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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15 comments so far

Great post, PubDog, thanks. My view of the big controversy over homeless shelters was similar. Frimark tried to cut a secret deal and people were upset when they learned about it. Hello, public officials, both staff people and elected representatives: Be upfront about your plans, and they’ll go down a lot more smoothly. It’s our government, not yours.

I confess I stayed on the sidelines of the homeless shelter controversy because it wasn’t in my backyard, but it did heavily influence my decision to not vote for Frimark.

Has anyone else heard about the plans to build several-story high townhomes on the site of the current Audrey’s?

5th Ward, I learned my NIMBY lesson with the Centennial Pool water park years ago, which is why I didn’t stay on the sidelines on PADS even though it wasn’t in my backyard. But it was the PADS NIMBYs that attracted my attention to that problem, which was a bad idea for the whole town because either it would have created a problem we didn’t have or it was a half-baked non-solution to a problem we did have.

I think Audrey’s was rezoned about a year ago to permit townhomes. I think that was another Robert Ryan deal, like the Fairview parking lot.

5th ward:

I was going to let it pass but, since you brought it up, PADS entered my mind as well. While I do not have the PR history that many of you do, the whole PADS issue was an amazing thing. I have not seen such passion about an issue (both sides) in my life. There was a NIMBY element and I agree that this is often a good thing. Council meetings were JAMMED with people. As I recall, there were many who were justifiably self-satisfied over the end results. Why shouldn’t they be? They worked hard and affected change.

PD, you ask the following…….”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?”

Based on the majority (not all) of those NIMBY’s involved in the PADS issue and thier performance since that issue was resolved, I would say that the answer thus far is “no”.

5th Ward, I beg to differ: It’s just as much the government of the unpaid elected officials who live here as it is yours. The only difference is while you’re sitting home kvetching about “it’s our government, not yours,” the elected officials who are also your neighbors are sitting in offices somewhere until midnight doing their best for you, for free.
This is a representative government. If you don’t like their decisions, run for office. Walk in the snow, in the dark, for weeks and months. Sit in meetings long after your families have had their dinner and gone to bed. Struggle to get the straight dope from paid government employees and private-sector vendors to government, few of whom deliver on their promises or prices. Do it all for FREE. Gratis. No Pay. And then get hollered at by people who say with a straight face, “we’re going to get you fired from your big job there” or “you gave yourself a raise and a bonus” or “you shoulda e-mailed us instead of posting public notices as everyone else does.”

We beg to differ, 2:24:

“Kvetching” about the government and the public officials who run it is the First Amendment right of every citizen.

As for our local governmental bodies, every mayor, alderman, school board member and park board member knew the financial deal going in. So if the honor and privilege of actually representing one’s fellow citizens isn’t “compensation” enough, then these people had no business seeking the office in the first place – and they should stop whining or get the hell out immediately. Yes, Ald. Allegretti, that means you: no need to wait until May to vacate your seat at The Horseshoe.

As for not being able to get straight answers from the bureaucrats, the lying or insubordinate problem children on the public dole should be FIRED and replaced by people who will do the job, or at least try.

Thanks for the support, PubDog. 2:24, please don’t put words in my mouth. I admire those who make the sacrifice, and I appreciate their service. It doesn’t mean, however, they can spend my money any way they like and build whatever they want within sight of my backyard. I speak up, attend meetings and do what I must to defend my rights. Including vote.

It amazes me that Illinois appears to have voted in Pat Quinn as governor. Every vote for Quinn is a vote to surrender another 1% of our salaries since he wants to increase the state income tax from 3% to 4%.

I’m curious, how do you feel about the result of the facade program outcome Wed. Night?

5th ward,

I believe the townhouse issue is also on the P&Z meeting that the cell towers at South Park will be discussed. That property was rezoned as I recall R3 which is transitional/buffer. This includes townhouses. The applicant is requesting a map change from R3 to R4 which is no longer transitional but rather the highest most dense use our ordinance allows. This I believe is where you should have issue.

How was the cell tower issue a “secret deal”? You can go on the PRRPD website right now and watch the video of the open meeting at which it was debated and discussed. You can read the agenda which was posted before the meeting, and the minutes which were posted after. The issues was in the Journal, and mentioned in at least one blog on local politics.

I agree that the PRRPD should have notified the residents who border the park ahead of time, if only to head off the kneejerk reaction many had, and to include them in the debate from the outset. It would have eliminated the “unnecessary ill will”. And it might have convinced a core group that the cell tower was a good idea. If it didn’t, which is likely, I agree that those neighbors have the right to say so and affect change.

What is a shame is that no one goes to these meetings. Very few follow the goings on via the internet. And then they hollar about sneaky, secret deals. I wish more would pay attention and become part of the dialouge. It is too easy to say how terrible your representatives are doing, when once every few years you wake up and catch wind of something you disagree with.


We have always thought the facade program was a ridiculous idea, a flawed policy, and a waste of tax dollars.


Will the Mayor veto the spending added to the facade program Wed. night?

EDITOR’S NOTE: You appear to be misinformed. In a memo dated November 3, 2010, the City’s CP&D Mgr., Cathy Doczekalski, repoerted that the City has already entered into an agreement with the owner of a building on prospect for reimbursement of up to $75,000 in facade improvement funds. That means that the subsidy doesn’t need Council approval; and, therefore, it is not subject to mayoral veto.

….except for the guy who got his application “in the works” at the 11th hour?!?

In the video you can see Aldermen made an amendment to add another business who applied in the last week. The Aldermen approved the added spending from the facade program. I want to know if the Mayor will veto the added spending from Wed. night.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have no idea what the mayor will do, but we know what he should do: veto the amendment that adds the new business which has not yet received facade approval, while making it clear to the Council that his veto is limited solely to that new applicant and not to nuking the ridiculous facade improvement program, which Ald. Robert Ryan – with characteristic disingenuousness – again called “a successful program” without one shred of hard evidence to prove that success for anybody other than the building/business owners who have pocketed the taxpayers’ cash.

“……We have no idea what the mayor will do……” Bahahahahahhahahh!!!!!! Yer killin’ me!!!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We believe the official PRU-tool spelling of that is “BWAAAAAAAAAAHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHAAAAA…”

But whatever…if the mayor puts government over politics, he’ll veto it. If not, he’ll do nothing and go along with the majority of alderdopes who voted to give the O’Reilly’s owners a typical Park Ridge sweetheart deal. And then those who prefer that these mindless giveaways of public funds go to unaccountable private community groups instead of unaccountable private businesses – like yourself – can justifiably howl about it.

FYI, thank you for the comment, it makes sense. There are e-mails circulating among neighbors close to Audrey’s that are saying much the same.