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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