“Politician-itis” An Insidious Disease


What kind of disease infects seemingly normal people after they get elected to public office, causing them to say and do really ridiculous things?

We don’t know, but we suspect it involves the novelty of being able to tax, borrow and spend millions of dollars of other peoples’ money (“OPM”) with virtually no consequences – along with the novelty of being told by bureaucrats claiming to be “professionals” that such taxing, borrowing and spending OPM is what the officials “were elected to do.”  And maybe also the pats on the head from certain special interests who tell these officials how smart and wonderful they are for…wait for it…taxing, borrowing and spending.

We’ll call it “politician-itis” until we hear a better explanation.  But it is frustrating.

Take the Park Ridge Recreation & Park District, for example.

We have endorsed the work of Board President Rick Biagi on various occasions, most recently for his sole dissenting vote against the PRRPD’s whopping 5.97% increase in its tax levy for 2012.  On a board made up of sheep who contentedly rubber-stamp whatever Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle tosses their way, Biagi has stood out as the only critically thinking voice for the average taxpayer.

So it was disappointing to read his comments about last Thursday (12.20.12) night’s Park Board vote on the new aquatic facility at Centennial Park, where he threw in his lot with the rubber-stampers for a 6-0 (Commissioner Jim O’Brien MIA) vote to approve spending $7.1 million ($6.3 million to be borrowed over 15 years, adding another $1 million-plus of interest to the tab) on a third-rate outdoor aquatic facility that won’t even include the lazy river feature most desired by the District’s 682 survey respondents in its “Phase I” (assuming there’s ever a “Phase II”).  And all without the decency of giving the voters a voice in the decision via an April referendum.

That will make this Centennial pool project the first new aquatic facility proposed for the District in the past 18 years that has not been the subject of a referendum.  Chalk that up to a Board and an executive director who can barely conceal their fear of, and contempt for, the taxpayers – which is the primary reason they pushed through this decision just five days before Christmas, with the attention of the vast majority of taxpayers focused elsewhere.

According to the article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“$7.1 million pool plan is a splash with Park Ridge Park Board”), Biagi compared the Board’s pool decision to replacing the roof on the Community Center: “If you want to redo the roof on the Community Center, that’s not a question to go before the voters. That’s what this board was elected to do.”

Seriously, Mr. Biagi?  The new Centennial aquatic facility is little more than a roof redo?  Seriously?

The H-A story also attributes to Biagi the view that, if the District were to place any advisory referendum on the ballot, it shouldn’t ask the voters about a specific project like the new $7.1 million Centennial aquatic facility but, instead, should ask them whether the voters want outdoor pools in Park Ridge at all.

We sure hope he was misquoted by the H-A, because that’s an intellectually dishonest question if we’ve ever heard one – especially given that the District already has existing pools at Hinkley and South Park that, to our knowledge, nobody ever has asked to have shut down or removed.  There’s such a quantum leap of logic from spending millions of dollars on one new expanded pool facility to the question of whether there should be any outdoor pools in Park Ridge, that the mere juxtaposing of those two issues sounds positively daft.

But assuming Biagi was quoted accurately, we question how he can justify his vote locking the taxpayers of Park Ridge into the new Centennial pool facility that can be expected to last 30-40-50 years before getting an answer to his “no pools for you” question.  And if that was such an important question, why didn’t he think of putting it on the November ballot – before his and his Board’s vote on the new Centennial pool project effectively rendered that question moot?

C’mon, Rick, aren’t you better than those mindless rubber stamps that surround you?  Aren’t you too smart to be manipulated by bureaucrats whose only goal is to tax, borrow and spend more of the taxpayers’ money for their own personal aggrandizement, resume-building, and bragging rights at their conferences and conventions?

Or was what we saw as your principled vote on the tax levy a few weeks ago just blind squirrel theory or, worse yet, an outright sham?

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