A Small But Significant Victory For City Council “Transparency”


Our opposition to local government being conducted in secret has been strong and consistent. Unfortunately, too many of our local politicians have been equally strong and consistent in defending government operating away from public view, perhaps none more adamantly than Ald. Jim Allegretti (4th Ward).

At last Monday night’s Council meeting, Allegretti was the only alderman present (Fifth Ward Ald. Robert Ryan was absent) to vote for going into closed session to discuss the City’s acquisition of the parking lot property (asking price: $740,000) that the City currently leases from a limited liability company owned by the William Scharringhausen family. With that closed session motion defeated, the parking lot acquisition was continued to the Committee of the Whole meeting on July 12.

Allegretti didn’t explain the reason for his “yes” vote, but we found Alds. Rich DiPietro”s (2nd Ward) and Don Bach’s (3rd Ward) comments about why they were voting against the closed session that night interesting.

DiPietro voted against it because Ryan, the driving force behind the acquisition of that property, was absent; and because DiPietro believed it likely that whatever was going to be discussed in that closed session “would be in the public domain within 24 hours.”

That sounds like a thinly-veiled slap at Mayor Dave Schmidt, who as First Ward alderman in January 2008 disclosed closed session discussions about then-mayor Howard Frimark’s attempt to have the City purchase 720 Garden for a new police station – at $200,000 more than the City’s appraisal of its value. Schmidt’s whistle-blowing earned a “condemnation” by Frimark and five of Schmidt’s fellow aldermen: DiPietro, Allegretti, Bach, Ryan and Carey.

DiPietro still doesn’t seem to “get” that the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) only permits, but doesn’t require, closed session meetings, and that it also doesn’t require what goes on in closed session meetings to be treated as secret by the meeting’s participants.

But so long as the threat of Schmidt’s (or another Council member’s) “going public” with closed session information has made at least DiPietro think twice about running into closed sessions every chance they get, we’ll take that as a small but significant victory for City government transparency.

20 comments so far

Anything that reduces closed sessions is a good thing.

The city of Park Ridge got rooked on every purchase of land it has made in the last ten years, including Bredemann and Courtland. And I heard it got rooked by selling the reservoir property too cheaply to the uptown developer.

No more city purchases of property.

has anyone from the city, including council, stated WHY they need to buy this property?

I really have to admire your outlook on life!! No matter what the situation, no matter what the issue, no matter how little progress has been made on what he himself defined as the issues (see his website), you can always find a way to give Mayor Dave credit for something.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We realize that in some instances the mayor may simply be the tallest midget in this particular circus but, frankly, this post was intended more as criticism of the shorter (and, in one instance, the shortest) midgets than as praise of the tallest one. 


I got the purpose of the post. It is a part of your charter……..Mayor good, Aldermen bad!! Sorry but I just look at it differently. You, me, hell everyone knew what we had with the Aldermen. What exactly has changed in that area??? Zippo!! But this is 90% of what you report. To me the real story is the Mayor has not and is not living up to many (if not most) of the things he said during the campaign. To use your analogy, the story you keep harping on is “Midgets (aldermen) are midgets!!!!” Duh!!!!! The story we need to focus on is “Supposed Giant (Mayor) turns out to be midget!!!”

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Our “charter” is promoting good, transparent, accountable, cost-effective government.  We never proclaimed Mayor Schmidt to be a “giant,” only that he appears to be clearly a cut (or two or three) above the “midgets” when it comes to those issues we believe are most important to both the short and long term well-being of the community.     

As for the mayor’s “not living up to many (if not most) of the things he said during the campaign,” we invite you to provide specific examples.

Let’s please discuss principles, not personalities.

The principles at work here are:

1- Open meetings and taxpayers’ right to know what goes on in their government.
2- Fiscal responsibility in a time when taxpayers are stretched.
3- Accountability — can’t shake the feeling there is a kinky deal going on here.

The alderman were right to vote to discuss this in public. I don’t live in Allegretti’s ward so I won’t judge his motives. I don’t know what Schmidt thinks about this.

Thanks to this blog for reporting on these things.

Here is one!!

I will also do whatever is necessary to publish more detailed personal profiles of all elected and appointed city officials, including the members of our committees, commissions and task forces – so that the public might better understand the experience and backgrounds of all of the people who represent them in city government”.

I may be missing something on the cities wonderful new website, but where exactly are these detailed personal profiles?? I guess this is a multi year project?? Maybe he should form a commission to address it.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Fair enough, but is that really the best you can do? 

“I will support accelerating the program for building relief sewers and modernizing and repairing our existing sewer lines in an effort to prevent potential catastrophic flooding problems in the future”.

What on earth has he done to support accelerating anything to do with this?? Here we are almost two years later and neither the Mayor nor his commission can even give an estimated dollar amount.

forgot to add this quote…..”Upgrade and better maintain our sewer system, build more and bigger main sewers and relief sewers, seek federal funding for building retention areas under what is left of our city’s open space, lobby our state and federal legislators to get communities upstream along the Des Plaines River to build retention areas of their own, and do whatever else we can think of. Now! In general, leave no stone unturned. Enough is enough”.

He has lived up to these comments?????

“Holding city staff accountable for what they do and how they do it without interfering in the day-to-day operations of city business”.

Care to give him a 1-10 rating on this one?? Meanwhile, is he accountable for not even getting to the city managers contract.

“Seeing Park Ridge for what it is… a mature, upper middle-class community with a small-town feel whose strengths must be discerned and continually enhanced.
Preserving the single-family residential character of our City by enforcing our zoning laws and discouraging high-density, multi-family residences”.

Shaall we meet to discuss this one over a drink at 1:30AM???

“Honesty and integrity are essential qualities for public officials.
that the only “good government” is open, honest, completely transparent and fully accountable to all citizens”.

Accountable unless it is not convenient. Can you say ethics ordinance???

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Yes, we can.  And so did the Mayor when he raised the Howard Frimark’s violation of the ethics ordinance by selling insurance for the Uptown complex to the City via PRC.  And then when the Mayor dropped the ball on that despite the City Attorney’s recommendation of prosecution, we let the Mayor have it in our post “‘Show Trial’ An Affront To Park Ridge Residents” (11.04.09).

But, all in all, there has never been more transparency and accountability in City government than under this Mayor.  But there’s still a long way to go.   

This post is about transparency, and I don’t hear anybody saying that Schnmidt going public with closed session stuff hasn’t put DiPietro on the strait and narrow. Everything else you people are discussing is off topic, not that it’s not interesting.

By the way, your comment about “is this the best you can do” is telling. You and the Mayor scream about open and transparent government. If a person wants to know about the various PR commissions and committees and the experience of the people on them they should be able to access this data on the website. The Mayor was correct in saying this is important. He did not get it done. You cast it aside with a “is that the best you can do”.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is the first time since the Mayor was elected that anybody has raised that particular “transparency” issue, so where have you been hiding if it truly is so important to you? 

As for our “best you can do” comment, we think that boards and commissions info falls far behind things like the budget, flooding, OAC, etc., all of which Schmidt and the Council have been addressing.  And even though he himself doesn’t believe the budget is legitimately “balanced” (hence, his veto), according to City Mgr. Hock and the Council it is – which is the first time in at least three years (if we remember correctly) that has occurred, and another one of Schmidt’s campaign pledges.


Your last comment says all that needs to be said about “fair and balanced”. You give Schmidt credit for fulfilling a campaign pledge that even he himself does not believe!!!!! Too funny!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE:  No we don’t.  We are simply pointing out that five members of the City Council – old Frimark reliables Allegretti, Bach, Carey and Ryan, along with Wsol – say it’s balanced, which is why they over-rode Schmidt’s veto.  If you agree with them, then Schmidt made good on that campaign pledge.  If not, then by default you agree with Schmidt (and Alds. DiPietro and Sweeney, and PublicWatchdog) that it isn’t. 

Enjoy your dilemma.

If Schmidt can reduce or eliminate closed sessions except for pending lawsuits and personnel matters involving disciplinary matters, I think that would be an accomplishment.

No dilemma here. Just becuase the Alderman are bad, or wrong or whatever else you clhhse to call them does not mean that the Mayor is good. I guess that brings us back to your tallest midget analogy.

It was the Council that did the work to balance the budget. Schmidt just bitched about it, pointed fingers at everyone but himself and then vetoed it without doing anything to show how HE would balance it.

Schmidt played politics while the Council did the real work. I’m sure you think he kept his pledge but you’re kidding noone but yourself Watchdog.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  As we have previously noted, the City Manager’s job was to prepare the budget, which he did (albeit $227,000 out of balance); the Council’s job was to debate, revise and pass it, which it did (albeit by cutting cops in favor of private community group and anti-O’Hare funding); the mayor’s job was to approve or veto it, which he did (by vetoing it); and the Council then did it’s job by over-riding the veto.  That’s the way the process works, and now we’re stuck with the results.

Wait a second…the aldermen who overrode the veto think the budget is balanced? How do they support that statement?

Oh, and one more thing: Local paper reports that high school students are getting a front row seat for city government this summer. Is it part of the course to explain where the money comes from?,park-ridge-govtclass-062410-s1.article