Schmidt Wrong, Allegretti Juvenile


If you enjoy sturm und drang in City government, Monday night’s City Council meeting provided a heaping helping of it. 

You’ve really got to watch the video of this one on the City’s website (thank you, once again, George Kirkland) to fully appreciate the BTUs Ald. Jim Allegretti was radiating during his hyper-burn over Mayor Dave Schmidt’s parliamentary denial of Allegretti’s point-of-order request for an opinion from City Atty. Everette “Buzz” Hill about his (Allegretti’s) point-of-order objection to Schmidt’s procedural denial of Ald. Joe Sweeney’s motion to approve a zoning change application that the City Council denied on December 20, 2010, despite its recommendation by the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission. 

Got that?

We’re not sure we do, and we don’t think we can explain it much better than that, other than to note that the mayor’s action blocked – at least for the time being – a 20-unit condominium development on what is now a three-home site on the south side of Touhy Avenue, just east of Town of Maine cemetery. 

As we’ve stated in many previous posts, we oppose the construction of any new multi-family residences in Park Ridge because: (a) they consume too much more of our diminishing green space than single-family dwellings; and (b) they exacerbate, exponentially, an already-overburdened sewer and water infrastructure that we have been skimping on maintaining and replacing.  That makes this Touhy Avenue project undesirable on those bases alone. 

But we also question this project for the suspicious way it has gotten this far. 

It was originally approved by P&Z in what what looks to have been a rush-to-judgment maneuver last Thanksgiving week by only 4 commission members (Anita Rifkind, Lou Arrigoni, Cathy Piche and Mary Catherine Wells (v. Aurora Abella-Austriaco and John Bennett) when 3 of the 9 members, including chairman Alfredo Marr, were absent.  That shorthanded crew put their stamp of approval on eight (8) units more than the 12 units permitted under the zoning code – a 66% overage!

That makes the 8 extra units the City Council gave Norwood Builders for its still-dead 168-unit Executive Office Plaza project on Northwest Hwy. back in 2007 look like a drop in the bucket.

And the vague reasoning offered by those 4 “yes” votes, along with their cookie-cutter style “findings of fact” reported in the Minutes of that P&Z meeting, do little to dispel the notion that this project got “special” treatment.

What exactly is the allure of this particular project?

We’re not sure, although we’ve heard rumors that it’s the “affordable housing” that Nan Parsons and the City’s Human Rights Commission have been pushing for years.  Basic math suggests that stuffing 20 residential units into an area zoned for only 12 could provide enough total revenue to the developer to justify more “affordable” unit prices and, consequently, more “affordable” rents for those units – even if it means virtually ignoring our zoning laws.

And even in a down market, there’s money to be made on real estate speculation if the “deal” and the price are right.

But although we think this project is bad for Park Ridge and may be a bit kinked, we cannot agree with Mayor Schmidt’s parliamentary maneuvers Monday night – just as we cannot condone Ald. Allegretti’s foot-stomping temper tantrum in response.

Unless the City intends to hire a trained and impartial parliamentarian to consult at every Council meeting, the mayor cannot use his parliamentary “chair” to indulge in Roberts Rules of Order “Gotcha!” that elevates procedural technicalities over substantive governance. 

And with Allegretti already MIA at most of the City’s budget workshops, his walking out on a regular Council meetings to indulge his fit of pique leaves 4th ward residents even less represented than when he’s actually in attendance…if only slightly.

Schmidt may have viewed himself as “Horatius” at the bridge, preventing a bad project from being reconsidered and passed.  Allegretti may have viewed himself as “Mr. Smith Goes to Butler Place,” unwilling to be silenced on his point of order.  As political theater it was mildly entertaining, albeit in a perverse “Chicago-style” way. 

But it wasn’t good government. 

To read or post comments, click on title.

5 comments so far

PubPup, you are always such a pleasure to read, no matter how goofy or distressing the subject. Without our PRU, it’s down to you. Please keep on keepin’ on. Everyone in this city needs you – especially the ones who don’t know it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks. We wish this City (and the school districts, and the park district) didn’t “need” us, or any other blogs, to provide its citizens with honest, transparent, efficient and frugal government. But that’s not been the case, so we’ll do this job as best as we can and hope that more people get off their duffs, start paying attention, and start holding their public officials accountable for providing the kind of government we’re paying for.

Looks like PRU has thrown in the towel and PW’s the only one right now.

Could be worse Mike, could be worse.

So, someone explain to me why we even have the zoning board if they just rubber stamp all these projects that exceed the current zoning rules? 20 units in a space for 12?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The first question that should be answered by P&Z commissioners Arrigoni, Austriaco, Bennett, Piche, Rifkind and Wells is why this matter was considered so important that it was scheduled for Thanksgiving week and then voted on while a full one-third of the commission was missing. The second question, to Ms. Rifkind, should be (assuming the minutes are accurate) why she seems so unconcerned about the zoning code and the community, and so concerned about the developer getting a loan for a project, that she could justify a 67% increase to the allowable number of units (8 more than the permitted 12). And then Arrigoni, Piche, Rifkind and Wells should be asked how they could approve that substantial density increase without even addressing that issue in its findings of fact.

Pub Dog– great reporting on this issue. Thank you for continuing to cover this. The Butterly Blog (Butterly on Senior Issues) has also covered the most recent meeting of the Park District Board– are you planning to do so? You’ve weighed in on this before, and I think you should do so again in light of that meeting.

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