The Watchdog’s Kibbles & Bits – Box 21


More Of The Wacky World Of Ald. Bach.  An article in this week’s Herald-Advocate (“Pay cut unlikely for elected officials,” July 14) reports that the City Council’s April vote to cut the pay of the mayor and the aldermen to $1 per month cannot take effect until Spring 2011 for the aldermen, and until Spring 2013 for the mayor. 

Those cuts were the brainchild of Ald. Don “Air Marshall” Bach, who proposed them with what appears to have been little prior thought or investigation into the nuts and bolts of the matter.  In Bach’s wacky world view, saving $20,304 in mayoral and Council salaries – even as he was proposing spending $165,000 in anti-O’Hare funds and $186,000 in handouts to various private community groups, while at the same time cutting police officers – is what passes for fiscal responsibility.  Go figure.

But according to Finance & Budget Comittee chair Ald. Rich DiPietro, once Mayor Dave Schmidt pointed out how Bach’s proposal violated Illinois law, “the thing died.”  As well it should have.

Ryan Still Shilling For Scharringhausen.  At last Monday night’s City Council COW meeting, Ald. Robert Ryan resumed his effort to get the City to take the 21,000 square foot Fairview parking lot off the Scharringhausen Family’s hands for the tidy sum of $700,000+, under the guise of ensuring that there will be parking available if/when the redevelopment of Target Area 4 ever gets going.  

Ryan deftly recited buzzwords like “intangible needs,” “economic development” and “quality of life” – all those warm-and-fuzzies that resist objective measurement but sure sound good to unthinking listeners.  And, true to form, Ryan invoked the Uptown Plan and “expert” opinions in support of his position, even suggesting…wait for it…an expert “feasibility study” to determine what kind of parking garage the City could put on Scharringhausen’s property. 

From what we’ve seen of the City’s past real estate bungles (e.g., the old Bredemann Toyota property, the old City reservoir block, the current Courtland lot, etc.), however, we’d have a better chance of turning that $700,000+ into a profitable “investment” if the City spent it on Powerball tickets.

But the real questions that need to be answered by Ryan are: “Why should the City engage in land banking when it can acquire any property it needs by eminent domain whenever needed”; and “Why should the City be in the parking business in the first place?” 

The City has been renting the Scharringhausen lot for years without having to tie up $700,000 of its capital.  If putting a parking garage on the Scharringhausen lot would be such a profitable venture, some enterprising private developer should be willing to put its private capital at risk to reap those profits.  And that way, the property stays on the tax rolls.

Another Good Point By Ald. Carey.  Only a few weeks ago Ald Tom Carey (6th Ward) had the good sense to propose the $500,000 cap that was added to the O’Hare war chest referendum language by a 4-3 vote (Carey, DiPietro, Sweeney and Mayor Schmidt as tie-breaker v. Allegretti, Bach and Wsol) of the City Council.  Carey correctly noted that taxpayers are concerned about the City making open-ended financial commitments to what continues to look like a losing battle.

At last Monday night’s COW meeting, Carey displayed more good sense when he noted, during a discussion of the City’s parking enterprise fund, that the two Park Ridge Police Dept. community service officers (“CSO”s) included in the parking fund’s budget don’t appear to be generating enough parking-related revenue to pay their own way.

We realize that police officers aren’t supposed to be “profit centers.”  But if the cost of two CSO’s is going to be assessed against the parking fund’s budget rather than accounted for like most/all other police department personnel, there should be some economic basis for doing so – such as, perhaps, revenue generation through parking fine enforcement.

Justifying expenses by the revenues they generate?  What a novel concept!

2 comments so far

Watchdog, you just don’t get Ryan’s point. The City isn’t supposed to condemn property only when it needs it, it’s supposed to acquire property anytime a connected seller wants to sell it through a connected broker.

CSOs have no control over how much a parking violation brings in. Should the penalties be raised to help justify the expense? And again, why not meter the free hospital parking spots on Vernon between Dempster and Weeg?