special mid-term bargaining power?

One thing is certain: if either Cathy D or her boss, City Mgr. Jim Hock, know the answers, they sure aren’t sharing them with the members of the City Council.