Public Watchdog.org

WWRD…Besides Hide From Mayoral Debates?

01.31.13

As any regular reader of this blog knows, we love contested elections. 

We love it when two or more candidates for the same public office are forced to show why they deserve to be elected over their competition.  We love it when an incumbent actually has to defend his/her record, and when a challenger has to demonstrate that he/she actually has better ideas than the incumbent.

Which is why the current mayoral campaign has, so far, been a disappointment.

In one corner we have one-term incumbent Mayor Dave Schmidt, an iconoclastic fiscal conservative who comfortably defeated tax-and-spend incumbent opportunist mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark in 2009 by effectively capturing the roughly 1,000 votes which provided Frimark his margin of victory in 2005. 

By 2011, Schmidt – who acquired the nickname “Mayor No” for vetoing unaffordable, unsound and/or unwise spending – had outlasted four of Frimark’s alderpuppets, who slunk off the Council without even standing for re-election.  And after several years of the City piling up millions of dollars in annual operating deficits, Schmidt and the new Council have begun posting annual operating surpluses which, cumulatively, are expected to top $2.5 million for the three most recent fiscal years, the third of which will end April 30.

In the other corner we have newcomer Larry Ryles, a challenger who nevertheless acts like he’s running a “rose garden” campaign by dodging mano-a-mano match-ups with Schmidt whenever possible – starting with a February 7 “town-hall” debate scheduled for the Park Ridge Senior Center that will also include aldermanic candidate debates. 

As reported in this week’s Park Ridge Journal (“Town Hall Still A Go”) and Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Ryles turns down request for second Park Ridge mayoral debate”), Ryles’ alibi for dodging that town hall debate is that Schmidt organized it.  Seriously.  Even though it will be held on a “neutral” site (a Park District facility) and will be moderated by members of the City Hall press team.

Ryles is also reportedly trying to dodge the Park Ridge Republican Women’s Forum on March 7.  Which leaves him committed to only the Chamber of Commerce luncheon debate at the Park Ridge Country Club on March 13, and the League of Women Voters debate the following evening.

That’s unfortunate, because good government is furthered by Schmidt’s record being challenged on its merits by a competent critic.  Yet all Ryles seems capable of mustering are a few spitballs from the weeds – most notably his criticism of Schmidt for the Council’s recent reduction of what originally was looking like an 11.11% property tax levy increase, down to a 2.15% one – even though Ryles uttered not a peep of protest at the December 17 City Council meeting when that 2.15% levy was approved. 

That’s not surprising, however, given that we don’t see how Ryles can possibly reconcile his criticism of the levy reduction with his tub-thumping insistence that taxes should not be raised any higher than the inter-year increase in the Consumer Price Index. 

But so long as Ryles keeps hiding in plain sight by dodging debates with Schmidt, the voters will continue to be deprived of the opportunities they deserve to see and hear the two candidates meaningfully go toe-to-toe on all the important issues facing our community. 

And to find out specifically what would Ryles do about them that would be different from what Schmidt has been doing for the past four years.

To read or post comments, click on title.

20 comments so far

For a guy who flaunts his military service and who seems to have a lot of support judging from all the signs around town, Mr. Ryles dodging debates with the mayor doesn’t ring true.

As you point out, Ryles is saying on his website that Schmidt raised taxes 22%, but he’s counting an 11% increase for this most recent increase when it was only 2.0%. And then he seems to be complaining about 9% of that increase being pushed off, as if he’d rather have the 11% increase THIS year. But he can’t have it both ways. Either his CPI tax increase limit is b.s. or his complaint about the 9% deferral is b.s.

That kind of double talk is what Frimark pulled on Schmidt four years ago. That would make sense if the rumor is true that Frimark is one of Ryles’ top advisors.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We haven’t seen a formal announcement or press release, but we have heard from many sources around town that Ryles is “Frimark’s guy” – at least as Frimark tells it.

I find Ryles’s rationale that it’s a bad idea to join a debate because it was organized by Mayor Schmidt to be beyond ridiculous. Does he think he’ll be ambushed somehow? Please. I think he’s fearful that his lack of substance will be exposed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The fact that the reporters who cover City Hall will be the moderators should have assuaged any concern Ryles might have had about being “ambushed” during the Feb. 7 town hall debate – especially because the local press has not been particularly kind to Schmidt. But face-to-face debates tend to be where the poseurs are exposed (see, e.g., Frimark in 2009)

Reading Ryles’ document, to which you linked, we see that he gets the facts wrong: the city did not approve an 11% increase, it approved a 2.15% increase, and that only because the alderman wanted to spend on local charities and the police station expansion project, both of which the mayor approved. So Mayor Schmidt’s position is, “no tax increase at all”. The key to implementing it is to change some aldermen.

The key is not, however, to switch to Ryles. His promise to “keep tax increases under inflation” is an implicit promise to raise taxes.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If the City ever gets to the point where it is operating as lean and mean as it can – while still offering the types and quality of services the taxpayers expect and want to pay for – tax increases in response to price increases (i.e., the CPI) might be a necessary evil. But in our opinion, the City isn’t there yet.

To me Ryles comes across as all bark and no bite. Actually, he appears to be more like the dog that barks at you from the window but when the owner opens the front door, he runs and hides under the couch. Ryles gives me no reason (other than political rhetoric via his website) to vote Schmidt out of office.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s actually the sad part of this. A legitimate, competent challenger SHOULD be giving Schmidt a run for his money ON POLICY MATTERS. But Ryles seems to be running on nothing but a few trite slogans and his reputation as a military man, volunteer and nice guy.

The mess the City got itself into was basically the product of a couple of decades of policy-empty popularity contests instead of real elections with real campaigns and real ideas. Sadly, Ryles seems to be doing his best to return to those bad old days of yesteryear.

5th Ward Taxpayer—

You are wrong. There is nothing in the budget that “spends on local charities.”

Police Station yes, but not local charities.

Look it up.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We believe that, technically, you are both right.

The current year’s budget provides none of the historic line-item appropriations for private community groups, so you are correct in that regard. However (and perhaps unintentionally?), FWT is technically correct to the extent that the City still provides a variety of taxpayer-funded services to “local charities” for various non-revenue events (like the Memorial Day parade and concerts in the park) and revenue-generating events (like the charity runs).

As a matter of public policy, we believe there is a significant distinction AND difference between non-revenue and revenue-generating events: the former simply use taxpayer-funded services to aid in the operation of their events, while the latter actually generate “profits” for the organizers’ preferred purposes at the taxpayers’ expense. Whether that’s a reason to charge the latter for those services is a policy question that we hope the Council addresses when it re-visits Council Policy No. 6.

Now there is a good question to get both candidates on the record with prior to the election!!! Mr. Ryles and Mayor Schmidt, do you believe events like charity runs should be charged fees for city services provided??? I hope that is a question at one of the 3 debates!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t think it’s anywhere nearly significant enough to deserve the three exclamation points (times two) you’ve given it, because (a) it’s a relatively small dollar amount; (b) it’s an emotional issue that lends itself more to heat than to light; and (c) it should be debated in the context of the Council’s comprehensive review and possible amendment to Council Policy No. 6.

But we don’t doubt that somebody who wants to keep their hand in the taxpayers’ pockets will ask such a question.

Sorry PD, but your spin doesn’t hold. I’m with Ryles on this one. No debate has credibility when it is put together by a candidate. If this was truly a “neutral” debate, then the format and invitations would have been handled by the press. This is worse than when Judy Barclay run one of her old debate shams. I agree with Ryles to stick with the credible debates. And now back to the spin…

EDITOR’S NOTE: What “spin”? What is not “neutral” about the FACTS that: (a) the debate will be held at a centrally-locate Park District building; (b) a member of the local press (who has been no fan of Schmidt’s, judging by her reporting) will moderate; (c) the venue will be open to the general public, hence no “invitations”; and (d) the general public will be able to ask questions, without “invitations” or restrictions.

Dear Anonymous and Anon: First of all, Anonymous, thank you, and I stand corrected. It would be interesting nevertheless to ask Mr. Ryles his position, because there are some allusions in his campaign material to things like Senior Center, Meals on Wheels, Center of Concern — the stuff the city council debated over the last couple of years.

Second, Anon…I really don’t want to get into that. Detractors will be shocked — SHOCKED — that I don’t want to chase down every stray penny of taxpayer funding, but I don’t. Let’s just make some sound fiscal decisions, based on facts, not some fantasy of how a new piece of land costing $13 million will magically raise our property values.

5th Ward….on that we agree.

I would like to know how Mr. Ryles feels about giving tax payer donations to the Community Groups, and Council Policy 6. Based on his materials, and some of his vocal supporters (who are also shills for the Center of Concern), I would really like to know how he feels on this topic.

Jennifer Johnson? Oh that’s priceless! Sorry, but I didn’t even realize that she was the “moderator.” Ms. Jennifer “Let’s in every case give Schmidt the last word” Johnson as moderator. Aside from her clearly not impartial behavior, her ability to control a debate and keep it on track would make Jim Lehrer look like Jerry Markbreit.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’d be hard-pressed to find five (5) articles written by Ms. JJ over the past twelve months that reasonably could be viewed as laudatory of Schmidt. But you’ve already noted that you’re “with Ryles” on this issue, so denigrating Ms. Johnson as a debate moderator is no surprise.

We will eagerly await your next comment about the decidedly home-field advantage provided to Schmidt by the Senior Center.

The only reason to trade politically on one’s military service of the distant past is to have voters draw conclusions about one’s high level of patriotism and courage in the here and now. So, let’s see some, please.

Jennifer Johnson stinks as a reporter almost as much as Schmidt stinks as Mayor. Ryles is right to stay away from the spider’s parlor. Watchbuffoon, you really should try to be honest for a change.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “The spider’s parlor”? Seriously?

JJ does at times follow Mayor Dave around.
Especially during the 8am November ONCC mtg – disturbance where Mayor Dave forgot himself and believed that he really had the floor…of a court room ! JJ covered those key statements like Sweeney on the spot !

EDITOR’S NOTE: The minutes of that ONCC meeting – which can be found at: http://oharenoise.org/Meeting_Minutes/ONCC/2012/ApprovedONCCMinutes_November-9-2012.pdf – don’t seem to support your comment, to the extent it is lucid.

Yeah, I agree with the spider parlor nut job, Ryles should wait until the debate is moderated by either Ted Koppel or Tom Brokaw, otherwise it just won’t be fair.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Too bad Cronkite assumed room temperature years ago.

Wow! I had no idea Joe Walsh moved to PR.

EDITOR’S NOTE: He didn’t – but he will be touring this spring with Bob Seeger & the Silver Bullet Band, if you’re that much of a fan. Or are you one of those romantics holding out hope for an Eagles reunion?

Maybe Frimark can moderate the debate. Will that make the Ryles supporters happy?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We doubt it, because we’re guessing it’s not the moderator – or the venue – that scares Ryles, but the need to actually demonstrate his knowledge and his ideas about City issues.

On the other hand, Frimark as moderator could limit Schimdt to “yes” and “no” answers, which might give Ryles a better chance.

I just noticed that earlier in the week, Mr. Ryles posted a letter on the Park Ridge Patch news website, responding to Schmidt’s letter about city taxing and spending. There’s not a lot of detail, but he claims the mayor proposed an 11+% increase in spending (not true — it was the city staff I believe) and makes the charge that the mayor “moved into next year” 9% so he could raise spending “only” 2% this year. Would love to know the specifics. If true, it would be damaging to Schmidt. If false, it would be damaging to Ryles.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We looked at Ryles letter in The Patch, in which he accuses Schmidt – without any specifics, naturally – of “misconceptions and mud slinging…to mislead the citizens of Park Ridge”; and of “proposing an 11.11% tax levy,” which he lowered “to 2.15% by moving 9% to next year.”

We can find no evidence (i.e., no meeting minutes or video) that Schmidt ever proposed an 11% tax levy increase. He did, however, repeatedly warn of one, which may have confused Ryles because of the subtle difference between “proposing” and “warning.”

As you mention, the 2.15% levy increase was proposed by the Council, in combination with City Staff, not by Schmidt – although he clearly did not veto it, so implicitly he approved.

We look forward to Ryles explaining, at the sole debate he is agreeing to appear (the League of Women Voters on March 14), what expenditures comprise the 9% portion of the levy that was deferred, and whether he also would have deferred that 9% increase this year or included it. But we’re not going to hold our breath.

I wrote a follow up to Ryles’ response which is posted on the Patch. Ryles’ claims are not borne out by the actual evidence.

Go to the City’s website and check out the backup material for the tax levy agenda item for the November 26, 2012 Finance and Budget Committee meeting. It explains exactly how we got to 2.15%.

FYI-staff (not I) estimated in February 2012 that the December 2012 levy would need to be 11.11%. By November, staff had lowered that estimate to 7.49% primarily because of higher-than-expected sales tax revenues. Then staff and the elected officials got together and cut another $900,000 in spending or other budget items, none of which was “necessary.” Details on the cuts are in the backup material.

It is unfortunate that the residents are not getting the unvarnished truth from all of the candidates.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately, Mr. Mayor, the City doesn’t seem to do a good enough job of impressing these kinds of facts on the local media, as we could find none of these details set out in such a direct manner in any of the newspaper accounts of the levy process. And if the media doesn’t report it, that effectively gives candidates for office carte blanche to play fast and loose with the truth, as Candidate Ryles appears to have done with the levy process.

Schmidt at this point is the City’s only public relations person as the council felt that would be a good place to save a few bucks in prior years. The police department has a paid publicist but the City has NO ONE speaking for it except Schmidt. Thank God Schmidt is fairminded and can write in his native tongue, unlike his predecessor Frimark, or we’d be in blackout mode altogether.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hmmm…the City doesn’t have a PR person but the PRPD does? Something seems a tad wrong with that picture.

Well, one might point out that that particular department might feel more in need of a public relations effort than the City as a whole, but of course, the City is in need of its accomplishments being trumpeted, too. Bad news –fake or real — is always available. It’s the good news that goes unsaid without such intervention.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Given the size of Park Ridge and its good fortune in having a low crime rate comprised substantially of minor violations, we would think one PR person could service all branches of City government. But that would also cut down on some of the cheerleading that goes on.



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