Public Watchdog.org

New Cop Shop Plan Just Reheated 3 Year-Old Canards?

03.14.12

Next to a big new library, a big new police station has been the most enduring pie-in-the-sky project in our community since we borrowed tens of millions of dollars several years ago to bring long-awaited “redevelopment” to Uptown.  And that project has been hemorrhaging red ink ever since.

Three years ago the voters rejected – by an 83.39% to 16.61% referendum vote – building a new police station.  Back then, proponents of the new cop shop panic-peddled dire warnings of lawsuits, unhealthy working conditions, crime sprees, and just about everything short of Al Qaeda attacks and swarms of locusts if the new cop shop wasn’t built.  Fortunately, the voters weren’t bamboozled.

And guess what?  Nothing happened.  Nothing.  Nada.

But only three short years later, the cop shop is back.  This time, however, it’s on a much smaller scale – “only” $1.1-1.3 million (best case) over several years, all the better to fly under the radar and thereby minimize the chance of a referendum where the voters might express their views in ways that can be counted objectively by the Board of Elections.  Plus, the target audience this time around is an eminently-bamboozleable City Council.

The new cop shop plan is called “Cost Effective Strategies to Address Risk Factors at the Police Facility,” a power-point presentation that appears to be the work product primarily of Frank Gruba-McCallister, Ralph Cincinelli, and some other members of the Police Chief’s Advisory Task Force.  We grudgingly have to commend them on incorporating “risk factors” in the title: an up-front scare tactic never hurts when trying to create a stampede, even if only a four-alderman one. 

The rest of the 75-page presentation is loaded with enough other disconcerting words and phrases to elicit vacuous, knee-jerk agreement from most uncritical thinkers.  While it would take us far too long to identify and comment on all the half-truths and factually questionable assertions jammed into that document, you can get the flavor from a few examples (with our parenthetical comments):

Page 5:  “Prisoners – 600 to 700 prisoners processed annually.”  [PW: That averages out to under two prisoners per day.  That’s less than Andy and Barney deposited in the Mayberry jail, not counting Otis Campbell’s regular Saturday night visits and the occasional dust-ups between the Darling Family and Ernest T. Bass.] 

Page 7:  “Intake – Path using front steps…poses risks of physical injury to officers, staff and prisoners.” [PW: Virtually everything we do involves “risks,” but how many actual injuries to “officers, staff and prisoners” have been sustained on those front steps in the past 1-3-5 years?]

Page 16: “Prisoner Processing… Trip and Falls – Prisoners and Staff.” [PW: The Report is silent on how many incidents of trip & fall injury or liability there have there over the past 1-3-5 years, but it does try to scare us with several examples from…wait for it…the New York City police department.  Is that because whenever people talk about police issues, NYC and Park Ridge invariably are spoken of in the same breath?]

Back in 2008-09, when local resident Joe Egan and his allies collected the signatures needed to put the new cop shop on the April 2009 referendum ballot (after then-mayor Howard Frimark and a majority of his alderpuppets refused to do it), we asked a few basic questions in an effort to get to the heart of the new cop shop rationale, including:

  • Has the size and condition of the current police station impeded or jeopardized the investigation and prosecution of any crimes? 
  • Has the size and condition of the current police station significantly compromised the safety of the people of Park Ridge? 
  • Has the size and condition of the current police station resulted in any actual financial liability for the City?

Not surprisingly, not one of those questions was answered in the affirmative, either by any of our public officials at that time or by the new cop shop cheering section.  But we’d still love to have those questions answered this time around – maybe by Chief Kaminski, Mr. Gruba-McCallister, or Mr. Cincinelli?

And while they’re answering those questions, we’d love for them to tell the City Council and the taxpayers why their multi-year, million dollar-plus project puts off until Year 3 – the final year – what would appear to be the single most health/safety-threatening condition of the current cop shop: mold?

Frankly, if there actually is a mold problem (as Pages 33 through 38 of the Report insist), Chief Kaminski and City Mgr. Hock owe the Police Department employees and the taxpayers a darn good explanation for: (a) why they haven’t demanded the City Council budget for mold remediation well before now; and (b) how they can justify deferring mold remediation until the final year/phase of their new cop shop plan, behind such dubious “needs” as “bike storage”? 

Or maybe Mr. Gruba-McCallister and Mr. Cincinelli could take a crack at those questions, too?

Not that the aldermen falling all over themselves in support of this project care about the answers to questions such as these.  Led by Alds. Sal Raspanti (4th) and Rich DiPietro (2nd), they voted 5-1 (Knight dissenting, Bernick…surprise!…absent) at the February 27 COW meeting to jack up vehicle sticker charges by 30% (they’re calling it a one-year “surcharge”) so that they can move forward with the project ASAP.

Predictably, Mayor Dave Schmidt questioned the rush to judgment on a million dollar project that has not been anything close to fully vetted by the Council, while Knight opposed raising the vehicle sticker charge and wanted Hock to find the money elsewhere.

But the other aldermen are stampeding, and it looks like it will take more than Schmidt and Knight to turn that herd.

To read or post comments, click on title.

8 comments so far

What is the reason for providing locker room/shower facilities? Is it for cops? Prisoners? And how long do we typically keep “prisoners?” What is the longest stint any person has spent behind PR’s very own bars? And why opt for separate male/female bathrooms? We share bathrooms at home — so why not at the police station? Are our police and the citizens who might use the bathroom not smart enough to lock the door when they are using it? Or is there some legal requirement for separate facilities?

It is clear to me that our police and council look at Niles’ and Skokie’s police stations and are infected with envy. And it will take millions to assuage their poor deflated egos.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Edifice Complex is a common affliction among public officials and employee, and there is no known treatment other than cash starvation.

And it has to be “starvation,” not mere restriction, because folks like these think that the laws of economics are suspended when it comes to public finance: Two of the financial arguments they make for doing this $1.1-1.3 million project are (a) “a $40,000 grant from the State”; and (b) the City already spent a total of $57,000 on previous proposals for a brand new cop shop, which have “led to no outcome for the citizens of Park Ridge and members of its Police Department.”

And they assume a $70k or so payment toward the project from the “overfunded” (for now) Parking Fund.
There’s money flowing in from everywhere!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We can’t wait for CNN to declare Park Ridge City government the new leading economic indicator that the Recession is over! Screw the $1.3 million cop shop plan, time to go back to the $18 million Taj Mahal. Somebody better check with Frimark buddy John Sasser to see how much he wants for 720 Garden.

Starvation unless of course it happens to be a multi-milti-million (who knows what the final bill will be) dollar project that will require a huge bond (debt) and, even at it’s completion, will only affect a small percentage of tax paying PR residents. In the case of the flood project go right ahead!!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Is “multi-milti” anything like Uncle Miltie?

We’re far from 100% on board with the entire flood control program, and we’re pretty certain a large portion of it will never get built because it will require intergovernmental cooperation from other entities (e.g., the Forest Preserve District) that is unlikely to be forthcoming.

But if you’ve got criticisms about certain specific parts of the flood control plan, identify them instead of just generically beefing about the whole plan (as you have before) that the project “will only affect a small percentage of tax paying PR residents.” THAT can be said about components of almost everything: For example, street re-paving only affects, especially on some of the shorter and dead-end streets, only affects “a small percentage of tax paying PR residents.”

It took me awhile, but I tracked down the powerpoint police station presentation you write about (in case anybody is interested, its part of the Jan. 23 agenda materisls) and was apalled at pictures of holes in the plastered walls of a detective’s office. Are they just letting the place go to hell to improve their argument for the new plan?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sure looks that way, doesn’t it.

I agree with 4:32 PM. It reminds me of the way that the library staff piled books on the floor until after the voters rejected their request for a better facility. After the vote, the facility suddenly looked much better.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Along those lines, but the Library staff didn’t punch holes in the walls and let mold proliferate to make its point.

My god!! The police, who work for us, have deliberately been punching holes in walls and deliberately letting mold grow (perhaps they even brought it in and planted it). This is an outrage!!!! Why has the Mayor not mnentioned this “fact” in his typical public discussion of this matter? It seems like he is missing a real opportunity to bolster his case along with letting them get away with what might be criminal damage to property!!!!!!!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome back, Zippy.

Take a look at pages 31-33 of the “Risk Factors” Report and then tell us if you think the hole on 31 just materialized – like a sinkhole in the pavement. And, irrespective of how the hole occurred, or the mold grew, anybody who would leave it like that either doesn’t give a rat’s derriere about such conditions or is trying to make a point.

But based on last night’s vote at the Council budget meeting, it looks like that hole and the mold are going to stay that way for another 2-3 years while the City spends around $700K for things like a bike corral. Maybe Messrs. Gruba-McCallister and Cincinelli can explain why they even included such obviously meaningless photos, and the dire warnings of OSHA citations, in their Report – and whether the folks who work in those areas prefer “holy” walls and sucking in mold spores to un-corralled bicycles or no sally-port?

We support the men and women in blue. We don’t have to spend a million dollars more to say we support them, however.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Spot-on, FWT, especially when most of the Gruba-McCallister/Cincinelli Report is sky-is-falling hyperbole, anecdote and speculation rather than hard, provable facts or reliable data.

I just read my local paper and I am absolutely shocked!! I find out that the city council gave the OK to replace the carpet in chambers. Where is the study on this espense??? Are they saying that this will somehow have a positive affect on council performance??? Why did the Mayor not appoint a carpet task force??? It will cost $5,600 and guess what?? Now they are looking at chairs!!! What’s next??? Ahhhhhh!!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: How droll. Stupid, but droll nonetheless.



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