Private Philanthropy Preferable To Government Handouts


We have consistently argued that it isn’t the job of our City officials to confiscate money from Park Ridge taxpayers so that it can be given to certain “charitable” causes – private “community groups” like Center of Concern – favored by those City officials.  

Although we have taken a good bit of criticism for that position, Mayor Dave Schmidt and a majority of the City Council seem to have come over to that same viewpoint, as evidenced by the fact that they cut back those handouts from $190,000 to 13 community groups in 2010 to a shade under $62,000 to only 4 groups the current fiscal year.  And they have tentatively cut that to zero for the 2012-13 budget, although we understand Ald. Rich DiPietro – in response to heavy-duty lobbying from those 4 groups – is asking to re-open that part of the budget discussion.

But at least one such organization has found a way to obtain funding without putting the arm on the taxpayers through the “soft touch” that City government historically had been.

As reported in last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Park Ridge Teen Center to get boost from local nonprofit,” Feb. 9), that local philanthropic group known as the Park Ridge Juniors has designated the Park Ridge Teen Center as its “major recipient” of its 59th annual fundraiser, scheduled for March 10 at the Park Ridge Country Club.

We applaud the Juniors for doing so.  That should be the paradigm for private community group funding.

The Teen Center was one of 9 community groups that lost their City funding in 2010, with the Teen Center losing $22,000.  One reason cutting the Teen Center’s funding was the correct decision by the City Council is that, like so many other of these private corporations who pass themselves off as “Park Ridge” groups, the Teen Center reportedly serves a significant number non-Park Ridge residents. 

That apparently goes over well with the teens who want to hang out with their friends, irrespective of whether those friends’ parents pay Park Ridge property taxes; and with the adults who run the Teen Center out of the basement of the First United Methodist Church on Touhy, who seem to prefer whining about the lack of City handouts than figuring out how to keep their pet “charity” operating without bellying up to the public trough.

But that’s bad public policy, pure and simple, which we criticized it in our 12.29.10 post, “Learning A Lesson From The Teen Center”

Interestingly enough, the concept of “public charity” was recognized as bad policy by none other than political philosopher Alexis De Tocqueville – the acclaimed author of “Democracy in America” (1835) – in his “Memoir on Pauperism,” also published in 1835.  De Tocqueville saw it as something that actually tore at the social fabric:  

[I]ndividual alms-giving established valuable ties between the rich and the poor.  The deed itself involves the giver in the fate of the one whose poverty he has undertaken to alleviate.  The latter, supported by aid which he had no right to demand and which he had no hope to getting, feels inspired by gratitude.  A moral tie is established between those two classes whose interests and passions so often conspire to separate them from each other, and although divided by circumstance they are willingly reconciled.  This is not the case with legal charity.  The latter allows the alms to persist but removes its morality.  The law strips the man of wealth of a part of his surplus without consulting him, and he sees the poor man only as a greedy stranger invited by the legislator to share his wealth.  The poor man, on the other hand, feels no gratitude for a benefit that no one can refuse him and that could not satisfy him in any case. 

This may not be a popular view among those private community groups who would rather accept public welfare than undertake the heavy lifting of getting their funding directly from the taxpayers through private donation, but we think it deserves more than passing consideration.  We’d like to hear the Council debate this issue for once.

Until that happens, however, we’ll be content with the Juniors’ private philanthropy.

To read or post comments, click on title.

13 comments so far

I swear you have the same gene pool as Pol Pot. How shameful of you to twist the Youth Center situation into a spin for your extreme position. After what the City did to the Youth Center, I cannot think of a single person associated with that organization who would have a kind word to say about our Mayor. The Park Ridge Juniors saved the Youth Center from the brink of disaster caused by Mayor Schmidt and his regime.

And next time you quote one of your Tea Party founding fathers, why don’t you pick someone who lived after 1835 when the average life expectancy was actually over 40? Oh that’s right, you prefer the good old days of Charles Dickens poverty stricken Europe don’t you?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ouch…how hurtful! Actually, neither the editor nor anyone else affiliated with this blog are aware of their having any Cambodian lineage, so your analogy flops on that basis alone.

And, since Pot was a Maoist who forcibly implosed agrarian socialism on his people, directly and indirectly causing the death of an estimated 20% of Cambodia’s population in less than 5 full years of his rule, your analogy flops on that basis as well, as does your hyperbolic equating of not giving tax dollars to a teen club with the deaths of at least 2 million Cambodians. Are you really sure you want to trivialize the lives of millions of Cambodians that way, Zippy?

But our favorite part of your wacky-doodle rant is your branding of De Tocqueville as a “Tea Party founding father.” We’re not sure whether your disregard of De Tocqueville’s French citizenship or your invocation of an “average life expectancy…over 40” in advocating for a teen center is the more ridiculous, but both are first rate goofiness so keep up the good work. And don’t forget to take your meds.

This blog, and the mayor, spend an inordinate amount of energy figuratively searching for coins in the couch cushions. Meanwhile the credit cards are fully rung up. We should be addressing the more dire and expensive budget issues, namely the underperforming TIF. The TIF is robbing the general fund of millions, plus it is the source of debt to other government entities, like the park district and school districts. The city should renegotiate the agreements with those entities, and develop a plan to increase revenue from the TIF to cover bond costs. If that means an increase in taxes to the TIF zone, then so be it, but a little more creativity would be welcome.

And how did this happen? Aren’t most TIFs written so that even a shortfall of 50% of expectations would cover the costs?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The TIF has been an albatross around the City’s neck since its inception. If you want to know how it happened, ask Ald. DiPietro, the only remaining alderman from the group that brought us the TIF. Or track down all former mayors Ron Wietecha and Mike Marous, or all those former aldermen on the Council during the period from 2000 through about 2005, and ask them what they were thinking when they locked the City into this project. But we’ll bet our standard $1 that all you’ll get from them is “the recession,” so why bother?

Perhaps an even bigger problem than the TIF itself, however, are all the infrastructure needs that were neglected not only during the years that the TIF and Uptown Redevelopment took center stage, but also in the years leading up to the TIF years, when mayor Wietecha and his rubber-stamp Homeowners Party sycophants spent a good portion of their waking hours unproductively diddling around with the O’Hare issues.

Because the TIF was financed by General Obligation bonds rather than TIF bonds, we are unaware of any way that the City can refinance the TIF debt other than by agreeing to extend it out a substantial number of additional years, thereby reducing the interest rate but adding a substantial amount of interest to the total cost.

To Anon @ 930am…One of the reasons I am “searching for coins in the couch cushions” is because the TIF debt is such a terrible drain. Unfortunately, renogatiating the obligations we have to the School Boards and the Park District would only solve a small part of the problem, and those bodies do not have to do it if they don’t want to. The Council already considered refinancing the bond debt and then wisely (I think) declined because it would have stretched out the repayment period and eventually cost more in the long run. I had not considered the possibility of raising property taxes within the TIF, but I’m not sure that is even permissible, let alone equitable.

As an aside to the previous writer, I believe it was the previous Council which eventually agreed to cut funding to all but a select group of community groups. I understand that there are some people associated with groups that lost funding who blame me and do not care for me, but my job is to safeguard the interests of all taxpayers, not any special interest groups.

How much and to who does this blogger give his charitable contributions too?

EDITOR’S NOTE: However much I want, to whomever I want, whenever I want – using only my own money and not OPM (“Other People’s Money”). Do you have a problem with that, Komrade Zippy?

Why don’t you go first Zippy??

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not going to demand, or even suggest, that Komrade Zippy show us his/her before we (or anybody else) shows Komrade Zippy theirs. That would be almost as un-American as making him/her tell us how he/she voted, which would be lowering ourselves to Komrade Zippy’s level.

How much someone contributes to charity is really not the question. Some people contribute a lot, some not so much and sometimes those who contribute “not so much” are really giving more of their personal aggregate. In the end I’m sure how much we give back is measured somehow by powers higher than any of us.

There is a much more interesting and telling question I would ask this blogger. Since he/she seems so fluent in finances and cash planning; what does he/she’s personnel credit report look like?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Even if the assessment were accurate, what does “fluent in finances and cash planning” have to do with the subject of this post? And what does anyone’s “personal credit report” have to do with this post, with public policy, or with City government?

But if that’s what you consider “a much more interesting and telling question,” why don’t you just grab the new issue of The Enquirer, flip on TMZ, and really immerse yourself in mindless irrelevancy?

Well that answers that.

As I suspected.

Adele… maybe you should stick to singing unrequited love songs.

What does this blogger’s or anyone’s personal credit report have to do with anything that is being discussed here? Give the audience a little credit here for having an attention span that can’t be hijacked by you making inane requests.

Oh look, there goes a kitty!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Let’s not be too hard on Adele…she’s probably still distraught over Whitney and what’s happening with the Kardashians.

I applaud the mayor for attempting to stop the donation of government funds to local charities. As I understand the law, I believe that the city is not allowed to give away public money. The city council has a fiduciary duty to the citizens that they have not always upheld. Why is that so difficult for some people to understand?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because giving other people’s money away is FUN! And receiving other people’s money is even MORE FUN! Plus, one stop shopping at City Hall for tens of thousands of dollars is so much easier than actually collecting that same amount of money door-to-door, or on the street corner, or by mailings. Just ask the folks who run those private “community group” corporations.

I was curious what this blogger contributed to charity, not to contest or complain about the amount of contributions, but was curious if it was local or broader in scope. For example, I contribute to District 64 and to M.S. society. One local, one national. I was wondering if the blogger had a local charity (whether that is a church) and also a national one. The blogger writes so much about local issues, I was just curious what he considers important to fund. I was not trying to say what he should contribute to, just measuring what he considers worthwhile, so I could look into it too.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What charity this editor “considers important to fund” is irrelevant. To each his/her own – so long as its not tax dollars given away indiscriminately by boneheaded politicians who think they’re entitled to get their warm & fuzzies on somebody else’s dime.

The editor of this blog shows up at SPC every Sunday and puts a $20 in the collection plate. He is still going to hell.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just speculating, or just stalking? We’ll take our chances.

Anon 5:49

People like this give to nothing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Opinions vary. You must be from the “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” school of charity.

Right on cue…the holier than thou are here!
I suppose the commenter who evidently watches this blogger put $20 bucks in the basket each week doesn’t see the hypocrisy of his submission.

And 907pm, it’s good to be so sure of yourself, huh?

Leaves me wondering, where do people like you two get off with this sort of crap?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some people just don’t have the horsepower for policy and issues, which is why they default to The Enquirer/TMZ mode.

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