Teen Center: “Priceless,” Or Just Another Entitlement?


When we identify instances of “bad government” in Park Ridge, we usually focus on the misadventures of our elected and appointed officials on the Park Ridge City Council, Park Ridge Recreation and Park District board, or the boards of Elementary School District 64 and High School District 207.

But today we are focusing on a “civilian” aider and abettor of bad government: Kate Kerin, wife of former Ald. John Kerin, and herself a champion of the Park Ridge Teen Center.

Ms. Kerin earned that distinction by her letter to the editor in last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Cutting finite sum endangers social services that are priceless,” Oct. 7), in which she criticized the City Council for sustaining Mayor Dave Schmidt’s vetoes of funding to 10 of 13 private community groups, including the $22,000 that Ms. Kerin was expecting for the Teen Center with which she claims an association for 10 years as either the director or a member of its board.

Like many supporters of these private community groups, Ms. Kerin seems intent on making sure her favorite “charity” becomes everyone else’s favorite, in this case by having the City use its taxing power to effectively wring involuntary “donations” from residents who apparently don’t think highly enough of the Teen Center (and many other of the private organizations feeding at the public trough) to support it through their own direct contributions.

From where does she get that sense of the Teen Center’s entitlement to our tax dollars?

Let’s start with the four aldermen who originally passed the Teen Center’s $22,000 appropriation as part of $190,000 in giveaways to 13 community groups, but then came up one vote short of the five votes needed to over-ride the mayoral veto: Alds. Allegretti, Bach, Carey and Ryan. In her letter, Ms. Kerin thanked them for displaying the community’s “heart” and “standing up for what we all know is right.”

What “we all know is right”? 

If that were true, Ms. Kerin, the Teen Center would have all the money it needed from private donations, the way real “charities” are supposed to operate.  And there’s nothing inherently “right” about demanding that other people pay for what you want. To the contrary, it seems inherently wrong to organize a not-for-profit and then put it on the public dole, especially when its organizers and operators shamelessly exploit their social or political ties to the officials holding the public purse strings.

We don’t recall anybody asking the taxpayers/voters whether they wanted the Teen Center when it was created back in 1990. And despite the Center having fed at the public trough, we’re not aware of anybody associated with it ever having the basic decency to offer the taxpayers anything close to regular and thorough accountings of exactly what the Center is spending our money on – especially in light of the article in last week’s H-A that suggested the Center serves many non-Park Ridge teens (“Funding woes: Teen Center’s future hangs in the balance,” Oct. 5).

As for the Teen Center’s purported shortage of cash, its most recent IRS Form 990-EZ (2008) shows that it had assets of $54,715 at year-end 2008. And that was after paying $28,000-plus in salaries and benefits, including $12,100 to its director, Kerry Cwick.

That same Form 990-EZ also claims that the Center was visited by “approximately 500 teens in 2008.” If the Center still has that kind of attendance, it can easily replace the $22,000 it didn’t get from the City (thanks to the fiscally-responsible actions of Mayor Schmidt and Alds. DiPietro, Sweeney and Wsol) by charging each of those “500 teens” nominal “dues” of $50/year – less than $1/week.

So why aren’t Ms. Kerin and the other Teen Center managers already implementing that kind of pay-your-own-way program instead of wringing their hands and warning that the Center could close? Could it be that the “500 teens” is mainly propaganda, and that the Teen Center is another one of those facilities or services whose self-proclaimed grandiosity and importance doesn’t come close to reality?

A clue to that might be Teen Center adult supervisor Susan Paweleck’s (from Gurnee, according to the H-A article) referring to the Center’s “core group of regulars” without any mention of numbers – before adding that word of mouth has brought in many new attendees in recent months. How many new attendees? Ms. Paweleck, conveniently, doesn’t say.

It is bad government for our public officials to indulge the penchants of these private organizations for siphoning tax dollars out of the City treasury without any accountability,  instead of hustling voluntary donations directly from our residents.  It is bad government for those officials to encourage the people who operate those organizations to believe they are entitled to whatever they want…without their having to pay for it.

And with our City, our county, our state and our country staggering under crushing debt because too many pandering politicians irresponsibly tax, borrow and spend whatever it takes to maintain their positions, power and influence, it also is bad government for private citizens to wrap themselves in the mantles of “charities,” “not-for-profits” and “social services” while aiding and abetting those politicians in their spendthrift folly.

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20 comments so far

I have heard (through the grapevine method) the annual budget for the teen center is roughly $34,000. They asked the city for $22,000. Geeze, 2/3 of local public money seems a little ….hum…much.

Does anyone know what the Teen Center’s total annual budget is? In other words, is $22k their entire budget or a portion? I note above they have ample assets, and that should be considered, too. More facts and less emo, I say.

It might also be responsible to use those facts toward a discussion of alternatives. If the Teen Center couldn’t meet its annual budget without taxpayer help, then could it relocate?

That discussion would force a little light on one of your questions, as in: How many teens actually visit the center? My guess is they keep records.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Page 2 of Schedule A to the embedded 2008 Form 990-EZ for the Teen Center provides a schedule of its revenues from 2004 through 2008. Why they haven’t filed their Form 990-EZ for 2009 by now (when they filed their 2008 form in Feb. of 2009) remains a mystery.

Until 2003 Park Ridge city government was run by the Homeowners Party like it was one big club of people whose common bond was social rather than political or policy-based. The Kerins are prominent examples of that culture, as are the four aldermen (especially Ryan) who voted for all of those contributions. So is DiPietro, only not quite so much in lockstep as the other four.

I read the article about the Teen Center in the paper and was struck by several things that cause me to question why any public money has been given to it. Three of them are

1. All but one of the kids pictured is from Chicago, not Park Ridge.
2. One of them complains that if she were not at the Teen Center she would have to be at her house all the time.
3. The kids are not charged anything to go there.

Park Ridge tax revenues should be used for Park Ridge residents and Park Ridge property. I do not expect Des Plaines or Niles residents to pay for “free” services for my children and, in return, I do not want my taxes spent on non-Park Ridge children. If every community took care of its own, I think we would have less unnecessary services and better necessary ones (I do not think a Teen Center is “necessary,” by the way).

I also do not think that public money should be used to pay for alternatives to homes. If children do not want to stay home and have friends over, or go to a friends home, then they should go patronize theaters, restaurants, stores, malls or other such places instead of expecting the government to provide them with homes away from home.

But if the children want a Teen Center, then they should pay a reasonable admission charge. A $50 annual fee sounds more than reasonable, and downright cheap. If the users do not value the Teen Center highly enough that they are willing to pay $1 or $2 a week to go there, then why should the City of Park Ridge or its taxpayers?


If you are true to your convictions you have a great deal of work to do!!

“Park Ridge tax revenues should be used for Park Ridge residents and Park Ridge property”. OK….I hate to bring it up again and I know that it involved a generous donation, but I must. The fireworks cost the city money (approximately 23K of expenses) and there are MANY people from surrounding communities who attend. I know a large group from Des Plaines who attends every year. How dare they!!!

“I also do not think that public money should be used to pay for alternatives to homes”. Excuse me but can you say “Park District???” A significant portion of your taxes goes to the park district which is, in part an “alternative to home”. Yes they charge fees for lessons and camps etc but not nearly enough to cover the entire PD budget. How amny times have you said to your kids get out of the house and go play in the Park? I know that my I tell my kids that all the time. Beyond that, there are kids from other communities, even famalies from other communities who play in our Parks.

$22000 is a small price to pay for a safe place for teens to congregate.

Anon @ 1:47:

Mr./Ms. 12:26 can speak for him/herself, but PublicWatchdog has no objection to the City eliminating the fireworks show in order to save money.

Or the City could consider turning the fireworks into a festival with bands, food booths, booze and activities. Maybe the Taste Inc. folks would run it for the City (“Taste of Independence”?), since the fireworks already get free City services and we all know just how much Taste Inc. loves free City services.


Didn’t mean to hit a nerve. I just like people to at least try and be consistent. I sometimes fall short of that goal myself but I really think it is worth trying for.

If you want to turn it into a joke against the TOPR that is fine with me. All I was pointing out is it is an example of a contradiction to the prior posters first objection against the teen center.

Perhaps a library in Africa was more important than taking care of those closer to home.

If money can be raised for that library, money can be raised for the teen center.

3:23 p.m.:

You didn’t hit a nerve at all – we can go with fireworks, no fireworks, or Taste of Independence.

In fact, we’d probably prefer TOI, so long as the City was made whole for the expenses it incurred and either (a) got some revenue sharing from the TOI operators (Taste Inc. or “TOI Inc.”?) or (b) auctioned off the TOI rights to the highest bidder.

But comparing the Teen Center to either the City/Park District/Dist. 207-sponsored fireworks show or to the Park District’s parks and programs is disingenuous, if not ridiculous – because the Teen Center is privately “owned” and operated but getting public funds, while the fireworks and the Park District’s facilities and programs are all publicly owned and operated using public funds.

But we have a feeling you still won’t (or will choose not to) get that distinction.


The poster said….and I quote:

1. Park Ridge tax revenues should be used for Park Ridge residents and Park Ridge property.

2. I also do not think that public money should be used to pay for alternatives to homes.

He/She did not say unless they are publically owned. You chose to make that distinction. It would seem to me that if a person believes in the ideas behind these statements, it would make no damn difference if they were or were not pubically owned.

Either way, all I was and am point out is that if the poster wants Park Ridge tax revenues to only be used for Park Ridge residents and Park Ridge property he has a great deal of work to do as that happens in many cases. If you do not like the fireworks show as an example we can use TOPR or the parade or concerts in the park or winter fest etc, etc, etc.

Somehow methinks that if Center of Concern ran the fireworks show anon at 1:47 would be completely fine with it…

And 2:45, use your own money then!


You have to learn, whenever someone criticizes the PD americaneagle friend and the fireworks, then PD throws back barbs about TOPR. It’s the same as other dogs drooling when they hear a dinner bell.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There is no rational comparison between the fireworks and TOPR because the fireworks show itself is run by the City/Park District/Dist. 207 (with the fireworks themselves donated by Americaneagle), while TOPR is run by the private Taste of Park Ridge NFP (a/k/a “Taste Inc.”) using City services that it doesn’t pay for and pocketing all the profits.

It’s cold today. I think it’s Schmidt and PW’s fault.

It’s supposed to rain this weekend.

I think it’s Schmidt and PW’s fault.

My car got a flat tire the other day.

I think it’s Schmidt and PW’s fault.

EDITOR’S NOTE:Okay, that’s enough…the point has been made for some (most likely those who didn’t need it in the first place) and is likely still lost on others, and simply ignored by still others.

Where is 12:26? He/she should come back and speak for himself/herself.

He has a flat tire and couldn’t make it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No doubt caused by PW and Schmidt.

Getting back to the topic, to answer the title question: It’s just another entitlement, and a relatively worthless one at that.

Mrs. Kerin is probably a very nice person who thinks she knows better than everyone else, like those Human Rights Commission people through whom God speaks to us heathens. Bless her and them, but let them spend their own damn money.