“Sharks” v. “Jets” – Who Ya Got?


Two local private organizations that claim entitlement to compulsory donations of public monies from the City of Park Ridge – and are irked that they aren’t receiving them this year – share the word “Center” in their names: The Park Ridge Teen Center and the Park Ridge Senior Center.  And they typify the kind of quasi-“welfare” that needlessly grows local government and inflates its cost.

Let’s start with the youngsters.

According to an article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Teen Center board mulls options to stay open,” Oct. 21), the board of the Teen Center is considering a variety of options to deal with the fact that it isn’t receiving its $22,000 handout from the City this year (thanks to the City Council’s sustaining of Mayor Dave Schmidt’s veto of that funding).  Among them: cutting hours of operation, holding fundraisers, applying for grants, seeking corporate sponsorships, closing during the summers, charging members for use, and seeking “freewill donations outside Park Ridge establishments.” 

That last option sounds a lot like street begging to us, with modern-day “Oliver Twist”s standing in front of Five Guys, bowls in hand, seeking not “some more” gruel but a sawbuck for some new video games for the basement of the First United Methodist Church, 418 W. Touhy – presumably because these teens don’t want to play video games in their own or their friends’ basements.

But if the adverse sociological implications of recreating in one’s own basement are too overwhelming, here’s the simplest solution to the Teen Center’s money problem: Cut the $25,000 in salaries being paid to a part-time staff of six, and let all those adult proponents of the Center step up and volunteer to take on those duties.

Now for the oldsters.

Last night a group of Senior Center members showed up at the meeting of the Park Ridge Recreation & Park District board to lobby for keeping the Center operating as the almost-free, semi-private club it has become – and keeping it operating at a deficit of almost $200,000 a year.  Several of them objected to the suggestion by Park District Director Ray Ochromowicz that the building (on Western Avenue, just south of the Community Center) be opened up and programmed for non-senior uses in order to recover some of those excessive costs.

Besides the $200,000 subsidy from the Park District that goes to the 800-1,200 Senior Center members (depending on whose totals you believe), the private Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc. (“Senior Inc.”) – which seems to have de facto control over the Senior Center – has been getting a $30,000+ annual handout from the City of Park Ridge, although this year’s request for $35,200 also was rejected by the same kind of veto that knocked the Teen Center’s money.  As recently as year-end 2008 (according to its IRS Form 990), however, Senior Inc. was sitting on $114,000 of assets, although we can’t tell what it is today because Senior Inc. has yet to file for 2009.

Like their much younger counterparts, the seniors complain that, without their own special Center, they have nothing else to do and nowhere else to go.  Apparently they’ve tired of the early-bird specials at Denny’s and find the various local dining and drinking establishments the rest of us patronize to be too…pedestrian?

But if the adverse gerontological implications of socializing with Park Ridge’s gen pop are too onerous for these elders, then they should start covering the Senior Center’s $200,000 deficits by paying annual membership dues of $250 ($21/month) for 800 members; or $167 ($14/month) for 1,200 members).  Then they could continue to keep their clubhouse to themselves, at least for now.

Not only would that be fiscally responsible, but from the glowing way these seniors talk about the Senior Center it would be a bargain even at twice the price.

And by making both the Teen Center and the Senior Center self-supporting, their own users/stakeholders can keep them open and avoid the prospect of packs of disaffected teens (many fresh off the mean streets of Edison Park) clashing with cantankerous not-quite-Greatest Generation seniors over control of the heretofore tranquil sidewalks of Action Ridge.

Two Centers, two simple solutions. 

But who would be the “Sharks” and who would be the “Jets”?

3 comments so far

Here’s where the teens and the seniors have something in common. Instead of having their own special clubhouses paid for by the tax payers, let them use their own houses for recreation.

This is all os ridiculous that I can not believe the City Council or the Park Distirct ever approved giving these groups money.

Why do you keep picking on the seniors? We have subsidized things for years so we deserve some benefits in return now that we are retired and don’thave the income to pay for all the things we need.

EDITOR’S NOTE:We’re not sure exactly what things the seniors have “subsidized,” but we’re not buying into that lame argument because two wrongs don’t make a right. If seniors subsidized things that didn’t deserve it, that’s their problem rather than an excuse to get something in return.

Funny, when I grew up in town I don’t remember a senior center being subsidized by anyone. So what did today’s senoirs subsidize back then? It just seems like there is more fluff to subsidize for us working stiffs these days.

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