Youth Campus “Plan” Has More Questions Than Answers


We have been critical of both the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District and a small group of greedy and petty senior citizens regarding a dispute over a $330,000 bequest to the “Park Ridge Senior Center” by former Senior Center member Betty Kemnitz.

Frankly, the way that situation has been mishandled raises concerns about the District’s overall stewardship ability, on a number of levels.  And the District’s continued bungling of the situation and the related litigation in the Circuit Court of Cook County is troubling and discouraging.

That’s why we are cautious in reacting to the Park District’s recently-announced intention to acquire a portion of the Park Ridge Youth Campus, which has shut down its operations and is deciding whether or not to sell its approximately 11 acres of prime “country club” real estate between Prospect and Washington, just south of Oakton.

We’re not saying the District’s acquisition of around 60% of the Youth Campus’ acreage, or partnering with developer Marc Elliott, is a bad idea.  It’s just that there are far too many unanswered questions for us to sign onto, or oppose, the project at this early stage.  

But we like the idea of this kind of public/private venture – where neither the Park District nor Elliott seem to have the financial wherewithal to take on the whole project all alone – especially if such a venture is done with the hard-eyed analysis and hard-nosed bargaining that was so sorely lacking in the City’s public/private Uptown Redevelopment boondoggle, which allowed private developer PRC Partners to walk off with a reportedly tidy profit while the City is approximately $6 million in the hole and still digging.

As the Youth Campus plan is presently being described, the District will go to referendum to authorize the issuance of bonds for the multi-millions of dollars the acquisition and re-purposing of the land for District purposes is expected to cost.  Elliott, who already owns 3 lots at the northeast end of the Youth Campus that created quite a stir when he tried to turn them into group homes, plans to take the remaining 40% at the southernmost half of the property for the construction of single family homes.

Clearly, the price of the land will be a big issue for the District, as it will affect how much in bonds the District will have to issue, and the amount of the corresponding annual debt service that will siphon already scarce funds away from the District’s established facilities and programs. 

Another big issue will be the viability of the District’s plan, which currently includes using some of the existing buildings for the District’s central offices and various programming.  Until the District produces a sound and detailed business plan, every taxpayer should have a serious concern for whether this is an economically realistic and sustainable venture, or just an opportunistic scheme emerging solely because this land has suddenly become available.

For the District to have even a snowball’s chance of passing this kind of referendum, it will need to make a convincing case not only for the bonded debt but also for keeping the Park District’s 60% of that property off the property tax rolls in perpetuity. 

We also question the wisdom of the District’s “jumping into bed” with one specific developer – Elliott – rather than inviting offers from the entire development community, especially given that the District is in the catbird seat due to its eminent domain power: i.e., its legal right to take the property for a legitimate public purpose – in this case, a public park and recreational facility – at its fair market value. 

To our knowledge, the Park District has done nothing since 1994 to acquire any significant acreage for park and recreation purposes, so clearly it doesn’t need that Youth Campus property. 

The real question will be whether the Park District can convince the voters that their want of that property is reason enough to pass the referendum.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Midsummer Musings About April 2013


Normally we would consider it too early to start speculating on the April 2013 municipal elections, but we received several bits of unsolicited information “over the transom” in the last week that piqued our curiosity and which we have decided to share, if only for their entertainment value. 

Thanks to former mayor Howard Frimark’s successful 2006 cut-the-Council referendum, three aldermanic seats – in the 2nd, 4th and 6th wards – are up for grabs next April, with the main event being the regularly-scheduled quadrennial mayoral race. 

So it’s only fitting that the first entertaining bon mot is the rumor that Frimark, who recently relocated from the 6th Ward  to the 2nd Ward, did so in order to run for the seat that current Ald. Rich DiPietro is expected to be vacating after 18 years on the Council.

History tells us that the 2nd Ward trails only the 3rd Ward in voter apathy, measured by the number of uncontested aldermanic elections it has had over the past decade.  In the absence of any other identified heir-apparent groomed by Richie D waiting in the wings, perhaps Frimark figures he can count on an empty field and a blessing from his departing buddy to return him to The Horseshoe, albeit in a smaller chair than the one the voters took from him in 2009.

And in light of the recent four-way “contest” for the mayoral appointment to fill the last 10 months of the 6th Ward term by former candidate Marc Mazzuca, transplanted former 7th Ward ald. Jeff Cox, and former Maine Twp. trustee Peter Ryan, all of whom are potential candidates for a full term next April, Frimark may have figured that the easiest way back to 505 Butler Place is by the northwest passage.

Whether anybody challenges Ald. Sal Raspanti in the 4th Ward will likely depend on just how well he is perceived to be handling the demands of the office.  His elections to both the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District Board in 2005 and to the City Council in 2011 were uncontested and, therefore, he didn’t have a real opportunity to demonstrate his stump ability or his vote-getting prowess. 

He already has earned a couple of kudos from the fiscal responsibility crowd for his recent votes to cut off budget appropriations for the private community group corporations, and to deny a multi-million dollar subsidy for the developer of the Whole Foods property.   But 10 months can be a lifetime in government and politics, so it’s likely Raspanti will still have a number of opportunities to enhance or diminish that perception in the interim.

The real intrigue, however, will be related to the mayoral race.  We’ve already heard rumors of the active recruitment and/or endorsement of challengers to Mayor Dave Schmidt by Frimark, by anti-O’Hare activist/wing-nut Gene Spanos, by recent Niles immigrants Rob and Kim Biederman, and by an un-named former Park District commissioner. 

Frimark’s recruiting efforts are no surprise, given his loathing of Schmidt and rumors that he himself doesn’t have the stomach for another run.  Although we understand that Frimark is seeking a “seasoned” candidate with some prior Council or other elective-office experience, his inability to recruit such a candidate might cause him to fall back his unsuccessful 2011 7th Ward aldermanic candidate, Franklin Ramirez. 

Interestingly, Ramirez, who describes himself as a “community and youth activist,” has started soliciting $10 contributions for bumper stickers bearing his name and his Facebook page address.  So unless Ramirez is planning to move out of his parents’ home and into one of the 3 even-numbered wards with aldermanic seats up for grabs next year, his bumper stickers would appear to be either a novel commercial “branding” exercise or the precursor to a mayoral run.

Even more intriguing is the rumor that the Madigan-ista Biedermans and the RINO (Republican In Name Only) Spanos are already talking up 5th Ward resident Larry Ryles, although we haven’t been able to tell whether their respective efforts are joint or independent.

Rob Biederman spent 5 years as a key political operative for Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and 3 years as Atty. General Lisa Madigan’s strategic communications director, while wife Kim was a Niles village trustee and Niles mayoral candidate before their emigration to Park Ridge following her unsuccessful 2009 campaign.

Spanos backed Schmidt in 2009 but reportedly soured on the mayor because of Schmidt’s refusal to support a major City funding commitment to fight O’Hare expansion and to make the “Fly Quiet” program a legal requirement rather than the merely voluntary program it currently is.

Ryles has been very active in Kiwanis, which gives him a solid base of support among the Kiwanians.  And his position on the Police Chief’s Advisory Task Force gives him another discrete group of potential supporters.  Support by the Biederman’s might suggest a renewed attempt by state Democrats to politicize Park Ridge government in ways that the then-dominant Homeowners Party was alleged to be doing for state Republicans prior to the HOs’ disastrous performance in the 2003 aldermanic elections, when HO-endorsed aldermanic candidates were soundly defeated in five of the six contested ward races. 

Whether Ramirez, Ryles, and/or other candidates actually take the plunge in 2013 remains to be seen, but we think the smart money is that Schmidt definitely will have at least one challenger.

And speaking of money, campaign cash should be available to one or more Schmidt challengers.

The Citizens for Non-Partisan Local Elections, which was formed in January 2009 as a de facto successor to the now-defunct Homeowners Party, is still sitting on the $15,000 it “inherited” from the HOs.  That would serve as some decent seed money, although that committee’s chairman/treasurer, former 1st Ward HO alderman John English, has not made any public comment on that committee’s intentions since it was founded.

And if we understand the tax code correctly, private 501(c)(6) corporation Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”) may draw on its $80,000+ bank account to campaign for or against candidates for public office, since its running of the Taste of Park Ridge event makes such campaign funding ancillary to its primary bread and circuses exempt activity, thereby providing legal cover for any political or “lobbying” activity.  

All in all, the 2013 municipal elections look to provide a lively bit of political theater.  Hopefully the outcome will be closer in quality to “Death of a Salesman” than to “Springtime for Hitler.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

A Good Bet: Mazzuca In The Sixth


With the unanimous approval of the City Council, Mayor Dave Schmidt’s appointee to fill the 6th Ward aldermanic vacancy, Marc Mazzuca, was sworn in at last Monday night’s Council meeting.

RE-DISCLOSURE: The editor of this blog was a member of the four-person selection committee who interviewed the four applicants for the position and recommended Mazzuca.

Mazzuca took his seat at The Horseshoe some seven years and change after he lost the race to succeed retiring 6th Ward veteran Frank DePaul, to Mary Wynn Ryan by a mere 5 votes in April, 2005.  The Council he joins in June 2012, however, is far different from, and only half the size of, the one he would have joined but for the want of 6 votes.

Back then, Mazzuca chose not to seek a recount despite reportedly strong encouragement from supporters of newly-elected mayor Howard Frimark, who viewed Mazzuca as a Frimark ally while viewing Ryan as a guaranteed vote with an alleged “bloc” of old and new aldermen – Don Crampton (1st), Jeannie Markech (2nd), Kim Jones (3rd), Jim Radermacher (4th), Mark Anderson (5th), Rex Parker (6th), Jeff Cox (7th) and Frank Wsol (7th) – whose purported goal was to harass and hinder Frimark.

The G-9’s first official act was to re-claim the Council’s right to organize its own committees, which for years had been ceded by previous Homeowners Party aldermen to previous Homeowners Party mayors.  That was a long-overdue and sound public policy move. 

But it became a rallying point for the purple-beribboned Frimark supporters (including then-private citizen, now mayor, Dave Schmidt), who responded to his plaintive cries of “They’re stealing my powers” – think Emperor Palpatine crying “Help me, Anakin, I’m too weak” just before electrocuting Mace Windu in “Star Wars: Episode III–Revenge of the Sith” – with scathing condemnations of the G-9 that left many G-9ers hiding in plain sight for the remainder of their terms. 

Nevertheless, they scored a couple more notable successes, including passing a first-ever ethics ordinance for aldermen and posting a multi-million dollar budget surplus for FY 2006-07 – even if almost all of that surplus came from the City’s sale of its former “Reservoir Block” to the private redeveloper of Uptown, PRC Partners, for what may have been a couple-three million dollars less than it was worth because the City never even obtained an appraisal of the property. 

But the G-9 was already beginning to crumble from petty political infighting when an annoyed but emboldened Frimark put a referendum on the November 2006 ballot seeking to cut the Council from 14 aldermen to a more “manageable” 7, claiming that it would save $8,600/year in $100/mo. aldermanic stipends. 

Although the Council cut was opposed by the entire G-9 and a number of former aldermen, it effectively became a mid-term referendum on the G-9; and Frimark prevailed, 7,688 to 6,354.

A dispirited G-9 – save for Parker and Wsol – chose not even to seek re-election when all their terms expired in May 2007.  Parker lost to Frimark ally Tom Carey by 1,043 to 654, while Wsol defeated Frimark ally Bob Kristie, 973 to 566.

And Mazzuca’s opponent?  Ryan found a soft-landing in an uncontested election for the Park Ridge Park District Board, where she continues to serve to this day.

Mazzuca now fills the seat of Tom Bernick, who barely used it during the single year he held it after running unopposed in April 2011.  But that didn’t stop Bernick from ripping the Council on his way out the door.

“I didn’t like the politics; I didn’t like the hypocrites; I didn’t like the game-playing. I wasn’t for that,” Bernick was quoted in an article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate last month, in which he also complained about “street fighting,” “mud-slinging” and the slow pace of decision-making.

That from a guy whose views on a number of City issues raised by the Herald-Advocate in a candidate’s questionnaire back in April 2011 could be, and were, summarized by the phrase: “Candidate did not submit an answer.”

We trust that won’t be Mr. Mazzuca’s problem.  And he’s got 10 months to show the people of the Sixth Ward what a real representative can do.

So welcome, Marc.  And good luck.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Bad Reporting = Ignorant Citizens = Bad Government (Updated 06.20.12)


The motto on our banner is a Thomas Jefferson quote: “Information is the currency of democracy.” 

Like many people in the community, we rely for our “currency” in no small part on our two local newspapers.  And in some respects, they do an adequate-to-good job.  Unfortunately, local news reporting can also be uneven for a variety of reasons, some reasonable and others irresponsible.

Which may explain why, just the other day, we received an e-mail about the article in last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate about Maine Twp. High School Dist. 207’s agreement with the Maine Teachers Association to a new 3-year contract (“District 207 teachers’ contract approved,” June 15).  The e-mailer asked what we knew about the “step” increases built into the teachers’ pay scale, whether D-207 has “ladder” increases like D-64 does, and how the new contract affected either the “step” or “ladder” structure.

Our answer: Not much at all, in large part because the boards and administrations of both our local school districts seem to subscribe to the code of “omerta” when it comes to transparency and accountability, especially about unpleasant things like test scores and compensation of employees. 

That H-A article did little to increase public knowledge of the new contract.  Sure, it reported that the teachers will receive a .66% raise in year one (beginning August 16th), 1% in year two, and a cost-of-living raise in year three with a range of .50% to 2.4%.  But the only mention of “steps” or “ladders” was to report that the new contract includes a new, 25-step pay scale, up from the 20-step scale of the past.

We understand those increases are non-merit based, but confirmation of that is another bit of important information that was missing from the article.

District 207’s “spokesman” – don’t you just love how every governmental body now has at least one public relations “professional” to spin and obfuscate – claims the new scale will cause a decrease in pay raises related to those “step” increases.  How exactly?  The article doesn’t say, presumably because the reporter and/or her editor didn’t think that kind of information is important enough to track down, even though “step” and “ladder” increases represent a significant component of teacher compensation that is effectively guaranteed year after year.

Or maybe they didn’t want to tick off the spokesman, who can make their jobs a lot tougher simply by reducing the tidbits of information he tosses out like Hartz Mountain Dog Yummies to those media types who happily wag their tails instead of snarl.

The article continues with the District’s self-serving statement that the new contract also has “some important cost-containment measures on insurance costs.”  What are those measures?  What actual savings will they produce?  Once again, questions like that seem to be above somebody’s pay grade.

Since even the H-A must feel guilty shilling for just one side, the article also gives the teachers union its own props, quoting the union’s president about his organization’s efforts “to maintain programs that attract and retain quality education professionals to District 207 while making concessions that allow the district to maintain financial strength and stability.” 

What “programs”?  What “concessions”?  Anybody?  Bueller?

We’re thinking that what really attracts and retains those unionized “education professionals” at D-207 is the top-shelf pay and benefits, especially at the relatively homogenous and affluent Maine South.  So a look at how D-207’s pay and benefits compare to other similar districts would have been an angle worth exploring.  But even though sites like and  are making that information much more readily available than ever before, without the need for FOIAs, such comparisons don’t seem to be the H-A’s stock in trade when it might mean offending certain public officials or special interests. 

But where that article really slides to high school-newspaper quality is the lack of any explanation of why D-207 board member Ed Mueller voted against the contract.  After being exposed to the District’s and the union’s propaganda, doesn’t the public deserve to hear whatever reason(s) may have been behind Mueller’s lonely dissent? 

Or does he have to issue his own press release in order to give our local media its information in bite-sized, pre-chewed pieces?

Until that occurs, the rest of us remain stuck in the dark with more questions than answers.  And public officials who seem to like it that way.

UPDATE:  Today’s Park Ridge Journal article failed to add any information or understanding to this situation, apparently also just regurgitating whatever sound bites “spokesman” David Beery tossed out – and lamely stating that, as to the maximum pay grade for the district,” “[t]hose figures were unknown.”

Unknown?!?!  Gee, did the unidentified Journal reporter even think to ask?  Wouldn’t it be more useful information than the excerpt from what is described as a D-207  “media release” quoting Board president Sean Sullivan self-serving back-slapping: “The contract accomplishes the board’s main objective of putting students first” – the old reliable “It’s for the kids” justification/alibi that may still be the single most effective public relations device since at least WW II. 

But while the two local papers continue to operate at the level of mediocre high school newspapers, at least the TribLocal put a little meat on this story’s bones.  It describes the reason behind lone Board dissenter Ed Mueller’s “no” vote on the contract – “[H]e felt the agreement was too much, as he pointed to the sagging economy and data that shows District 207 teachers are some of the highest paid in the state” – a fact about which the H-A and Journal kept strangely silent, or else irresponsibly clueless.  The TribLocal story also reported on Mueller’s concern about “state lawmakers’ threats to shift the pension costs on school districts.” 

Gee, some actual journalism.  Way to go, TribLocal reporter Jennifer Delgado. 

Ms. Delgado also reported that Board president Sullivan, in what seems to us as being ostrich-like fashion, dismissed Mueller’s concerns by “contend[ing] the district can’t react to a hypothetical situation.”  That’s right, Sean, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain – even if the man is Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, the single most powerful Illinois lawmaker who recently proposed shifting a substantial portion of school pension obligations to the individual school districts.  Is that the management style you learned as CFO at Triton College?

Thanks to the TribLocal, at least we can offer Mr. Mueller, of whom we previously have been critical on occasion, some kudos for actually representing the students AND the taxpayers. 

To read or post comments, click on title.

City Council Taking On Tough Water/Sewer Issues


Depending on your favorite brand of politicians and their political pundit accomplices, the current recession is either the best or the worst time for a governmental unit to undertake major infrastructure projects and the long-term bonded debt that goes with them.

One “school” of politico-economic thought proclaims the current historically-low interest rates as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to load up on all the bonded debt a governmental unit might need or want for the foreseeable future.  The other “school” laments the existing historically-high debt levels and long-term liabilities as a reason for austerity and caution.

But when infrastructure has been neglected for too long – as it has been in Park Ridge – choice and patience can themselves become an unaffordable luxury.

Monday night (June 11), the Park Ridge City Council commenced serious study and discussion of a new water and sewer fee structure that is intended, in part, to help finance a $15 million sewer improvement-flood relief project and a $3.5 million automated water meter reading system, the latter which promises to increase accuracy in water billing and reduce/eliminate hundreds of thousands of dollars of “losses” in water billings. 

These rate increases are also needed to keep up with the escalating costs of the water we buy from Chicago, which appears intent on remediating, at least in part, decades of gross mismanagement and outright corruption by its twisted dwarf former mayor, Richie Daley, through the regular jacking up of water rates to gouge communities like Park Ridge for the foreseeable future.

Although the new fee structure ordinance is scheduled for a first-reading this coming Monday, June 18, and a final-reading at the July 16 Council meeting, we don’t think this is a “done deal.” 

That’s because, while an “average” residential consumer might see his/her water bill increase by $10/month, major water users like Lutheran General Hospital, the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District, and local schools will take a major expense hit.  And major expense hits bring out the complaints, the special interests, and their advocates.

In a report published back in 2010, Lutheran General was reported as using 87.5 million gallons of water a year, twice the amount of second place user, the Park Ridge Recreation & Park District, and third place user High School District 2007 (Maine South and Maine East).  Don’t expect any of those organizations to quietly accept these increases.

Which is okay by us. 

Open debate on important issues, the more informed and vigorous the better, usually leads to better overall decisions than the silent, go-along-to-get-along approach that was the rule rather than the exception for City decision-making during most of the two post-Marty Butler decades.  Most of the problems the City faces today are the product of the kick-the-can-down-the-road approaches of previous Councils – populated by faux-Republican “Homeowners” and faux-“Independent” Democrats – to just about every difficult or unpleasant situation.

The last time the City’s water service was seriously discussed was in January 2010, which spurred us to write “Whose Water Are You Carrying, Ald. Wsol?”  But back then, the principal focus of the discourse was just the Chicago increase, not catching up with neglected infrastructure or modernizing/improving any aspect of the service.

While most of what we’ve heard of this water/sewer initiative sounds promising, we’re always concerned about giving government a lot of “extra” money – the effect of which is often tantamount to posting a flashing neon sign that says “Government With Money: Please Fleece Us.”  And, as we’ve seen repeatedly, there are plenty of wolves willing to do just that – including some dressed in sheep’s clothing and bleating plaintively.

Unlike a fine Bordeaux, neglected sewers and water mains don’t get better with age – unless you enjoy the dusky, vegetal “nose” that accompanies chronic flooding.  So we applaud this City Council for setting out to grapple with problems its predecessors consistently ignored. 

Let this debate begin.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Will “Grodsky” Case Make Greedy Geezers Go?


As regular readers of this blog know, we are no fans of individuals or special interest groups who look to gain personal advantage at the expense of the taxpayers. 

That’s why, for example, we oppose giveaways like the City’s facade improvement program and donations to private charitable organizations.  And that’s also why we are big fans of user fees for uses of government facilities or services that are extraordinary, measurable and specifically allocable – especially when those facilities or services are amenities instead of necessities.  

That’s also why, over the past couple of years, we have devoted several posts – including those dated 12.01.1007.29.11 and 04.16.12 – to the greed and intransigence of a small group of Park Ridge senior citizens who talk and act like they, and not the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District (and all of its taxpayers), own and control the Senior Center building at 100 S. Western.

Which provides a context for the Park District’s recent press release declaring its willingness to surrender in the recently-filed lawsuit over a $330,000 bequest to the “Park Ridge Senior Center” by deceased Senior Center member Betty Kemnitz: Grodsky v. Park Ridge Recreation and Park District, Case No. 2012 CH 2032, currently pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

That seems like a good thing in our book, because this litigation has the makings of an expensive goat rodeo.  

Let’s start with the fact that the plaintiff is Teresa Grodsky, whose 30-year employment as manager of the Senior Center terminated last year amid reports of insubordination and of secret dealings with Park Board member Steven Vile detrimental to the Park District, but beneficial to a private corporation with no legal affiliation to the Park District: Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc. (“Seniors Inc.” or “SSI”), also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. 

Grodsky apparently was so sure that Ms. Kemnitz intended Seniors Inc., rather than the Park District and its Senior Center facility, to receive her bequest directed to the “Park Ridge Senior Center” that Grodsky reportedly gave Seniors Inc. $250,000 of before the Park District woke up and claimed the bequest for its Senior Center.  When she received the Park District’s claim, she promptly lawyered up and filed the lawsuit. 

Perhaps because Grodsky and certain seniors were worried about the Park District’s prevailing in that litigation, a group of Senior Center “members” led by Helen Roppel are trying to join the suit by claiming to be an unincorporated association calling itself…wait for it…the “Senior Center.”  As in: Let’s say we’re an association, call ourselves the “Senior Center,” and then say we’re the “Park Ridge Senior Center” named in the bequest.

How convenient.  And how blatantly petty and dishonest.

And as if those aren’t enough goats for one rodeo, add to the mix the “Park Ridge Senior Center Senate,” whose officers drafted and circulated to Senior Center members a self-serving letter, along with some even more self-serving Senior Center Q & As, ripping the Park District for daring to challenge their “rights to control what happens at the [Park District’s Senior Center] building,” including their entitlement to Senior Center dues (“our dues”) that “should have been deposited in our accounts” rather than the Park District’s accounts, and deciding who can be a member of the Senior Center (“it was the Senior Senate which made those membership rules”).

It’s no secret we view the “leadership” of Seniors Inc. and this “Senior Senate” as a bunch of greedy geezers who make bratty young children seem temperate, cooperative and frugal by comparison.   Which might explain why they are stomping their feet and threatening to take “their” money and start their own senior center independent of the Park District.

Great!  How soon can they leave?

Whatever good intentions may have accompanied the founding of the Senior Center 30 years ago have been replaced by a greedy entitlement mentality by this senior “leadership” which insists on members’ paying a paltry $45/year in “dues” (that’s 17 cents a day!) even as they continue to bleed the taxpayers of roughly $160,000 each year to cover the Senior Center’s operating deficits.  As best as we can tell, that’s the lowest-priced fee – by far – the Park District charges for any facility membership or program, which makes the $160,000 shortfall sucked out of the pockets of all Park District taxpayers all the more unacceptable.

So the sooner these geriatric welfare kings and queens pack up and leave, the better off everyone else will be.

But don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.  The greedy always know when they’ve got a great deal and how to exploit it to the max.  This senior crowd has been feeding at this particular trough for 30 years, and they’re not about to give it up – especially when they’re confident the Park District is likely to cave in to their demands if they keep playing hardball.

This fiasco is just another example of the shameless-versus-spineless contests we regularly write about, with governmental bodies invariably lacking the backbone.  And it should be a warning to the Park District about the dangers of abdicating management and control of its programs and facilities to self-serving special interests like Seniors Inc. and the Senior Senate.  And of not keeping a close and measured eye on its own employees.

Although Grodsky was a well-paid, high-seniority (pun intended) Park District employee, she apparently “went native” years ago, aligning herself with those 800-1,000 “seniors” (anybody 55 and older) belonging to the Senior Center instead of with the tens of thousands of taxpaying residents of the Park District – including the several thousand “seniors” who have never belonged to the Senior Center and likely never will.  That twisted allegiance gave Grodsky an almost cult-like following among the Seniors Inc. leadership and Senior Senate members to whom she effectively turned over Senior Center decision-making, some of whom talked about her in ways reminiscent of steamy jungles, guayabera shirts, dark glasses and adulterated Kool-Aid. 

Which is why, even though the Park District has waved the white flag in the Grodsky lawsuit, we aren’t betting on Grodsky, or the Seniors Inc. leadership, or the Senior Senate, accepting that surrender promptly or graciously.  They’ve already got $250,000 of Kemnitz found money in addition to the $241,000 sitting in Seniors Inc.’s treasury (as of its 2010 Form 990-EZ), so the remaining $80,000 of Kemnitz’s bequest could easily become a litigation war chest.

As we’ve already seen, these petty and greedy geezers don’t give a damn about running up the taxpayers’ tab for their own benefit.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Manic Monday Short Subjects


Here are a few morsels to tide our readers over until we can get a little deeper into some other stuff:

Frimark On The Move?  A couple weeks ago, former Park Ridge mayor Howard P. “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark told the Park Ridge Journal that he wouldn’t seek appointment to the Sixth Ward aldermanic seat recently vacated by Tom Bernick because the committee Mayor Dave Schmidt was forming to screen and recommend an appointee was packed with Schmidt supporters.

In the interest of full disclosure, the editor/publisher of this blog is one of four 6th Ward residents – along with Park Ridge Recreation and Park District Board president Rick Biagi, Chamber of Commerce director Gail Haller, and resident Alison Harrington – appointed by Schmidt to that committee.

The irony of Frimark’s comments is two-fold.

First, we hear that only a week or so after he made that comment, Frimark moved out of the 6th Ward (where he had been residing for less than a year) and reportedly relocated to the 2nd Ward.  With current Ald. Rich DiPietro rumored to be ending his 18-year Council tenure next year, no clear successor on the horizon, and the 2nd Ward’s history of uncontested elections, might Frimark be trying to carpetbag his way back onto the Council from that ward rather than compete with whomever Schmidt appoints in the 6th Ward?

Second, on the one occasion Frimark got to appoint an alderman – to succeed himself in the 4th Ward upon his election as mayor in 2005 – he appointed Jim Allegretti.  Neither Frimark nor Allegretti, however, disclosed that Allegretti had made a $300 contribution to Frimark’s campaign fund that had not yet been publicly reported at the time of his appointment and confirmation by the Council – which Allegretti followed up with an additional $200 contribution about a month after the appointment.

Some suspicious minds might view those two contributions as typical Illinois-style pay to play, although we prefer to just consider them an interesting coincidence.  But they may explain why Howard’s suspicious of everybody else.

One More Time For 322 Vine.  At tonight’s meeting, the City Council is supposed to again take up the saga of 322 Vine and its many alleged building code violations that the City can’t/won’t prosecute.  Hopefully, the 322 Vine neighbors and the general public will finally hear the whole story behind why City Staff dogged enforcement of the building code for almost 3 years, and why the City Attorney abruptly abandoned prosecution efforts once he interviewed the City’s key witnesses: Building Administrator Steve Cutaia and outside consulting engineer Bernie Bono.

As we have previously opined, it looks like this situation has been botched irretrievably and cannot be salvaged in a way that might reasonably square things with the neighbors.  But a full airing of the situation would still provide information that can be used to fill in or otherwise correct what appear to be gaping holes in the building code enforcement system, as well as impose some needed accountability on those code enforcers who performed the irretrievable botching and then strung along the neighbors with false hopes of some action being taken.

Airing out this malodorous situation might not come a moment too soon, as we hear some major building code issues have arisen with another single-family home that may make 322 Vine’s pale in comparison.  That might pop up tomorrow night, too.

Which means there may be a lot of tap-dancing and stonewalling tomorrow night, and perhaps even a closed session to shield the building code enforcement system and/or its enforcers from embarrassing public scrutiny of all its/their shortcomings.  Will the Mayor and the Council let them get away with going into the Star Chamber?

It’s Fun To Go To The O-N-C-C.  This past Friday (06.01.12) Park Ridge Mayor Dave Schmidt attended the June meeting of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (the “ONCC”) in Rosemont, in part to ask for the ONCC’s support of Park Ridge’s request to the FAA for a supplemental environmental impact study (“EIS”) that the FAA recently denied.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, the ONCC is the red-headed stepchild of former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley and some compliant O’Hare-area governmental units which was born back in 1996.  As best as we can tell, its primary function has been to apply a sheen of legitimacy to whatever Chicago’s wants to do out at O’Hare.  That usually involves Chicago throwing money (mostly federal dollars?) for sound insulation at those affected communities to buy them off.  And it’s worked like a charm so far.

According to the Herald-Advocate’s Jennifer Johnson, who attended the meeting, Schmidt’s request “was met with reluctance” from Arlene Mulder, ONCC’s chairman.  In case you haven’t been following Mulder’s career, she has been an elected official in Arlington Heights since 1979, and moonlights as ONCC chairman when she’s not serving as Arlington Heights mayor, METRA board member, vice president of the Illinois Municipal League, or executive board member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Can you say “professional politician”?

According to the H-A story, Schmidt described Mulder’s back-of-the-hand response to his request as “bureaucratic mumbo jumbo” and branded them the words not of an ONCC chairman but, instead, of an Arlington Hts. mayor who is hoping that O’Hare expansion will totally eliminate flights over her own town, despite his attempts to reassure her that he was just looking to reduce noise over Park Ridge and was “not asking for them to point the planes at your house.”

Think Mulder gives a rat’s derriere about noise over Park Ridge? 

According to the ONCC’s own website, for January 2012 (the latest month posted on that site), only 1 Arlington Hts. complainant filed only 1 complaint about O’Hare noise.  Contrast that with the 145 complaints by 43 Park Ridge complainants during that same time period.  Whatever deal Mulder cut with Daley years ago obviously has worked out pretty well for her town, and she’s not going to support anything which might change that in any way.

Unfortunately, the ONCC has become the only game in town since the money-wasting Suburban O’Hare Commission became defunct, so Park Ridge’s continued ONCC membership is probably justified, however marginally.  But only someone who still believes in the tooth fairy would expect any real support by the ONCC of Park Ridge’s battle against O’Hare noise – at least so long as Mulder is running the show as her Chicago masters dictate.

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