Cops v. “Charities” And The O’Hare-A-Thon


As reported in both local newspapers (“Park Ridge Police: Union votes down concessions, six employees out of work,” Herald-Advocate, Apr. 27 and “Firefighters Safe But Officers Face Layoffs,” Journal, April 28), the police union voted not to make certain concessions that the City  was requiring in order to not terminate four police officers and two community service officers.

The dollars we’re talking about: according to the newspaper stories, approximately $284,000, although that seems a bit low to us. Those cuts will eliminate the Police Department’s traffic division, the duties of which reportedly will be distributed among other officers.

Some people will say the problem is greedy cops.  And an argument can be made that police officers in an upscale community like Park Ridge have relatively safe and well-paid jobs for which they should be grateful, especially in this kind of economy.  That was basically the same argument made about the District 207 teachers, and it’s one we agreed with in that context.

But we find it less applicable to police officers than to teachers for several reasons, the four most significant ones being:

(a) public safety is a more important governmental function than public education;

(b) police work is far more dangerous than teaching;

(c) police officers work pretty much 12 months a year while teachers work between 8 and 9; and

(d) a mistake by a police officer can cost the officer his/her life, and possibly the lives of others.

So while we agree that Park Ridge is a lot closer to Mayberry than it is to Fort Apache, The Bronx, stopping a speeding, weaving car filled with “non-resident” young men at 2 a.m. is a quantum leap from demanding missed homework from a callow Park Ridge youth in the hallway of Maine South at 2 p.m.

Could those cop jobs have been saved?  Sure, in a variety of ways.  And they still can.   

Taxes can be raised even higher.  Fees can be jacked up a few more bucks.  Cut a little bit of City service here, cut a little bit of City service there.  Give a few more City employees a few more furlough days.

In a $50 million-plus budget, finding a way to dig up $300,000 is not impossible.

But why not do what Mayor Schmidt proposed: Instead of cutting more City personnel and City services, why not cut the $165,000 for the latest marathon O’Hare battle and the $186,000 for those private community groups?

Even our friends over at ParkRidgeUnderground support 82.44% of those cuts – the PRU Crew’s two big exceptions being the preservation of the no-strings-attached giveaways to the Center of Concern (“CoC”) in the amount of $55,000, and the Maine Center for Mental Health (“MCMH”) in the amount of $6,600.

As we’ve said many times before, private organizations – no matter how noble their purpose – shouldn’t get government handouts, much less get them with such regularity that they expect them.  If those private organizations are providing essential government services to Park Ridge residents, they should be doing so by means of lawful contracts with the appropriate governmental body that specify what is being done for our residents and what each unit of service is costing.

The current process of tossing indiscriminate amounts of money at these organizations (including the overlooked Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”), which mysteriously avoids inclusion on the “charities” list even though it takes down $23,000 of “free” City services each summer) is bad public policy.  It is irresponsible-bordering-on-reckless, especially given how non-transparent and un-accountable to the taxpayers CoC, MCMH, Taste Inc., and most of these other organizations are – despite their nifty websites loaded with propaganda but little of the financial nuts-and-bolts that well-run, cost-effective essential service providers should be touting.

Which brings us back to the cops v. “charities” and the O’Hare-A-Thon. 

Like it or not, that’s one of several plausible equations of budget balancing our City Council is employing.  But at least the O’Hare funding is public, so we already know exactly how all those dollars would be spent.  Or, if you prefer, wasted.  

That’s a lot more than can be said about the handouts to those non-transparent, un-accountable private community groups.