Center Of Concern Funding Still A “Special” Deal (Updated 02.25.12)


The public comment segment of Wednesday night’s City Council’s budget workshop – addressing whether the City should budget $49,500 for the Center of Concern (CofC) in FY 2012-13 – ran over an hour, even though only a fraction of the 50+ CofC supporters in the audience actually spoke to the Council.  

When the smoke cleared, 3 aldermen (Joe Sweeney, Rich DiPietro and Jim Smith) voted to add that $49,500 into the budget, while the other 3 aldermen present (Sal Raspanti, Dan Knight and Marty Maloney) voted to uphold its exclusion that they, along with Smith, had approved at an earlier budget workshop.  That tie, created because Ald. Tom Bernick was once again MIA, meant the budget will come up for final approval without money for CofC – although DiPietro basically promised an amendment to include CofC funding when the final vote is taken.

As we predicted in Wednesday’s post, emotional buzzwords and phrases abounded. 

Former 4th Ward alderman (and current CofC director) John Kerin told the Council to “take off the…blinders” and not “kick our seniors to the curb,” while former 6th Ward alderman Mary Wynn Ryan warned that “We the People get to say what the business of our government is.”  And former 4th Ward alderman (and current CofC treasurer) Jim Radermacher suggested that eliminating City funding of CofC would make Park Ridge no longer “A wonderful place.”

Other CofC supporters floated fantastic financial claims, like former 5th Ward alderman Rich Whalen’s magic act that had CofC returning $3 of value “tomorrow” for every $1 of City funding “today.”  But that Ponzi-like promise actually paled in comparison to the “fabulous” return on investment of “5 times, 10 times, 500 to 1,000%” that former mayor (and current CofC advisory board member) Mike Marous projected for City funding of CofC.

Heck, if that were remotely close to provable fact, the City might be able to solve most of its financial woes by “investing” a few million in CofC.  But from the few specks of verifiable data CofC has provided about the services it actually performs for Park Ridge residents, MegaMillions might be a surer bet.

Although the CofC folks hate to hear it, CofC is just another private vendor of services.  Kerin admitted as much Wednesday night when he referred to the City’s having “outsourced” its human services function to CofC. 

But because of its clout – a board of directors and advisory board so loaded with current and former officeholders that Marous could proudly note how there were more aldermen in the audience than sitting around The Horseshoe – it has NEVER been held to ANY of the procurement or performance standards to which other City vendors are subjected.

That makes CofC perhaps the ultimate “special interest” vendor:  no uncertainty of competitive bidding, no bothersome RFPs, no annoying RFQs, no pesky contracts, not even a price list.  In other words, CofC is excused from providing anything by which an ordinary taxpayer – or the aldermen allegedly representing him – could judge whether the City truly is getting at least a dollar’s worth of service for every tax dollar paid out.

If the City bought any other of its goods or services in this cockamamie fashion, somebody would (or, at least, should) be fired.  And maybe even sued for what the legendary Mike Royko called: “Aggravated mopery with intent to gawk.”

Would the taxpayers tolerate a procurement process for street paving services whereby the City would send $49,500 to a paving contractor with the understanding that the contractor, and not the City, will decide how many streets it will pave, which ones it will pave (even if they aren’t in Park Ridge), when it will pave them, and the price it will charge per block?

Not for a New York minute.

But that’s exactly the kind of absurd arrangement the City has maintained with CofC for years.  And that’s exactly the deal Alds. Sweeney, DiPietro, Smith (and Bernick, if/when he deigns to return?) want to keep in place, notwithstanding City Council Policy No. 6 which has never been complied with since it was last amended in 1991…and maybe since it was adopted in 1974.

Throw a few more zeroes in there and this could be the kind of deal that might get even Mike Madigan’s attention. 

UPDATE:  We addressed CofC’s failure to provide meaningful information about the services it allegedly provides to Park Ridge residents in our 05.16.11 post: , noting that the most detailed information CofC ever has provided the City – its 2011 application for City funding – claimed 6,770 “Park Ridge residents served.”  If provably true, that would be 18% of all Park Ridge residents!  Even in these difficult economic times, that kind of claim deserves a serious credibility check. 

And nowhere in that report are there any numbers to establish how many man-hours, or cost-units, of services CofC allegedly provides to Park Ridge residents for the money it gets from the City.   As we pointed out then, transparency and accountability are foreign to CofC – and remain foreign to CofC to this day, as does the concept of actually entering into a contract with the City that requires CofC to provide X units of service for Y dollars of funding.

To read or post comments, click on title.

16 comments so far

Of all the blogs you have written that demonstrate how you lack any understanding of financial management, this one is the best example. It is a tragedy that you are the Mayor’s financial adviser. Neither one of you know what you are talking about when it comes to financial management. Anyone who has read your garbage and listened to the Mayor’s dumb ideas knows you are not concerned with the process of this contribution. You and the Mayor have a philosophy of government that says nobody should get any charitable assistance from public dollars. Congratulations on helping to make Park Ridge a miserable and miserly community that turns it’s back on senior citizens and others when they’re in need.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re looking for the mayor’s “financial adviser,” you might look to the chairman of the Council’s Finance & Budget Committee and to the City’s Finance Director, both of whom are more capable of dispensing financial advice than the editor of this blog.

But the real problem with the CofC issue isn’t “financial management” but procurement of services from an outside vendor, which should be a routine matter – except that CofC thinks itself too “special” to submit to standard procurement procedures; and 3 or 4 (when the 4th shows up) aldermen foolishly/politically encourage and enable that “special” attitude.

Oh brother. “A miserable and miserly community?” Talk about over the top. The left wingnuts are working overtime this week. Perhaps 1137 would rather return to the days when the aldermen and former mayors who now help run the C of C were spending the City into financial oblivion. We could all be singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” as we march off the financial cliff.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We wonder if it’s many of the same “seniors” who insisted on their own heavily taxpayer-subsidized “Senior Center” clubhouse?

There is a certain irony in the former mayor who made Uptown Redevelopment (and the incurring of most of the TIF bond financing) a reality – and which almost single-handedly has bled the General Fund into an iron lung (mixing metaphors) – arguing for an arbitrary no-strings-attached donation of tax dollars to one of his favorite private charities.

Consider this an opportunity to band together with many others in the community to fulfill a need the government can’t or won’t. Sort of like the holiday lights.

And, by the way, what is the “process for this contribution” that the Mayor and this blogger don’t understand?

Finally, guess a lot of people are unhappy about the nature of our last election. All those uncontested races and the 3rd Ward’s complete lack of a candidate has given us a real meanie Council.
Maybe that will be the best thing that comes of this…we’ll get some contested elections and debate just this sort of thing before the next Council is seated.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good point: the 52 folks listed on the CoFC’s boards could band with many of the 50+ folks at City Hall Wednesday night, and with Alds. Sweeney, DiPietro, Smith and Bernick, et al. and do some real fund-raising, like for the holiday lights.

We love contested elections. The more, the better, and with huge turnouts.

So, the first Anonymous commenter at the top, from 11:37 am, trashes the “lack of understanding of financial management.” OK. I was expecting, then, a cogent explanation of the finances. Instead, we got a diatribe about charity.

I give a lot of money to charity, and do so willingly. If you want to give to the Center of Concern, go right ahead. I just don’t understand why public funds are required. That’s not finance, that’s civics. Learn the difference.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “That’s not finance, that’s civics. Learn the difference.” Well said, FWT – wish we thought of it.

The bloggers here, like 5TH WARD TAXPAYER, just aren’t wired to care. Have a good time wallowing in your philosophy that government shouldn’t contribute money for charitable purposes for seniors and others in our community who need help. That is what is really going on here. None of you care about cost effective ways of helping anyone. You think that if one dollar of tax money goes to human needs your sick philosophy of the purpose of government has been violated. If you need to have the financial management explained to you, you are too stupid to understand it and you fit right in on this blog.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What rancor!

If you want to explain “financial management” to somebody, try the folks over at CofC who either can’t or won’t account for what any of their services cost them to furnish, or what they are charging the City and other neighboring communities.

And when you’re done with that lesson, try teaching them how to fundraise directly from all those taxpayers who purportedly support the CofC but don’t seem to want to contribute to it – because from what CofC’s financials show, it just plain sucks at fundraising.

Sorry to jump around here, but follwoing up on the discussion in the previous “topic”. I was not questioning the 3 minute, although now that you mention it, why suddenly make an arbitrary decision to cut speeches to 3 minutes from the standard 5? Oh I know because the chair didn’t like the topic.

No, my comment was aimed at the fact that the Chair cut the actual number of speakers off. “This will be the last speaker”. WTF?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stop whining – we didn’t see any line of speakers who got turned down. In fact, the last speaker (not even from Park Ridge) was allowed to speak after the chair ended the public comment portion of the meeting; and she spoke for well over 5 minutes. Really, what else was left to be said that hadn’t been said a dozen times earlier?

I am very sorry Comrad. You are right. I should be quiet.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Or just think before you comment.

This C of C whining is starting to sound a lot like the holier-than-thou whining of the PADS white shirts. I’ll bet they are the same people.

The bloggers here like quotes. Here is one they should take to heart. Abraham Lincoln said, Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. The bloggers here and the meeting chair have failed that test. The rancor is the same from the bloggers here. They are willing to hurt our seniors and others in need to serve their sick philosophy of government. I hope people watch the video of the meeting and see the dumb suggestions made from the blog editor here who wants to spend tons of money auditing the Center of Concern. I hope people watch the video and see that only one person spoke against this contribution to a local charity that has served for thirty years our seniors and others in need and it was the blog editor from here who was the only one. People should see Alderman Knight declare the end to hearing from the residents. There is nothing but hypocrisy here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s another quote for you: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” (Daniel Patrick Moynihan). Nobody’s “willing to hurt our seniors and others” – this blog’s editor simply suggested the Council follow its own Policy No. 6, not “spend tons of money auditing” the CofC. But, of course, panic peddling has been a successful CofC strategy until now, so we can understand how you folks would want to stick with it.

Yes, that boring ole Bible says the same do-unto-others thing over and over, page after page. Probably always will. Meanwhile, back at the (depreciated-value) ranch, we were told that volunteers with serious finance chops (CFOs, even!) provided volumns of financial minutae to the Council. Is this not so? What specific info/stats did you not get to make a decision in favor? And if you can find a vendor of services the City can contract with that comes with a couple of hundred unpaid volunteers, let me know. We have all we can do to get the existing employees to do a day’s work for a day’s (pretty darn considerable) pay, and the vendors all come in at or near the same hellacious costs, knowing the gub-mint is the customer. You couldn’t get one mope on staff for $49K, all in; and you know it. So for you and your puppets, it is the principal, not the money.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If that’s what you were told, then you were lied to – because while CofC has provided all sorts of meaningless numbers, none of them are usable in any cost-accounting way to determine (a) exactly how many Park Ridge residents are receiving (b) exactly what services (c) at exactly what price per unit of service (d) that the Park Ridge taxpayers are paying to CofC. So that means all those “volunteers with serious finance chops (CFOs, even)” need to work on their honesty “chops.”

So redundancy is bad?? Someone better tell the Mayor…..

EDITOR’S NOTE: If “redundancy” were the standard of measure Wednesday night, the publc comments could have ended after about 15 minutes.

What’s wrong with being principled?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nothing, but to what are you referring?

Adding…if that’s the worst you can say about this blogger, the Mayor and the puppets they’re doing OK.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Adding to what?

Eyem tho confuthesed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Join the club.

802PM said: So for you and your puppets, it is the principal, not the money. (I assume -principle- was what was meant.)

So I ask…what’s wrong with being principled? Probably should have asked what’s wrong with doing something for the principle of it?

I was catching up on my PW reading and noticed that somebody calling themselves “bnon” posted a number of comments to your 2/20 post. “Bnon” is not me.

I really do not see why all the push-back from Center of Concern on this. The city is in bad shape financially and giving away money to private groups is one of the things that has to go. Your point is spot-on. If the Center is a vendor of services to the city, they should charge the city for those services like the asphalt paver would.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, we noticed a different “signature.” Welcome back.

THat’s the point of a contract for services. And the point of why a legitimate service provider would have any problem with such a contract for services.

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