Will Park Board Lets Its Arrogance Show Again?


Tomorrow night (Dec. 6) at 7:30 p.m., the Park Ridge Park & Recreation District Board and Staff will hold  another hearing on its proposed $7.1 million Centennial Pool outdoor aquatic facility.

Whether the Board and Staff listens and, more importantly, actually hears what the taxpayers of the whole community – not just those who can show up tomorrow night or at the next scheduled hearing – have to say about this issue remains to be seen.  So far, the comments by individual Board members suggest an adamant insistence on moving forward with this project without an advisory referendum because, according to them, they already know what the residents want.

And besides, they were elected to make decisions like this…without consulting the taxpayers who elected them. 

Anyone who has read previous posts on this blog about this issue knows that we think building a multi-million dollar, entirely-outdoor aquatic facility that can be used only 3-months a year is that special kind of stupid and wasteful idea only a public official spending other people’s money could love. 

But that’s just our opinion.  There are plenty of other opinions out there, all of which deserve to be considered before the Park District commits $7.1 million (including $6.3 million of 15-year bonded debt) on a facility that will substantially encumber and affect Centennial Park and impact this community for the next 20-30-40 years.

Which is why we believe this project should go to referendum, even if it’s only a non-binding advisory one.  That way, the Park Board and Staff – who claim to be so very interested in finding out what The People want in the way of Centennial aquatics – can get an unequivocal “yeah” or “nay” on this project from the 8,000+ voters expected to go to the polls in April.   And if they don’t like what the voters have to say, they can turn around and do the project anyway, and take whatever political fallout may ensue. 

Unfortunately, that Board and Staff don’t seem to want to hear from 8,000+ voters.  Instead, they want to take their marching orders from a whopping 682 respondents to an expensive “survey” they commissioned, with questions seemingly designed to elicit the answers the Board and Staff wanted while avoiding any questions about costs.  Which must have been part of the plan, because the consultant they hired to provide this rigged survey just happens to be none other than…wait for it…Stantec Consulting, the District’s new aquatic facility’s designer.

Isn’t that special – a pool designer that also produces the justifications for its project! 

Over the past 20 years, each time the taxpayers were given a chance to vote on replacing Centennial Pools with a new aquatic complex, they voted “no.”  Whether they would do the same on the Park District’s proposed project is unclear.  Maybe they don’t like this design, or don’t like spending that kind of money, or don’t like spending that kind of money on this design.  Or maybe they think it’s a winner.

But whatever they thin, they deserve a chance to vote on this project for any of those three reasons, or dozens of others.

This Park Board and Staff, however, are dealing with that problematic pool history by adopting the cowardly and disingenuous strategy of “we’d rather ask for forgiveness than for permission” – effectively telling the taxpayers they don’t deserve a vote on this issue, while at the same time arrogantly assuming they can put this issue to bed quickly enough so that they can then embrace those same taxpayers and schmooze a “yes” vote out of them in the April referendum for the Youth Campus project.

That’s how little respect this Board and Staff have for the concerns, the attention span and the intelligence of the Park Ridge taxpayers: “If we can screw them quickly enough, they’ll have forgotten about it come April.” 

That’s pure arrogance talking.  And when the arrogance of public officials talks, there’s little chance the taxpayers can be heard.

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