Serendipity Doo Dah, Serendipity-ay


Serendipity is an interesting thing.  It’s defined as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary), and it seems to occur for many people at unusual or fortuitous times.

So when we saw the Page Two article in today’s Park Ridge Journal titled “Ryles Touts Endorsements” and learned that mayoral challenger Larry Ryles is being endorsed by the three “former, living Mayors of Park Ridge,” the first word that came to mind was “serendipity.”

That’s because the City just received a report (which we wrote about in our 02.14.13 post) describing what an economic black hole the Uptown TIF has been, and is likely to remain for the rest of its “natural” life (until 2026) – and perhaps even beyond, if the City seeks and receives State of Illinois approval to extend it another 12 years.  In discussing the TIF, the Kane McKenna consultants gingerly avoided identifying the three public officials most instrumental in saddling us with that albatross.

But if you guessed the “former, living Mayors of Park Ridge,” give yourself a cheroot.  

For readers who didn’t reside here that far back, or who don’t remember the past (and risk, as Santayana warned, being doomed to repeat it), the following is a brief history of those three amigos and their roles in the current TIF fiasco.

Former mayor Ron Wietecha (1991-2003) spent most of his 12 years as mayor wasting bushels of our tax dollars (somewhere north of $1.3 million?) battling O’Hare International Airport – including blowing $650,000 on a new airport at Peotone he deceptively called an “investment.”  When not obsessed with O’Hare, Wietecha was leading his Homeowners Party-dominated Council in passing the Uptown TIF – before curiously resigning in September 2003, halfway through his term, and only days before the Council meeting at which he was to answer Council questions about that Peotone “investment.”  Shortly thereafter, he packed up and moved to Barrington.

Unlike Wietecha, former mayor Mike Marous (2003-05) was never elected mayor by popular vote.  Instead, he was installed by a vote of the aldermen after Wietecha abandoned ship.  Rumor has it Marous got the job by cutting a deal with one particular Council faction: he agreed to support then-ald. Mike Tinaglia for mayor against then-ald. Howard Frimark in the 2005 election if that faction went along with what Marous wanted in connection with the Uptown TIF development project.  

Not surprisingly, given Tinaglia’s shellacking by Frimark and the TIF’s becoming an economic train wreck, Marous and his fellow political schemers have been pretty tight-lipped about that particular grand bargain.  But we’re betting he’s breathing a sigh of relief that former-ald./political schemer Rex Parker didn’t succeed in having the signature Uptown TIF building at six corners named the “Marous Building.”

As for Frimark (2005-09)…well, what can we say about ol’ “Let’s Make A Deal” that we haven’t said before – other than that, even now, he’s telling anybody who will listen that the Uptown TIF is a great deal for Park Ridge.

We got our hands on a copy of the three amigos’ endorsement letter – more serendipity, it turns out – and had to chuckle about their statement that Ryles “will continue to support the future, positive, impact of the Uptown Redevelopment.”  

How?  By throwing even more millions of tax dollars down the toilet in order to help those three “former, living Mayors” keep their perp roles in this fiasco under the radar so that they can continue to escape accountability for this TIF goat rodeo?  Or by stiffing the school districts and the Park District on the payments due those bodies under the Inter-Governmental Agreements the City used to buy them off so they wouldn’t file court challenges to the TIF?  

Page 16 of the Kane McKenna TIF report warns that “difficult decisions will be required from a fiscal management perspective” if the TIF isn’t extended another 12 years, or if the school districts and the Park District don’t agree to being stiffed by the City.

When it comes to “difficult decisions,” those “former, living Mayors” rarely, if ever, got one right; and the closest they came to “fiscal management” was when they left office and kicked the can down the road to the next guy.

No wonder they’re endorsing Larry Ryles.

To read or post comments, click on title.

10 comments so far

Glad to see the Police Unions and the rank and file come forward with their decision to support Mr. Ryles.

We know for a fact that Schmidt is NOT well liked – especially when he chopped the last four Peace Officers from the rolls while refusing to give them medical coverage for the minimum of one year.

Two families were in fact were expecting babies.

In stead of a medical parachute – he threw them a cement PFT.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re glad, too – and we expect that every member of a special interest who wants a City government that shakes down the taxpayers for the personal economic benefit of those special interests will be against Schmidt. That should make it easier for the voters to decide what kind of City government they want – a mindless tax, borrow and spend one like we had under Mayors Wietecha, Marous and Frimark, or a more frugal one willing to make tough spending decisions.

And it was the police union – and its demands for more money for those four officers’ union “brothers” – that “chopped” those officers. Basic math says that if you’ve got X dollars to spend on police and those police demand more than X dollars, there are only two alternatives: slam the taxpayers for more money, or cut the number of police so that they fit within the X dollars.

It’s pretty clear what choice you’d make, and that Ryles would make.

Why does Wietechka even care to say anything since he lo longer lives here?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Never underestimate the ignorance and arrogance of an incompetent politician. Even one in self-imposed exile.

I agree with you about Wietecha, and especially about Frimark. BUt I always thought Marous was a good mayor and had never heard about the deal you mention. Are you sure about that?

EDITOR’S NOTE: As best as we can tell, Mike Marous is a good guy. But like so many other “good guys” and “good gals” who get involved in politics he was either way over his skis on public policy matters, or he became intoxicated by the ability to borrow and spend other people’s money to do stuff he wanted to do.

He wanted that Uptown project done ASAP, and he didn’t want to hear a discouraging word about it. So he never questioned any of the mojo, pie-in-the-sky numbers that the developers, then-city mgr. Tim Schuenke, or anybody else came up with – and dismissed any negative comments or data. Which is a big reason why the City is so screwed with this Uptown TIF.

And, yes, we’re sure about that.

What a mess. No wonder Weitecha ran off to Barrington, too bad he didn’t take the other two with him. Do you have any idea how many millions of dollars is the TIF going to end up costing us?

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s too early to tell what the final tab will be because – if you read the Kane McKenna report – there are various things the City can do that might affect the outcome, which also is dependent to some extent on the local economy as well.

Unfortunately, the geniuses that perpertrated the Uptown TIF (led by the three amigos, those “former, living Mayors”) took on so many obligations, and gave so much away to the developer (e.g., picking up part of the underground garage cost), that there was no real margin for error. So anything less than an optimal economy and business climate was likely to throw the TIF into the tank.

And guess what?

Put a sock in it, Dog. Schmidt hasnt done squat about the TIF during his four years in office. At least Larry Ryles is going to bring a lot more retail, and a lot more sales tax revenue, to Park Ridge to help pay off the TIF debt. What is your boy Schmidt going to do?

EDITOR’S NOTE: If sales tax is your thing, once Whole Foods opens up it just might – and we stress “might” – bring in more sales tax revenue per year than all the new businesses Frimark brought in during his four years, combined. And Whole Foods isn’t going to cost the City any of the debt Wietecha and Marous buried us in, either – thanks to Schmidt’s and the Council’s hard-nosed decision not to roll over and give Whole Foods and its developer the millions of dollars of tax revenue sharing they were asking for.

But if you really think Ryles – who presumably is getting his economic advice from those “former, living Mayors” who just endorsed him and who put us in the mess we’re in – has any ideas besides the same old tripe they were selling when they were in office, check out his website and his Facebook page. If those three former mayors were empty suits when it came to fiscal issues, Ryles is an empty beret.

Anonymous at 3:36 stop dreaming. When are people going to realize downtown Park Ridge is not “designed” to accommodate nor attract retail business traffic. The intersection of Touhy,Northwest Highway, Prospect and with Metra tracks running through the downtown and limited parking businesses doom businesses. Small specialty shops will succeed but large retail shops will never prosper.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sadly, that seems to be the case, as evidenced by the past 15 years of “development” effort by every City administration since Wietecha’s.

3:36-Do you think the current mayor, council and city staff have not been trying to bring more retail to Park Ridge for the last four years? How many stores have opened and then closed because they could not make it PR economically? Is this Mayor Schmidt’s fault?

Please details what Ryles will do to change the environment in Park Ridge to suddenly have a wave of new businesses want to set up shop in Park Ridge. How will Mr. Ryles “convince them to bring their stores to Park Ridge”? Will he have to make costly promises? Attending conferences and educating yourself, meeting with consultants and making phone calls sounds great-but it also sounds like he will be learning on the job and likely at the taxpayers’ expense.

EDITOR’S NOTE: He could always take a lesson from his mentor, Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, and throw tax sharing deals and fistfulls of cash at them.

Or from supporter/endorser former-mayor Marous, who pushed to issue tens of millions of dollars of long-term bonds so that his buddies at PRC could get half an underground parking garage and other enhancements to the Uptown project paid for by the taxpayers.

Or he could consult with another one of his supporters, 3rd Ward Ald. Jim Smith, who argued ferociously AGAINST Whole Foods.

Wasn’t Mike Marous’ Dad also an Aderman?

Seem to remember last year in the obituaries listing a former alderman from the 70’s under that last name who had died.

Makes me wonder if he was supportive of his son?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Arnie Marous was a fine gentleman, and a former alderman. He actually passed away in late 2010, but we are quite sure he was supportive of his son – in all the right ways fathers should be.

It’s easy to blather on about how you’re going to bring tons of new retailers to Uptown, but until storefront rents are affordable (don’t hold your breath) to small retailers who have teensie margins to begin with, it ain’t happenin’. Ask any one of them; they’re paying Class A rental rates for Class C spaces and since the walk-by/drive-by traffic isn’t what they should be getting for their occupancy dollar, they are spending money on rent they should be spending on marketing. They are doing little or none except what the Chamber is doing as a group and except for what a couple of canny, new media-savvy retailers are doing on their own. And the big retailers (Gap, etc.)residents really want here don’t wanna come here, not because the City is so mean to businesses, but because their regional decision-makers believe we are being served “locally” via Village Crossing, Old Orchard, Golf Mill, Woodfield and any number of outlying strip malls in Niles, DesPlaines, Skokie, etc. None of these are things Schmidt could change; none of these are things Ryles will change. So vote for him if you like the tilt of his beret, but not because he’s going to bring Operation Retail Success to Park Ridge. He could be Alexander the Great and it would not happen.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When Wietecha, Marous and Frimark were selling us taxpayers on the Uptown TIF project as creating a retail mecca for Park Ridge, with Walter E. Smithe, The Gap, Ann Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma, etc. all lined up and chomping at the bit to come here. Yeah, right.

But maybe Ryles has an idea nobody in Park Ridge – including the City’s old Economic Development Corporation, its well-paid retail consultants like S.B. Friedman, its previous well-paid economic development director, etc. – has ever had. Maybe he’s going to go to all these retailers conventions and recreate the opening scene in “Patton,” but in front of a Park Ridge flag and wearing that beret instead of a helmet, telling retailers and leasing agents how “all real Park Ridgians love the sting of retail.”

“I love the smell of retail in the morning?”
And when he has no clue about the details of HHI, discretionary spending power metrics, etc. etc. the retail ops and developers need to know,
what then? I know: Hire some cutie to memorize what Kim Uhlig presented authoritatively and successfully.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More obtuse comments. But please refresh our recollection as to whatever it was that Kim Uhlig might have “presented authoritatively and successfully” – because we’re drawing a huge blank.

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