Asking More From NIMBYs


As anyone who has read this blog knows, we generally like NIMBYs – people who take political action solely because of their unvarnished self-interest in preventing something they don’t want from happening in their literal or figurative “back yard.”  

That’s because, like canaries in a coal mine that provide an early warning to miners that danger literally is in the air, NIMBYs draw our attention to problems we might otherwise overlook because they’re not too high on our personal radars.  And that’s a good thing, irrespective of the actual merits of their position. 

The most recent example of NIMBYism here in Park Ridge is the cell tower T-Mobile wanted to erect at Northeast Park, next to the tennis courts. 

T-Mobile received the blessing of the Park Ridge Recreation & Park District, which stood to receive around $25,000 a year in license fees.  Although the Park Board approved the tower at a sparsely-attended public meeting back in April, an outpouring of NIMBY opposition at the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission hearing last Tuesday night (October 26) prompted P&Z’s denial of T-Mobile’s request for the necessary special use permit it needed for the tower.  

Frankly, the Park District screwed this up, big-time, by not giving the Northeast Park NIMBYs the direct-mail notice of the April Park District meeting it customarily gives neighbors before taking actions that would have a significant impact on any parks.  Had that custom been followed, the crowd that showed up at City Hall for the P&Z meeting likely would have shown up at Park District headquarters back in April; and the T-Mobile deal might have been scuttled right then and there. 

That mistake by the Park District created a lot of unnecessary ill will.  Hopefully, Director Ochromowicz and the Park Board members have learned their lesson. 

And we hope the entire community learned the lesson that a relatively small group of citizens – in this case, the 80 to 100 who showed up at the P&Z meeting – can have an impact on local issues that is generally impossible to achieve on the county, state or federal levels, absent the contribution or bundling of $500,000+ to some politician’s campaign fund.  

But we wonder whether a more important lesson was learned by, or lost on, the NIMBYs protesting the cell tower, many of whom seemed a little too impressed with what was achieved with only one visit to City Hall – a well-deserved victory, most assuredly, but one that may have been as much (or more) the product of T-Mobile’s own failure to satisfy all the City’s special-use application requirements as it was of the merits of the NIMBYs’ complaints. 

A cell tower in a park is the easiest of political targets, and clearly not representative of most governmental problems – whose complexities regularly bedevil our elected and appointed public officials.  

What about resolving the City’s continuing multi-million dollar deficits, or its flooding problems? What about District 64’s less-than-impressive performance on the ISATs compared to other districts?  What about the Park District’s losing almost $100,000 a year on Oakton Pool, and another almost $200,000 on the Senior Center?  Or, for that matter, how does the Park District go about replacing the $25,000/year it was going to get from the cell tower? 

These problems can’t be solved in one meeting, or by a few handfuls of impassioned speeches. But they are far more important to the present and future of this community than one cell tower in one park.  And they deserve a whole lot more resident attention and input than they seem to be getting. 

The big question is:  Can NIMBYs, including the Northeast Park variety still basking in the self-satisfaction of their recent cell tower victory, see their civic duty as extending beyond their own backyards?

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