Senior Inc.’s Case Built On Fiction, Not Facts


A quote from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is becoming our favorite in this age of increasing misinformation/disinformation: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”  Unfortunately, the members of Seniors Inc. (a/k/a Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc.) don’t seem to buy into that concept. 

Instead, as they become more and more aggravated by the Park Ridge Park District Board’s unwillingness to continue operating the Park Ridge Senior Center according to its longstanding but increasingly dysfunctional, deficit-producing model, Seniors Inc.’s criticism of the Park Board has become a product almost entirely of fiction masquerading as fact.  And that appears designed to promote a resolution intended to let Seniors Inc.’s roughly 800 Park Ridge members pull another $160,000+ a year out of the taxpayers’ pockets so that those members can have their semi-private “clubhouse” for two more years at an annual cost of $45 in “dues.”

At the top of the list of fictions is Helen Roppel’s insistence that “[s]enior citizens make up approximately 35.9% of the population of Park Ridge” (13,000+ residents) and contribute $2,730,069 of the Park District’s $7,604,649 recreation budget.  That may be “the truth,” but only if one accepts Seniors Inc.’s definition of “senior citizens” as anyone 55 years and up.  But increase that “senior” status to the more conventional over-65 figure and the number of Park Ridge “seniors” drops down to around 20% of the population (around 7,400 residents). 

Big difference.

Another fiction is Ms. Roppel’s contention that “seniors” are “being taken advantage of” by the Park District because the approx. $172,000 Senior Center operating deficit the taxpayers subsidized (back in 2008, judging from that amount) is only a “measly 2.26%” of the Park District’s $7.6 million recreation budget, despite “seniors” (all 13,000+ of them) paying approx. $2,730,069 in property taxes toward the Park District’s recreation budget.  She conveniently ignores the fact that those taxes from Seniors Inc.’s 800 members accounted for only approx. $164,000 of that $172,000 deficit, and it would reach that level only if every property tax dollar they purportedly paid to the Park District went solely toward that Senior Center deficit and not to any other Park District expense!

What could be viewed as “the truth” but not “the whole truth,” on the other hand, is Seniors Inc. member Rita Johnson’s complaint that “many of the members of the Senior Center are on fixed incomes” and, therefore. can’t pay the higher membership dues that would allow the Senior Center to continue to cater to Seniors Inc. members, but on a break-even basis rather than burdening the taxpayers with those big annual operating deficits.

“Fixed incomes” is one of those terms used to create the impression of Social Security-only poverty.  But “fixed incomes” can – and often do, in communities like Park Ridge – include “fixed” pension benefits, “fixed” annuity payments, and even “fixed” bond coupon payments which produce income well beyond mere Social Security.  “Fixed incomes” also conveniently exclude the principal value of the annuities or investment portfolios generating that “fixed income.” 

And “fixed incomes” don’t include the value of those mortgage-free homes, many of which are still worth $400,000+ that seniors are sitting on, which put their net worth at well-above that of many still-working Park Ridge families, and which could be tapped for additional income through reverse mortgages. 

Then there’s the fiction from Seniors Inc. member Bobbi Oschger, who claims that seniors “have far fewer choices [than children and younger adults] for meaningful activities in Park Ridge…[and] far fewer ways to even be with other human beings to make life more joyful and worthwhile.”

Yo!  Ms. Oschger!  Ever hear of Starbucks (Park Ridge has three of them)?  Panera?  Einsteins?  The Pickwick theater and restaurant?  Goldie’s?  Mac’s?  For a relatively modest “investment” one can spend hours among other human beings, conversing and/or being entertained at those venues and in many others around town.  Seniors could also take in all those wonderful programs the Library puts on, most/all of which are free.

Or how about getting involved in some of our community organizations like the 20th Century Club, Community Women, Toastmasters, Friends of the Library, Lions Club, Park Ridge Historical Society, or even the Park Ridge Hysterical Society if you’re looking for a few laughs?  Or governmental/political organizations like the City’s boards and commissions, the League of Women Voters, Park Ridge Republican Women, etc.?  We can assure you that there are plenty of “human beings” involved in those organizations; and membership in many of them is inexpensive or even…wait for it…free.

Or aren’t those activities “meaningful” enough for you?

If there are seniors who wish to belong to the Senior Center but truly cannot afford $200+ in annual dues – and can provide the financial statement(s) to prove it – then some accommodations surely can be made, such as through the Park District’s Park’s Foundation.  Or Seniors Inc. could use some of that $215,000 it was sitting on at last report to subsidize the truly needy seniors.

What is certain at this point, however, is that all the fictions that Seniors Inc. can manufacture cannot obscure the simple fact that this is a contest of wills between the Park District Board members elected by the voters on a community-wide basis and accountable to the entire community, and a less-than-800-member special-interest group elected by themselves, representing only themselves, and pressing their own personal advantage at the expense of the taxpayers.

If fact triumphs over fiction, the Park District Board and the District’s taxpayers will win.  And that’s the kind of “win/win” we like to see.

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9 comments so far


You really are a hoot! Even you can’t believe all the crap you just wrote. But you are entertaining in a warped sort of way!

You continue to believe this 300+ day fiasco is all about a contract or all about a building or all about the cost of operations and membership dues or fees. It’s not about any of those things, at least not now anyway.

It’s about Ms. Ryan’s incompetent handling of this delicate situation. It’s about mistreating those people she perceived to be in her way, in her attempt to get her way!

I’ve made it clear on my blog multiple times, that I could care less if there is a Senior Center in Park Ridge. That said, I do care greatly for the Seniors because they are the ones who worked hard to make that Center happen, unlike this Board or any of the Boards before them. And they are our friends and neighbors; they’re human beings who deserved better from all of us.

Bob, I am offended by what I’ve witnessed at the hands of the Wynn Ryan/Biagi/Brandt led Board. Maybe you feel comfortable wallowing in there midst and flaking for them as you have.

I wouldn’t but that’s just me!


If I don’t believe it, I don’t write it.

I hope you simply forgot to insert the “smiley face” after the words “this delicate situation” because, if you actually typed them with a straight face, we’re both in trouble: you for thinking that anything about the Senior Center is (or should be) “delicate,” and me for giving you this forum and responding seriously to your comments.

Since we’re sharing about what offends us, I am offended by the “entitlement” mentality displayed by the self-appointed “entitled” – like your Seniors’ Inc. compadres – who expect the taxpayers to foot the bill for their amenities, entertainment and social life.

As for Ms. Ryan, I’m no apologist for her: I’ve crossed swords with her far more often than not, both when she was a 6th Ward aldermen and since she has been on the Park Board. Frankly, I would have expected her to be in your camp on this issue. But, at least in this case, she knows a self-serving special interest when she sees one.

I don’t doubt that you “care greatly for the [approx. 800 Seniors Inc.] Seniors.” I just happen to “care greatly” for the other 12,000+ seniors who don’t belong to Seniors Inc. and have never set foot in the Senior Center, yet are expected to subsidize their Seniors Inc. peers. THEY and all the other over-squeezed taxpayers are “human beings,” too, and they “deserved better” than to have their tax dollars squandered in this or any other fashion.

But at least they’ll finally get something better in the future, so long as the Park Board doesn’t pull an 11th-hour fold-o.

I “flak” for principles, policies and ideas…and only incidentally for the people who share them. That’s just me.

Bless you, my child.
As one of my 78-year-old friends said when this first came up, “Heck, these days, seniors are the ONLY ones with any discretionary income!”

Oh, you’re at it again with the same old, worn out arguments. All of which, I’ve answered before (see Butterly on Senior Issues blog). If you think you’re going to bait me into another six week long dialogue with you, you’re mistaken. Can’t you find something else to drag up? You keep harping on the same old things to the point it’s really getting boring. And you say, “I’ve twisted the facts”. Well you’ve tried repeatedly over the last several months on your blog and Butterly on Senior Issues to discredit me, with no success on these issues. At least this time around, you’ve stopped the name calling and down right vicious commentary demeaning senior citizens. Perhaps you realized how you were being perceived and thought you better clean up your image.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, Ms. Roppel, we’re at it again – because you and your Seniors Inc. pals can’t seem to tell the difference between fact and fiction, or to be satisfied with the 30 year sweetheart deal you’ve had up until now.

We aren’t “demeaning senior citizens” – we’re just criticizing the approx. 800 Seniors Inc. members who consider themselves so “special” that they think they’re entitled to have their entertainment and social activities subsidized by the taxpayers to the tune of $165,000/yr. while Seniors Inc. sits on $215,000 that could cover that subsidy if the members don’t want to cough up the extra $160/year in dues. We think the rest of the 12,000+ “seniors” (by Seniors Inc.’s age-55 standard) are okay.

But since you’re visiting this site and are a prominent member of Seniors Inc., maybe you can answer a few relevant questions while you’re here, like:

1. Can you furnish PublicWatchdog with a list of Park Ridge residents who currently are members of Seniors Inc./the Senior Center that would tend to disprove our contention that there are less than 800 resident members?

2. Can you furnish us with evidence of the total amount of money Seniors Inc. or its members paid for the construction, renovation, addition, remodeling or other improvements to the Senior Center over the years?

3. Can you furnish us with evidence of how much money Seniors Inc. and/or its members paid to the Park District in 2010, both in property taxes and in fees or charges related to the Senior Center?

4. Is it that you can’t afford to pay $200/yr for Seniors Inc. membership, or that you just don’t want to?

We thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation.

You’re wrong, I’m not a member of Seniors Inc. Also, as stated before, you can’t bait me into another six week dialogue. Been there, done that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Now that’s interesting. We wouldn’t have taken you for a disinterested bystander.

Yo Helen…if that’s all the blog is wrong about, then good for the Park Board. They are doing the right thing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. DeBerg, please refrain from infringing on our “Yo.”

Sorry…didn’t see the copywrite symbol.

Will refrain in the future.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, Steve, we forgot to add the smiley face to our comment. But feel free to use “Yo” anytime…so long as you follow it up with “Adrian!”

Will do.

This whole Senior Center thing amazes me. Couldn’t the Park District run the Senior Center the same way it runs the Community Center? The Community center “makes” money, in that it has excess revenue over expenses.

My understanding is that there is no debt associated with the Senior Center in the form of bonds for the building. If the Park District was charging an appropriate amount to cover the expenses of the building, this entire conversation goes away. There doesn’t need to be a contract between anyone.

If Senior Services still wants to fundraise, they could do that, and direct their donations to specific things within the building or within the district, as they have in the past with the stage, and kitchen (oh wait, was that funded from them or from the taxpayers).

Just my two cents, seems as though people over there are making a bid deal out of nothing, but I suppose it gives them something about which to gossip.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That just about nails it, Steve.

Re the kitchen renovation, we recall that being a joint expense.

Mr. Ken Butterly:

Just visited your Seniors site and found the following message in lieu of the comment I submitted: “This post has been removed by a blog administrator.”

Gee, Ken, censorship? And not a profane or vulgar word in the entire comment.

First you blog your little heart out on this site without any restrictions or editing. Then you don’t even attempt to answer my questions. And then you refuse to post my “G”-rated comments on your site?

How positively totalitarian of you.


The Kitchen was not a joint expense, but rather one that was paid for 100% by the taxpayers. A decision by the Park Board that perhaps now they regret, as they are being shown such gratitude by Senior Service. I would imagine some of the Park Board Commissioners that supported that decision now are wishing they could turn back the clock.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We thought Seniors Inc. contributed some money that came to them via a bequest from the estate of a former “member.” As you can tell from our notes to previous comments from Mr. Butterly and Ms. Roppel, we’ve been asking them to document the money Seniors Inc. claims to have contributed to the Senior Center; but, not surprisingly, they went AWOL (or MIA?) on us.

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