Changing Of The Guard At 505 Butler Place


The changing of the guard at Park Ridge City Hall occurs tonight with the departure of five aldermen and the swearing in of their replacements.  It also marks the end of what remained of the administration of former mayor Howard P. Frimark and, perhaps, the beginning of what can be called the administration of Mayor Dave Schmidt.

That’s because four of the five outgoing aldermen – Alds. Jim Allegretti (4th), Don Bach (3rd), Tom Carey (6th) and Robert Ryan (5th) – were Frimark acolytes.  Or at least it sure appeared that way from how they seemed to dance to whatever tune he called, as well as from their lack of any identifiable philosophy of City government other than simple ad hoc decision-making irrespective of its long-term or interdependent consequences. 

The fifth, Ald. Frank Wsol (7th) was the most enigmatic of the five.  No Frimark acolyte, to be sure, but also not the dependable and consistent fiscal conservative he fancied himself.  Too often he appeared to be governing less by principle and more by finger-to-the-wind politics.  Unlike the other four who came into office as Frimark gophers and left as little else, we will remember Wsol most for his unrealized promise.

Their legacy looks to be one dubious “achievement”: a likely fourth straight year of operating deficits which, all in, should total several million dollars and will have depleted the City’s reserves to a dangerous level.

Ironically, their best “achievements” were those ill-conceived things they tried to do but failed, sometimes due to circumstances beyond their control, including:

  • an unnecessary and overly-dense condominium complex at the Executive Office Plaza site that fell victim to the recession;  
  • a multi-million dollar giveaway to Frimark campaign contributor Napleton Cadillac that was aborted when General Motors pulled Napleton’s dealership; 
  • a PADS “If it’s Sunday, this must be Park Ridge” traveling homeless shelter that PADS walked away from rather than apply for the required City special use permit;   
  • a secret land deal for 720 Garden that was abandoned when then-Ald. Dave Schmidt lawfully blew the whistle on it – and was promptly “condemned” for it by the Illinois Open Meetings Act-challenged Frimark, his four departing acolytes, remaining Ald. Rich DiPietro, and City Clerk Betty Henneman;  
  • an unnecessary and unaffordable new police station that crashed and burned thanks to Joe Egan’s citizen-initiated cop shop referendum; 
  • what looked like a kinked-up billboards deal; and 
  • another makes-no-sense, extremely overly-dense condo development on Touhy just east of the Town of Maine cemetery.  

Of the incoming five aldermen, at least 3 – Dan Knight (5th), Marty Maloney (7th) and Sal Raspanti (4th) – sound like they share at least some of Schmidt’s views on transparent, accountable and cost-effective City government.  Although 3 votes aren’t enough to pass ordinances and resolutions supportive of such policies, 3 are enough to sustain mayoral vetoes of actions contrary to such policies.  Whether that will be enough to govern effectively and implement those policies, and whether those policies – if implemented – will have a positive effect on City government, remains to be seen.

But to those five departing aldermen we offer a heartfelt “bon voyage” and the hope they are much more successful as private citizens than they were as public officials; and to their incoming successors, we offer an equally-heartfelt “bienvenue.” 

And “good luck,” because you new guys are inheriting a mess.  

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