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“Adult” Decision-making Needed Tonight At City Hall

02.22.12

Conventional wisdom tells us that “no good deed goes unpunished.” 

And it looks like it will be demonstrated again at tonight’s City Council 2012-13 budget workshop, where the City Council’s 2-year old fiscal responsibility is expected to be challenged by staff and supporters of the private corporation (and consummate public trough feeder) Center of Concern (“CofC”); and by a group of citizens who want renovations and additions to the Park Ridge Police station.

Today’s Park Ridge Journal reports (“Center Of Concern Seeks Budget Backing”) that CofC “sent out an e-mail asking residents to attend [tonight’s] meeting and ask the city to continue its funding” to the tune of $49,000/year, or else CofC “would be forced to reduce programs or staff members that support residents.”  That’s the same tune CofC has been singing since the City started re-thinking its annual giveaway of arbitrary amounts of taxpayer funds to “local” private corporations/community groups a couple of years ago.

As we’ve repeatedly written, we are fans of private charities such as CofC.  We just don’t like them hitting up local taxing bodies like the City for funding simply because they know our local public officials are such soft touches when it comes to giving away other people’s (i.e., the taxpayers’) money for “feel good” reasons.  Of course, the City Council might one day actually do the right thing and comply with its own Policy No. 6 – and then contract with CofC and other private social service businesses for a specific quantity of specific services solely for Park Ridge residents at a specific price per unit of service.  But that would require more critical thinking and effort than the Council has appeared willing to invest, especially when a warm-and-fuzzy quick-fix is just a $49,000 “yes” vote away.

Interestingly enough, CofC has opposed that “contract” concept, balking at having to provide that kind of accountability for which it isn’t set up.  It also must not be set up for actual fundraising: its reported fundraising for FY 2009 (as disclosed in its most recent Form 990 tax return posted on GuideStar) is pathetic, accounting for only $75,482 of its $998,000 of total revenues, and netting it a ridiculous $37,600.

That dismal figure suggests that either the general public, left to its own devices, doesn’t wish to financially support CofC, or that CofC’s staff and politician-laden director and advisory boards aren’t even making any serious fundraising effort – presumably because they’ve found the public trough so much more inviting. 

The folks who want the cop shop renovation/additions, on the other hand, have the better argument for the $1-2 million of public funds the project is projected to cost over the next 3-4 years.  That’s because the cop shop is a public building run by public officials who – unlike the folks who run CofC – are accountable to the taxpayers/voters.  And the things they are proposing would no doubt improve the quality and efficiency of the police station, although not necessarily on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

But we have not seen nor heard anything close to a compelling case for the necessity of these renovations/additions, especially where the City’s finances remain in a figurative iron lung, and necessary infrastructure projects continue to be deferred or down-scaled despite annual property tax increases in the 3.5% range and a variety of fee increases.

While the Police Chief’s Advisory Task Force has raised all sorts of dire warnings and predictions about the criminal danger and civil liability festering in the current cop shop, we can find no hard evidence that the conditions and deficiencies of the cop shop: (a) jeopardized any criminal investigation; (b) jeopardized any criminal prosecution; or (c) resulted in any civil liability to any criminal, suspect, officer, employee, or citizen.  (In an upcoming post we will provide a critical analysis of the “Cost Effective Strategies to Address Risk Factors at the Police Facility,” the report/game plan for the renovations and additions to the cop shop being proposed).

As the City recently heard from Moody’s bond raters, the General Fund balance is unacceptably low and continues to decline because of the black hole effect of the Uptown TIF, which already has sucked almost $5 million out of the General Fund and is likely to continue doing so until FY 2023 – 5 years after the TIF is projected to bottom out at $14 million of total deficits. 

If that’s not bad enough, the to-date $5 million of TIF borrowing from the General Fund occurred (as we understand it) while the City was only paying interest on the general obligation bonds funding the TIF.  Unfortunately, starting next year, debt service will include principal repayments – which is why, for the years FY 2013-FY 2016, Revenue Director Allison Stutts is projecting year end deficits from the TIF totaling $3.1 million, which deficits will need to be covered by…wait for it…more loans from the General Fund. 

Call it déjà vu all over again.  Or further proof of Einstein’s definition of “insanity.”

The City didn’t get into this mess overnight.  It took more than a decade of feel-good-but-irresponsible management and whistle-past-the-graveyard financial obliviousness to produce this collection of problems.  Only In the past two years, however, has the City finally stopped digging and, instead, began filling in the hole – one small shovel-full at a time.  And it will take several more years of increasingly larger shovels-full of spending cuts and revenue increases (a/k/a, taxes and fees) just to get us anywhere close to where the City’s finances become stable enough to address infrastructure and unforeseen contingencies in a predictable, non-“crisis” mode.

Expect to hear shameless invocations of the “poor,” the “disabled,” “seniors,” “human suffering, “dignity,” “safety,” “efficiency,” “liability” and any other buzzwords that might tug at the heartstrings while clouding the mind on the real issues of transparency, accountability, fiscal responsibility and taxpayer choice.  That’s how this game is played, and those who play it for a living or a hobby have gotten quite good at it. 

But make no mistake about it: the folks who will show up tonight at City Hall with their hands full of “gimme” and their mouths full of “much obliged” see the modest surplus the City posted last year and the one it’s on track to post this current FY as nothing more than a pool of available cash just waiting to be tapped for their own personal hearts’ desires, the taxpayers and the City’s long-term economic health be damned. 

Will there be at least 4 “adults” sitting around The Horseshoe tonight with the discipline, the integrity, the vision and the courage to just say “no”?

To read or post comments, click on title.

11 comments so far

All of these reasons you list here are further proof that the city should not be incurring millions in new debt for a sewer project either. This project is something that won’t help all the citizens and won’t even help most of the citizens. I did some research and bought a house with overhead sewers. It’s not rocket science. Plus, if you talk to any plumbers who have worked in this city, they will tell you that the only solution is to tear up the city and remove all the grossly undersized sewer pipes that run underground. You can’t just fix a few areas because then you will just push the water to the other areas that weren’t “fixed”.
For years this city wasted money and threw it up in the air at the airplanes. Now they want to throw the money down the drain…literally.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post addresses only City expenditures to private businesses for what may not truly be “City” purposes and without contracts (or bids or RFPs), transparency, accountability and any objectively measurable return on investment. What you’re talking about is City expenditures to private businesses for “City” purposes (albeit, according to you, unwise ones) with contracts per bid or RFP, transparency, accountability and objectively measurable (albeit, to your way of thinking, insufficient) benefits.

But we respectfully suggest you are misinformed on your point about any flooding “fix” just pushing water into areas that aren’t “fixed” to the detriment of those areas’ homeowners. As the flood plan has been explained by the City’s consultant and the task force members, the projects are designed to push the water into designated detention areas (like Park Ridge country club grounds) or into the Des Plaines River.

Impressive. All you had to do is show up with your disingenuous B-game and your little fellas fell into line. Your legacy is a fine one: You brought down the Center of Concern. Congrats.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And exactly what is “disingenuous” about asking the Council to follow its own Policy No. 6, which apparently it never has done for CofC or any other handout recipients over the years? Or asking why CofC doesn’t account to the City for exactly what services it performs for City residents at what cost?

Heck, Rich Whalen claimed to be turning imaginary $1 bills into 3 imaginary $1 bills, and you aren’t saying THAT’s “disingenuous”!

Don’t blame us if CofC can’t produce Ald. Bernick when it needs him. It trotted out some of its stable of politicians (Marous, Kerin, Radermacher, Whalen, Wynn-Ryan, et al.) and 50 or so additional folks who never show up at a Council meeting unless they’re looking for some kind of taxpayer handout or favor, so how did it forget to get Little Tommy B to the dance?

Not to worry, however: Ald. Richie assured the assembled multitude that the exclusion of CofC’s handout of the arbitrary $49,000 (why not $39,000, or $59,000, or $159,000?) will be cured by amendment when the budget is voted on next month. And since CofC already has Richie, Sweens and Smitty safely tucked away, all it needs to do is make sure Little Tommy shows up (assign Frimark as his driver), the amendment will pass, and the taxpayers will once again make another CofC donation they don’t otherwise choose to make so that all those folks who showed up last night can take another year off from doing any serious fundraising.

Besides, even the most doom-and-gloomiest of the CofC contingent didn’t say the lack of $49K was going to “bring down” CofC, so don’t make up any more stories.

“Bring down C of C?” That is the most preposterous thing I have ever seen on this blog, and there have been some doozies.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Aw, c’mon. That’s not even as preposterous as Rich Whalen’s claiming $1 today will be worth $3 tomorrow. He was laughing during most of it, however, so maybe it was just a big goof. Or Ms. Wynn-Ryan’s “we the people get to say what the business of government is,” which harkened to Bluto’s immortal “Animal House” pep talk: “Nothing is over until we decide it is.” Another 30 seconds and she would have been leading a “We are…the 99%!” chant.

Brought down the Center of Concern.

Hyperbole much?

EDITOR’S NOTE: GL, maybe your power ring could draw out some actual, documented, credible numbers to establish any of the warm-and-fuzzy, often grandiose claims CofC’s supporters make without a shred of proof.

Well, you raise an interesting point. If it’s not “we, the people” who get to say what the business of government is, who does get to say?
Grover Norquist? You? The Tooth Fairy?

And BTW, We ARE the 99 Percent.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since our gov’t is a republic and not a direct democracy, our elected representatives have that honor.

EVERYBODY’s the 99%,which is both the genius of the slogan and the shallowness of the concept.

“your little fellas fell into line”? I think you give this blogster a little too much credit.

“We the people”…MWR better check her history book or think back to civics class about how our form of government works.

And Whalen is a magician!

What a world…

EDITOR’S NOTE: Try way “too much credit.”

If Whalen really is a magician,let’s see him pull $49,500 out of somewhere other than the City treasury…starting with his own pocket and the pockets of the 50+ CofC director and advisory board members. Can we put you down for a grand, Richie?

I’m sick of everyone wanting more money. Center of Concern, Meals on wheels and Maine Center should run private fundraising efforts. I was at the PRPD open house tonight and it was all about what we should be offering that PRPD doesn’t have.. A Senior was asking about the senior center and why they’re now being treated like the a normal person.. Guess what? WE DON’T WANT TO PAY MORE TAXES! Everyone needs to get that through their think skulls! I haven’t had a pay raise since 2009 (Yeah, I’m in the tech industry) so why do the firemen in this city get a raise? Why do the seniors feel like they can continue to get a subsidy? Why do we need more PRPD facilities? Why do we need a new/revamped police station!? It’s time to live within our means, quit raising our taxes and start paying off our existing debt!!

I always questioned whether or not Malony and Raspanti were Trinzaites, but I guess we now know.
You must be very proud.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We suggest you pose that question to Alds. Maloney and Raspanti. You can find them at City Hall most Monday nights, starting at 7:00, and there’s always a time when citizens wishing to address the Council on a non-agenda item can do so>

We’re never “proud” when any public official actually thinks an issue through and makes a reasoned decision for the general welfare rather than for the welfare of a politically-connected special interest, because that’s simply the job they signed on for. We are, however, disappointed when officials just knee-jerk their decisions, or go along just to get along – especially when they ignore established rules, policies and/or procedures and can’t (or won’t) even articulate their “reasoning” for doing so.

I would except having just watched the video, I doubt I would get any answer. Forget how they voted. After listening to all those speakers, who by the way were cut off by your other puppet Knight, the two of them sat silent. They offered no explanation. They just sat there and raised there hands like good boys.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you really had watched and listened to the video, you would have heard Ald. Knight advise everyone, pre-speechifying, that there was going to be a 3-minute rule, which several speakers violated without being “cut off.”

We’ll again suggest that you show up and question Alds. Maloney and Raspanti Monday night, but somehow we just don’t think you’ll do it.

So if these guys you refer to are ” Triznaites” or “puppets” then are we to assume that DiPeitro, Sweeney, Smith and Bernick are YOUR puppets? Is it just because they don’t see things you way they are somebody’s puppets? Think about it.

“Triznaites.”

C’mon, people. Principles, not personalities.

If you don’t like a point-of-view, explain yours and let the ideas compete with one another. I never vote for someone based on their tribe. What matters is what they’re going to DO.

And on that point, we pay way too much in taxes, so let’s cut spending. The Center of Concern won’t be brought down.



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