Park Board, Not Seniors Inc., Should Run Senior Center


The war of attrition over control the Park Ridge Senior Center continued last Thursday night (July 21) at the Park Ridge Recreation & Park District Board meeting, where about a dozen “members” of private corporation Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc. (what some call “SSI,” but we prefer the more corporate “Seniors Inc.”) showed up to excoriate the Park Board for not rolling over and giving Seniors Inc. whatever it wants.

As we wrote about in greater detail in “Time For A Senior Center Reality Check (01.27.11), Seniors Inc. orginally wanted a contract that not only would have locked in Seniors Inc.’s control over the Senior Center building for the next two years, but likely also would have continued the roughly $160,000+ annual operating deficits the Senior Center has been running for at least the past six years, totaling almost $1 million during that time.

So far, the Park Board – now led by President Mary Wynn Ryan – wisely has said “no” to such a ridiculous special-interest proposal, thereby incurring the wrath of Seniors Inc.  We thank those Board members who have stuck to their guns, and we hope they continue to do so.

But we aren’t yet ready to bet the ranch on it.

Why?  Because the Board has let itself be co-opted and/or intimidated by Seniors Inc. into seeking Seniors Inc.’s approval of something called the “Cooperative Guidelines…” (“Guidelines”).  In essence, the Board is asking Seniors Inc.’s permission to assert the Park District’s existing legal rights over the Senior Center, with a few tweaks to acknowledge the neither-fish-nor-fowl operating arrangement between the Park District and Seniors Inc. for that facility that existed for the past 30 years or so until its expiration at year-end 2010. 

So why is the Park Board continuing to abdicate its lawful role as the governing body of the Park District and engaging in this kabuki-like bargaining with special interest Seniors Inc. over how the Senior Center is to be operated?

One explanation – the cynical one, we admit – is that “seniors vote” (as they constantly remind us); and there are some self-styled politicians on the Board who don’t want to risk alienating any group of voters, even a special-interest group that totals less than 800 people and shamelessly sucks $160,000 a year out of the District’s taxpayers to keep its “clubhouse” operating. 

Another equally-plausible explanation, however, is that too many members of that Board – just like too many of their counterparts on the City Council and the local school boards – prefer making people happy to governing by sound public policy principles.  And the easiest way to make people happy is with give-aways of the taxpayers’ money and/or of the governing body’s power, public policy be damned.

Either of those explanations appears to be supported by the following facts about the Seniors Inc./Senior Center/Park District relationship, as we have been able to ascertain them:

1.  Seniors Inc. is not an affiliate of the Park District and, therefore, is unlike those other private corporations that “run” Park Ridge’s baseball, soccer, hockey and football programs on the Park District’s behalf.  Consequently, Seniors Inc. is not currently bound by the District’s affiliate guidelines and requirements.

2.  It’s not clear whether “Senior Center members” are “members” of the Park District’s Senior Center facility (not unlike Community Center members) or are Seniors Inc. members, because Seniors Inc.’s most recent IRS Form 990-EZ tax return (on file with GuideStar) reports “dues” of $27,601 on Part I, Line 3.

3.  While Seniors Inc. acts like it represents all Park Ridge seniors, we understand it has less than 1,000 “members,” more than 200 of those being non-residents/non-taxpayers of the Park District.  That means Seniors Inc.’s Park Ridge membership is less than 11% of Park Ridge’s approx. 7,400 over-65 residents, and just a shade over 6% of Park Ridge’s approx. 13,000 over-55 crowd that is eligible for Seniors Inc. membership.  So the overwhelming majority of Park Ridge “seniors” (by either measure) don’t belong to Seniors Inc. or use the Senior Center  

4.  Senior Inc. claims to have contributed approx. $1 million over the past 30 years towards upgrading the Senior Center building.  We’ve seen no proof of that total but, even if it were so, Seniors Inc. has received reimbursement of that entire amount by Park District taxpayers in covering the Senior Center’s operating deficits over just the past six-seven years.

5.  As of the end of 2009 (per its 2009 Form 990-EZ), Seniors Inc. was sitting on more than $215,000, yet back then it was still charging its “members” a paltry $35/year in “dues” for unlimited use of the Senior Center while letting the taxpayers make up the annual $160,000+ operating shortfall.

6.  Whatever previous contract Seniors Inc. had with the Park District for its use and occupancy of the Senior Center expired and is no longer in force.

Given the foregoing facts, we see absolutely no legitimate public policy reason for the Park District’s ceding any control over any of its public buildings to private corporations, including the Senior Center to Seniors Inc. – irrespective of what kinds of irresponsible giveaways other politicians may have signed onto 30 years ago and their equally irresponsible or clueless successors continued ever since. 

And this is even more true when that private corporation isn’t even a Park District affiliate, serves a very small demographic, yet generates a disproportionately substantial operating deficit for which all taxpayers have to pick up the tab – including the vast majority of “seniors” who aren’t members of Seniors Inc. and have never set foot in the Senior Center.

If the Park Board has a collective spine it will end this nonsense and tell, yes tell, Seniors Inc. under what terms it will permit Seniors Inc. to retain its current level of use of the Senior Center.  And those terms should include Seniors Inc.’s covering of all the seniors-related costs of that facility’s operation – including the cost of the Park District personnel who provide services to that facility’s senior users. 

Whether that’s done by Seniors Inc.’s increasing its “dues” for existing members, or adding a significant number of new members, or by dipping into its treasury, is something that can be left up to Seniors Inc.  But that’s pretty much all that should be left up to Seniors Inc., because the voters elected the Park Board members – not Seniors Inc. or its members – to manage the Park District and its various facilities, including the Senior Center.

Letting the inmates run the asylum is bad enough.  Letting them run it at a $160,000 annual loss is crazy.

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Does Burke Sewer Study Finally Portend Flood Relief?


Last Monday (July 18) the City got its first glimpse of the long-awaited “Citywide Sewer Study” by Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd.  We trust that should be the next big step toward coming up with ways to attack the flooding problems that have long bedeviled this community, reducing property values and the quality of life. 

To its credit, the City’s Flood Control Task Force wasted no time in scheduling a meeting two nights later to begin digging into the study’s details.  Those folks – chair Gail Fabisch and members Joe Saccomanno, Bob Mack, Lou Arrigoni, Kim Jones, Daniel Carroll, John Humm, Patricia Lofthouse and Steve Tolan – have their work cut out for them.  We wish them the genius of Einstein, the persistence of Edison, and the wisdom of Solomon. 

That’s because, frankly, whatever solution(s) they come up with cannot be expected to completely “solve” all our flooding problems: when you can get 6.86 inches of rain in one day, with 6.85 of it coming in less than 6 hours, nothing short of our own “Deep Tunnel” can be expected to hold all that water.  But we don’t see the City’s taxpayers ponying up the $1-2-3 hundred million our own DT would cost – nor should they, given how such an expense would put the City’s finances in a straitjacket for decades.

Nevertheless, multi-millions of dollars will be needed to make any kind of significant dent in the flooding problems that jeopardize basements in significant portions of Park Ridge after those 100-year rains we seem to be getting every 2-3 years.  If we leave these problems completely untreated, property values already battered by the recession will not come back with the vigor this community’s tax base needs, and its residents deserve.

Unless, of course, anybody thinks that piles of soggy carpeting and furniture piled on the parkways semi-regularly increases the EAV or is a sophisticated marketing ploy.  

If we read it correctly, the Burke “Summary Report” projects the “hard” remediation costs at between $11.65 million and $17.38 million for 11 targeted areas, not including engineering costs and the additional millions of dollars of debt service costs if these projects are funded with municipal bonds, as will likely be necessary. Notably, those figures also don’t include the costs for addressing such extreme and chronic flooding areas as Mayfield Estates, which were identified in Burke’s 2008 flooding assessment and the Task Force’s April 2010 Report, which we understand the Task Force will incorporate in its analysis and upcoming recommendations.

Whether that’s an expense the people of this community are willing to undertake remains to be seen.  But at least for the time being – and for the first time in memory – the City now has some legitimate, tangible alternatives that can be investigated, debated, and hopefully put to the voters in the form of one or more “advisory”/non-binding referenda on the March 20, 2012, primary ballot.  And assuming that the necessary preliminary “spade work” has been done prior to that election, should the voters approve the referendum(s) we would hope that one or more of these sewer projects could be “shovel ready” in time for the summer 2012 construction season. 

Mayor Dave Schmidt (who created the Task Force shortly after taking office in 2009), the City Council and the Task Force itself already seem to be headed in that direction, having set some fairly aggressive target dates for moving this process forward.  The Task Force and City Staff are working towards announcing their prioritization recommendations of the various remediation projects identified in the Burke report by September 7; and the City Council is likely to take up those prioritization recommendations at its September 12 meeting. 

Meanwhile, we think it’s time the City Council began seriously discussing the wisdom of further residential development (especially multi-family residential) that, for the past decade-plus, has consisted primarily of building the biggest structure a lot will hold, then covering up much of the remaining green space with oversized patios and driveways that minimize the lot’s water-absorbent surface area while often diverting run-off onto neighboring property – the kind of thing Vine Avenue residents Cliff Kowalski and Jeff Getz have been complaining about to no avail.

Unless Park Ridge aspires to becoming a real-life “Waterworld” (avec ou sans Kevin Costner), we need to start solving the current flooding problems sooner rather than later.

But we also need to stop adding to them.

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Frimark All Bluster, No Bite


Since he grudgingly turned over the gavel to Mayor Dave Schmidt in May, 2009, former mayor Howard P. Frimark has been – to use a dated colloquialism – about as scarce as hens’ teeth when it comes to local government. 

He was spotted months ago at a Park Ridge Park District board meeting offering support for the private “club” known as Park Ridge Senior Center, Inc. (“Seniors Inc.”), of which Frimark reportedly is a member, getting another sweetheart contract from the Park District for Seniors Inc.’s use of the Park Ridge Senior Center “clubhouse” – the facility which the District’s taxpayers keep subsidizing year after year to the tune of approx. $160,000 while Seniors Inc’s approx. 1,000 members (out of approx. 7,000 total Park Ridge “seniors”) pay a miniscule $45 (resident) for “membership dues” despite Seniors Inc.’s sitting on over $215,000.

But that was about the extent of Frimark’s “civic” activity until last Thursday night, when he showed up at City Hall for the special City Council meeting on ComEd and the City’s storm response and laid into Schmidt for “dereliction of duty” and being “AWOL” – because Schmidt happened to be in South Carolina on business when the June 21st storm hit and didn’t immediately return home.  Frimark’s remarks can be viewed on the meeting video at the City’s website (starting at approx. the 40:00 minute mark), although you will need to dial up the sound because the podium microphone may not have been turned on.

Judging from Frimark’s comments, Schmidt should have anticipated the storm and power outage and stayed home to wait for it; or, at the very least, he should have cancelled his remaining depositions and high-tailed it back to Park Ridge, where he could have engaged in Frimark-style “management by photo op.”

But Thursday night was merely a tune-up for Frimark’s return to City Hall this past Monday night, where he took to the podium to denounce the appointment of the owner, publisher, editor and principal author of this blog, Robert Trizna, to the Park Ridge Public Library Board. 

Once again, Frimark’s remarks, and the responses thereto, can best be appreciated by watching the meeting video on the City’s website (from the 4:00 minute mark to 28:50),  although his objections centered on the substance of this blog’s posts and its use of a stylized version of the City flag on its nameplate.  Frimark called Trizna “one of the many unqualified cronies of the mayor who has been placed on board and commissions that last 27 months.”

Frimark, as a former mayor, well knows that all such appointees submit their applications to City staff, not to the Mayor; and those applicants are recommended to the mayor by the Mayor’s Advisory Board, comprised of the four aldermen who chair the City Council’s four committees.  For the first 24 of Schmidt’s 27 months in office, that Advisory Board was comprised of Ald. Rich DiPietro and then-Alds. Jim Allegretti, Don Bach and Frank Wsol – the first three of whom endorsed Frimark over Schmidt, contributed approx. $2,500 to Frimark’s campaign, and signed onto Frimark’s legally null-and-petty “condemnation” of then-Ald. Schmidt’s whistle-blowing about the secret land deal Frimark was cooking up in closed session meetings. 

So the idea that those four Advisory Board members would recommend Schmidt “cronies” for board and commission appointments is totally over-the-top, even for someone as adept as Frimark at telling whoppers.

Notwithstanding Frimark’s strenuous objections, however, Trizna’s appointment to the Library Board was approved by a 6 (Sweeney, DiPietro, Smith, Raspanti, Knight & Maloney) to 1 (Bernick) vote – following his unanimous recommendation to Schmidt by the current Mayor’s Advisory Board (Alds. DiPietro, Knight, Maloney & Raspanti) after their reviewing his application and interviewing him about both this blog and his role in the 2002 new Library referendum.

Whether Frimark’s public re-emergence is merely the product of his dislike for the two subjects of his invective, or is a prelude to yet another run for the mayor’s office, remains to be seen, in part because Frimark coyly told reporters that he is keeping his options open for 2013.

But during his six years in City government, Frimark proved to be a proponent and practitioner of the “Chicago Way” style of government that has dominated Illinois for so long that the legendary Mike Royko coined its unofficial motto “Ubi est mea” (“Where’s mine?”) way back in 1971, albeit in describing the corruption of the Daley Machine. That was before Illinois Democrats and certain Illinois Republicans decided that public corruption could be more profitable and less prosecutable if it was bi-partisan and statewide, leading to what Tribune columnist John Kass dubbed “The Combine” that has provided a target-rich environment for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

In just four short-but-still-too-long years as mayor, Frimark’s most notable achievements were primarily dubious ones, which we wrote about in “Every Week Needs To Be ‘Sunshine’ Week'” (03.16.09) and other posts during his tenure, two of the more dubious ones being an attempted $2.4 million giveaway of City funds to his campaign contributor, Napleton Cadillac; and his attempted purchase of 720 Garden from a friend of his for $200,000 more than the City’s own appraisal.

And let’s not forget his referendum to cut the Council in half to save the cost of those 7 “extra” aldermen.  How well did that work?  In the first full fiscal year of that cut-down Council, the City posted a $1.7 million deficit.  And in the second full fiscal year, it posted a $2.3+ million deficit.

But hey, we did save $16,800 on aldermanic compensation!

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we believe opportunists like Howard Frimark are the embodiment of what is wrong with politics and government in the State of Illinois, in the County of Crook, and in our own fair City of Park Ridge.  If City government were a Frank Capra movie, Frimark could be “Sen. Joe Paine“ (of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and “D.B. Norton” (of Meet John Doe) rolled into one. 

During his appearance Monday night, Frimark criticized this blog as one “that provides untruthful…comments.”  In typical Frimark fashion, however, his accusations were totally lacking in facts or examples. 

So we hereby challenge him to identify any post – not reader comments, but actual Watchdog posts – that contains “untruthful” information, and to specify the allegedly untrue information and explain exactly how it is false.

Time to put up or shut up, Howard.

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City To Shine Light On ComEd Tonight


For those of you who want and expect dependable electrical power from that monopoly supplier known as ComEd, there will be a special City Council meeting tonight at City Hall beginning at 6:00 p.m. to discuss the recent power outages that have afflicted most of Park Ridge.

Although that meeting was originally called by Mayor Dave Schmidt to address the June 21st power outages, we understand that this week’s outage has also been added to the agenda as a topic of discussion – along with Com Ed’s overall performance and chronic problems that seem to manifest themselves with almost every warm-weather storm.  Hopefully, the ComEd representative assigned to Park Ridge will explain exactly what we got for the $570,000 of “capital investments” he claims ComEd has made in the Park Ridge power grid over the past 3 years, and why we keep on losing power on such a widespread basis despite those improvements.

More than three years have passed since we wrote, in Does ComEd Dream Of Electric Sheep (01.16.08),  about ComEd’s public dog-and-pony shows with no demonstrable follow-up.  Since that time, the mayor and six members of the City Council have changed. 

Now we’ll get to see whether the City’s dealings with ComEd will change.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Activist Citizens Add New Dynamic To D-64 Board Meeting


Those of you who chose to attend last night’s Park Ridge-Niles Elementary School District Board meeting instead of the Park Ridge City Council Committee of the Whole (“COW”) meeting witnessed something that has been extremely rare until now, but hopefully will become much less rare in the future:  a small group of citizens actually challenged the secrecy and unaccountability of Supt. Philip Bender and a majority of the D-64 Board.

Recent D-64 Board candidate Marshall Warren, Charlene Foss, and a handful of supporters didn’t cause those D-64 officials to cower in a corner, or promise to change their secretive and unaccountable ways.  To the contrary, Bender and certain Board members, clearly unaccustomed to being vigorously questioned by people who actually seemed to know both their legal rights and the relevant school issues, were confrontational from start to finish.

But with every question from Warren and Foss – whether about substantive issues like why the Board recently gave certain employees 2.5% across-the-board salary increases and why the percentage and amount of those raises wasn’t even discussed or announced publicly before being voted on, or about procedural issues like why the Board didn’t post its 105-page board meeting packet of materials on the District’s website until the morning of the meeting – it became increasingly clearer that a new dynamic had been introduced into a public body whose members, like typical old-line Chicago pols, have not wanted to hear from “somebody nobody sent.”

Without the Board’s “alpha” member (president John Heyde) controlling the meeting, it fell primarily to Bender and Board member Scott Zimmerman to quasi-answer/avoid the questions posed by Warren, Foss, et al.  Not surprisingly, several questions brought variations of the historically successful, typically bureaucratic “you just don’t understand.”

For example, when Foss challenged the closed-session discussion of the recent salary increases for the non-union personnel, Board member Sharon Lawson – reportedly with a straight face – insisted that closed session was required because the Board was deciding on individual raises based on individual performance evaluations.  When Foss observed that it just didn’t “make sense” that each of those “individual” evaluations could result in everyone getting the same 2.5% raise, and followed that observation with questions about pension funding, Bender cut off the discussion with an invitation for Foss to meet with him and D-64 business manager Rebecca Allard so that they could “explain” things to her.

We suspect Foss is too savvy to get suckered into that kind of private meeting, where everything is “off the record” and conversations can too easily be spun, disputed and outright denied.  And, given the nature and incisiveness of her questioning, we doubt Bender would enjoy being grilled by Foss about how he can justify what we understand to be his own 2.5% pay raise when D-64’s administrative personnel already are the 4th highest paid in the State of Illinois, yet the District can’t figure out how to pay to air condition Carpenter School so that the kids don’t get sent home for “heat days.”

More importantly, however, explanations by public bodies of what they are doing, and why, belong in public forums rather than in one-off variations on those “closed sessions” so dear to the hearts of Bender, the Board and bureaucrats everywhere.

Warren served up his own dose of agita by advocating for the transparency that would come from the Board approving his videotaping of the Board’s next meeting.  Warren noted how resident George Kirkland had resolutely volunteered his services for videotaping City Council meetings over the past two years at virtually no cost to the City. 

The reaction from Bender and most of the Board could best be described by envisioning a fight scene from the 1960s Adam West “Batman” television series:


Despite new Board member Tony Borrelli’s reasserting his previously-expressed support for videotaping, Zimmerman opined that videotaping was “against school board policy.”  If true, then “school board policy” violates the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”), which expressly permits the private videotaping of public meetings (735 ILCS 120/2.05) subject only to that videotaping not unreasonably interfering with “the overall decorum and proceeding of the meeting.” (735 ILCS 120/2.05 and 1975 Ill. Att’y Gen. Opinion 17).  

Showing an ignorance (or abhorrence?) of IOMA equal to Zimmerman’s, Bender wanted a legal opinion about videotaping from D-64’s counsel because he was “extremely uncomfortable that someone could manipulate and edit a video.” 

Sorry, Phil, but neither IOMA nor the Illinois Atty. General’s office shares your concerns.  And Borrelli already told you about how YouTube video files are difficult to alter.  Consequently, we highly doubt that somebody would bring in the wizards from Industrial Light & Magic to morph your videotaped image into Darth Vader’s – even if you do seem to embrace the Dark Side when it comes to transparent, accountable and fiscally-responsible school district governance. 

Frankly, we’re hoping that Warren will show up at the next meeting with videotape rolling so that we can see – literally see, via that videotape – whether Bender and the Board are willing to invite an IOMA lawsuit against the District by barring him and his camera.

Last night Warren and Foss stepped up to the plate, big-time, in challenging the secretive and fiscally-irresponsible way D-64 has been doing business for the past two decades.  They didn’t back down, and they truly earned the applause they received from the small audience of parents and taxpayers. 

And they deserve applause and support in their endeavors from those of us who believe in honest, transparent, accountable and fiscally-responsible government.

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A New Reason To Enjoy “Taste” This Weekend


It looks like another good weather weekend for Taste of Park Ridge (“TOPR”), our community’s premier annual bread-and-circuses event.  That’s a good thing…and we really mean it.

Even though we have been highly critical of the way TOPR has been run by TOPR’s private owner, Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”), we still want it to be successful – especially this year, now that Taste Inc. has promised the City a share of the profits for the first time since Taste Inc. was given the event on a no-bid basis in June 2005 and started pocketing the profits that were originally intended for the City treasury. 

Don’t expect the City’s 3% share of TOPR revenues to balance the City budget.  In the first place (as we understand it), the City won’t be receiving any piece of beer-tent revenues, which some people have speculated may actually exceed the food revenues.  Why those were carved out of the deal isn’t clear, and the guys who run Taste Inc. weren’t saying.

But we’ll still be happy if the City’s share of the food revenues simply covers the event’s costs to the City – both the “direct” costs (e.g., overtime for police, fire, public works, etc.) and the “indirect” costs (e.g., TOPR-related work done by City employees on City time).  Two years ago the City valued those combined costs at approx. $23,000, before mysteriously changing its accounting last year to include only the “direct” costs.  As best we can tell, that was all City Mgr. Jim Hock’s doing, and we’re not aware of his giving any explanation for that change.

We’re hoping, however, that the City’s getting even a 3% share of the food revenues will cause this new City Council to abandon the “see-hear-speak no evil” monkey-shine attitude toward TOPR and Taste Inc. that has been the norm since then-mayor Howard Frimark and the City’s last 14-member Council handed TOPR to Taste Inc.  Maybe the new Council finally will demand some real transparency and accountability from Taste Inc. – which has been so secretive about its operations one might wonder if it’s a CIA “front” for black-ops assignments in Afghanistan.

One example is its lack of tax returns.  If Taste Inc. truly had been a not-for-profit for the past six years, where are the five IRS Form 990 tax returns to go with the one it filed (in March 2010) for 2009 that is currently displayed on GuideStar, and which appears to show a $65,000 profit from just last year’s event alone.  Why those returns aren’t posted on Taste Inc.’s own nifty website is a puzzlement in its own right, as is the fact that its 2010 Form 990 isn’t on GuideStar even though it was to have been filed by May 15, 2011.

From past experience we know that TOPR can be a lot of fun.  But if you want to ratchet up that fun another notch or two, we suggest that patrons start asking a few questions of all those uniformed members of Team Tastee bopping around the event, such as: 

  • Where’s the proof Taste Inc. really was a not-for-profit corporation from 2005 to 2009? 
  • How much money did Taste Inc. take in during those years? 
  • What did Taste Inc. do with all that money it took in during those years? 
  • Where’s Taste Inc.’s 2010 IRS Form 990, that should have been filed by May 15th? 
  • Why not open up Taste Inc.’s books to the public?  
  • If you guys really are just “volunteers” why don’t you operate TOPR as a committee of the City starting next year, like the City Council originally intended when it turned TOPR over to you back in June 2005? 

Or come up with your own questions.  And if you get any answers, please send them to us because we’ve never been able to get much in the way of information from the Tastees – although we don’t take it personally, because the City Council has faired no better.

Meanwhile, get out there and enjoy the food, the drink, and the entertainment of TOPR…because, for the first time, you’ll be helping put some TOPR profits in the City’s pockets instead of only in Taste Inc’s.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Some “Over-The-Transom” Info About District 64’s Under-The-Radar Activities


Last week we published another post about the Culture of Secrecy of the Board of Education over at Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 (“Secret Pay Raises At School District 64?” 06.30.11).  Since then, one of our readers – perturbed by the clandestine and fiscally-questionable way the D-64 Board and Administration conduct themselves – has brought some additional facts to our attention that deserve public airing.

The current teachers union contract with D-64, signed by Board president John Heyde and secretary Eric Uhlig on September 8, 2009, contains a couple of interesting benefits for the teachers that we don’t recall anybody on the Board (or anybody in the press, for that matter) publicizing during the negotiation and adoption of that contract. 

The first one, at Article VII, Section O, Paragraph 2(b), provides for the ratcheting-up of a teacher’s compensation by 6% annually during the last two years before retirement:

b.   Provide a salary increase for up to two (2) years prior to retirement in the next to last year of employment and the last year of employment …that is six percent (6%) above the teacher’s creditable earnings in the prior school year.  

That’s right, sports fans, our D-64 Board “negotiated” a guaranteed 12% home-stretch pay increase for imminent retiree teachers – the better to goose up those already-generous underfunded but guaranteed public pensions they’ll be drawing for 20+ and even 30+ years, thanks to retirement ages as early as 55 with the requisite service.  And with cost-of-living increases, of course!

And if that isn’t a nifty enough bon voyage bauble, get a load of what the contract provides at Paragraph 2(c) of that same Article and Section:

c.   Provide a service recognition payment as a post-retirement lump sum payment in the amount of $1,000 per year of service, not to exceed 25 years (i.e., $25,000) for any teacher who retires from the District [during the term of this Contract].

If we read that language correctly, teachers retiring from D-64 get a goodie bag of up to $25,000 when they walk out the door – $1,000 for each year of service.  Beats the heck out of a gold watch…even a Rolex…doesn’t it?

Crazier yet, we can find nothing in the contract that limits D-64’s obligation (meaning the obligation of us taxpayers) for these windfall payments only to those “service” years spent actually teaching in D-64 schools – a limitation that could have been locked down definitively by the simple inclusion of the words “to the District” after “per year of service” if our elected representatives on the Board (including the Harvard-educated, University of Chicago-trained attorney who serves as Board president) wanted to do so.

That the D-64 Board could unanimously (Heyde, Uhlig and their fellow then-Board members Sharon Lawson, Genie Taddeo, Pat Fioretto, Ted Smart and Russ Gentile) adopt such a contract is troubling, to say the least.  That it seems to have been done with little-to-no public debate and no invitation of citizen input by those Board members is appalling.

We also don’t recall any public debate over the compensation and stipend schedules contained in that contract: we heard about “2.5% increases” only after the deal was cut and the respective parties were crowing about how “fair” the deal was – something we criticized in our post “Concealing The Details Of A ‘Fair’ Contract Raises Questions” (09.14.09).  At the time, we thought that 2.5% per year looked pretty darn good…for the teachers.  In retrospect, it looks wonderful…for the teachers.  

And that’s why we can’t help but wonder, albeit perversely, just how many Park Ridge parents would be positively delighted if their own recent college graduates were making “minimum compensation” of $42,720 and health insurance for just a “Bachelor’s Degree and no experience”…with scheduled annual non-performance based raises…for approximately 8 months of actual work, with summers off…in a job that can’t be outsourced to Guadalajara or Bangalore…and from which one effectively can’t be fired once tenure is obtained after a few years on the job?

Again we are reminded of Mark Twain’s famous quote: “God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the school board.”

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Honoring Those Who Pledged Their Lives, Their Fortunes, And Their Sacred Honor


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