Private Citizens, And Private Funds, Save “Indians Cede The Land”


Back on 01.29.13, we gave a big Watchdog bark-out to the folks at the Kalo Foundation for their Governor’s Hometown Award.  Unlike so many of those meaningless fluff-and-stroke awards given out by governmental bodies, that one had merit: the Kalo folks raised more than $300,000 to save a piece of our community’s heritage, the former Iannelli home and studio.

And they did it without the typical private community group ploy of going to the City with their hands out.

Today we offer another Watchdog bark-out to another group of citizens who accomplished something on their own for the community, also without the easy recourse to a City handout: the folks who raised the funds necessary to restore the old post office Depression-era mural and donate it to the Park Ridge Public Library.

At the dedication this past Friday evening, a number of those citizens showed up at the Library for the dedication – and also to honor the folks who made it possible: Mural Restoration Committee members Tony Borrelli, Pat Lofthouse, Dick VanMetre, Jeff Caudill, Paul Adlaf, Nancy Pytel and John Murphy.  They led the effort to raise the $38,000 needed for the restoration and the mounting of the 6’ x 20’ mural completed by George Melville Smith in 1940 under a commission from the U.S. Government as a way of assisting artists and decorating public buildings during The Great Depression.

Park Ridge Mayor Dave Schmidt properly noted and praised the restoration effort as further evidence of what can be accomplished by motivated people with a distinct goal and the ability to enlist the community in pursuit of that goal – just as the Kalo Foundation did.  Although the amount of money needed for the mural was substantially less than what was needed for the Iannelli project, the principle is exactly the same.

Of course, successes like this annoy the heck out of all those private “community groups” that organize as not-for-profit corporations (thereby avoiding any transparency and accountability obligations to the general public) to pursue their pet projects, but then sprint for the public trough to feed on taxpayer dollars the moment they can’t or won’t raise sufficient funds for those projects directly from the taxpayers – even as they demand public funds by arguing that that those very same taxpayers endorse the “missions” of those private corporations and want those community groups to be taxpayer-funded.

And those groups howl like banshees whenever any public official – especially Mayor Schmidt and this current City Council – dares to demand transparency and accountability, as in trying to find out what specific public services those organizations are providing Park Ridge residents, and at what cost per unit of service.  That’s one reason restoring those giveaways of taxpayer funds is a key part of mayoral challenger Larry Ryles’ campaign.

Fortunately, the Kalo folks didn’t play that kind of game, and neither did the Mural Restoration Committee.  They just rolled up their sleeves and did the heavy lifting, and the fundraising, themselves.

So the next time you’re in or around the Library, stroll up to the second floor and check out the newly-restored mural mounted above the doorway just west of the main information/help desk, which has been a part of this community’s heritage for over 70 years and will continue to be part of it for decades to come.

And when you do so, remember that it is just one more example of what private citizens can do on their own, without not-for-profit corporations and government handouts, when they put their minds to it.

To read or post comments, click on title.

15 comments so far

Kudos to the Mural Restoration Committee and to all those who donated to preserve this piece of history.

As for another important community treasure, the Youth Campus property, I wish it was realistic that the Park District could raise the funds needed to acquire it privately. However, with its hefty price tag I’m afraid that just isn’t possible unless an extremely wealthy benefactor somehow materializes.

What I wish is that people would realize that just because private funds aren’t available to cover the purchase, it’s still worth saving. Even if it means a small increase in our taxes to do so.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We see no similarity whatsoever between the Park District’s attempted acquisition of the Youth Campus and the Mural Restoration Committee’s salvage of the Post Office mural…or the Kalo Foundation’s salvage of the Iannelli studio.

While the means of acquiring the Youth Campus land may be different than that of the groups that saved Iannelli studios and the post office mural, the goals are the same — to preserve something that’s important to the community. In this case, the last significant piece of open space in the City, as well as a couple historically significant buildings.

So do you believe that it’s only worthwhile to save a historic building or artwork or piece of land if it can be funded privately?

EDITOR’S NOTE: First off, we wonder just how important any of this stuff – this “significant piece of open space” and these “couple historically significant buildings” – really is, considering that the Park District never took any action (i.e., by eminent domain/condemnation) to acquire them or preserve them all these years when the Youth Campus folks could have done anything they wanted with them.

But since we subscribe to referendums for major investments of taxpayer money and/or debt, we believe the taxpayers’ vote will determine whether the Youth Campus property should be acquired and renovated/developed as planned. Just like we believe those same taxpayers should have been given the same kind of referendum vote to determine whether they want $7 million to be plowed into a 3-month/year outdoor pool.

Me either PD. Additional recreation space for our kids is far more important than trying to create a space to pay homage to some unknown artist no one cares about other than a bunch Park Ridge curmgeons.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve already determined the public support for both the Iannelli project and the mural. We won’t know about the Youth Campus until April 9; and we’ll never know about the new Centennial aquatic center, because the Park Board and Staff were too terrified to even let that go to the voters.

Perhaps if anyone had ever thought the Youth Campus buildings or land were somehow in danger of being compromised, someone might have pursued some sort of action. But that’s doubtful, and in any case we’ll never know because the property has remained relatively intact since the agency’s inception.

I’m sure the main reason the Park District never pursued acquiring the property is because up until now it was not for sale.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Condemnation and the right of eminent domain are designed specifically when property is needed or wanted for a public purpose, but is NOT for sale: The governmental body simply condemns it and pays its fair market value, presumably as the PRRPD will be paying for the acquisition of the Youth Campus property if the referendum succeeds.

So all the grievous shortages in parks and rec space for which the Youth Campus is now being touted as the remedy could have been solved years ago if those shortages really were so grievous as they are now being portrayed; and if the Park District didn’t have its institutional head up its institutional derriere for all those years.

“…pay homage to some unknown artist no one cares about other than a bunch Park Ridge curmgeons.”

Speak for yourself. I don’t think of myself or my kids as curmudgeons but we’ve become interested in Iannelli since learning about his not insignificant accomplishments. The schools and community groups are doing a nice job of promoting this heritage because it is a piece of history that can provide valuable lessons, similar to Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park.

It seems to me that hanging our hats on an artistic, historic legacy is preferable to being a bland, cookie cutter town with no roots or legacy to speak of. I’d like to think more people care about history than just a few “curmudgeons.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Many/most(?) of the people who want the Youth Campus are one-trick ponies who will spare no amount of Other People’s Money (“OPM”) to cover the lion’s share of the costs for their personal pet project.

And neither parklands nor paintings nor historic buildings are in the same class as keeping one human child or elderly person from suffering, let alone hundreds or even thousands of them. The former falls into your “nice-to” category, and all hail the residents who put up the money to make it happen. The latter falls into the essential services category and requires as well as deserves reliable, ongoing funding — i.e., tax dollars.Never mind WWRD, Mr. T. — WWJD?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not sure we follow what we assume is some sort of “reasoning,” but here goes: are you saying that the taxpayers’ representatives in City government should be writing checks to private community groups in what amount to arbitrary amounts just because those groups claim to be providing essential services to children and the elderly but refuse to identify the children, the elderly, and the costs of each unit of service they are providing?

WWJD? “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And, in case you’re wondering: “Caesar” is the government, not the private community groups.

WWJD? Please. Just because I want to see the park and historic buildings preserved, doesn’t mean I don’t also contribute to and volunteer for charitable organizations. I fail to see what one has to do with another.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just remember “Jesus wants money for community groups, Jesus wants money for community groups.” Then it will all be revealed to ye.

2:32 and others:

Do you not see any inconsistency in a town that apparently has not problem with cutting funding to community groups (CoC, meals on wheels etal) in the name of lower taxes, and yet wants to voluntarily raise their own taxes for a luxury like additional park land??

EDITOR’S NOTE: If the majority of taxpayers don’t particularly think those community groups are doing a good job – which might explain why those community groups don’t collect enough money from the taxpayers directly – and, therefore, don’t want to fund them, there would be no linkage whatsoever with the Youth Campus vote.

Then once and for all let’s get the stats from the community groups and while you’re at it, turn a handful of private-sector workers and a host of volunteer workers into civil employees. That should save a lot of money while providing ample services.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The community groups claim they don’t even have “the stats” because they don’t measure work output that way – so, for example, they don’t know the cost of one “wellness” call; and they won’t disclose, apparently even to the City, the identities of the Park Ridge residents who allegedly are being serviced by the community groups.

Consequently, it is impossible at this time for the City to determine whether it could provide any of those community group services at a lower cost to the taxpayers than what it would cost to get them from those community groups – IF those community groups could cost-account those services.

The Youth Campus is not a treasure. It is an 11 acre parcel of land that has not been public property in over 100 years. It has also not been on the tax rolls but it has not been the responsibility of the taxpayers to take care of through additional taxes.

The groups that PWD were congratulating raised money for their causes from people who voluntarily gave money. The PRPD paying $13,200,000 for a parecel of land-the acquisition of which will only tangibly benefit those homeowners near the park-can only do so by raising our taxes. This is not voluntary.

While it might be nice to have more land it is not a priority. Good schools are a priority, updated sewers are a priority, adequate police and fire are a priority, etc. All of which get paid for by the same taxpayers who will be forced to pay for a park if the referendum goes through. This is wasteful government spending on a want not a need on the part of the PRPD.

Over the last several years as our property values have gone down and our taxes have gone up, our school fees have gone up, vehicle stickers have increased etc while the services we get from the city have been cut back. Why on earth would we raise taxes for a park in this type of economic environment?

In addition, the PRPD has yet to provide adequate information to claim the park will be budget neutral-the information on the operations of the YOuth Campus is woefully short of detail.

The PRPD has also failed to provide support for the claim that they have space limitations or that enough demand is there to support adding these facilities and programs at the Youth Campus Park.


SO now that is the story?? The public does not think these groups are doing a good job?

Apparently the Mayor disagrees……”“I have repeatedly stated that I personally support our wonderful community groups in Park Ridge, but that support does not extend to using taxpayer funds to do so.”……”The Mayor’s philosophy is the community/cultural/social service organizations do a fantastic job, but the role of city government is to take care of everyday city operations, not fund these
groups” (HNTF 4/12/11)….and there are others.

The fact is that there was no discussion by the council or the Mayor about the groups doing a bad job. It was about Budget and not having these groups funded by tax payers.

I know your position but I would love to hear from some of these folks with park signs in their yards or people like 2:42 who talk about small tax increases. If he/she thinks that the referendum represents a small tax increase than CoC is a freakin’ pittance!!

I asked this same question of a Parks Legacy member handing out literature at the farmers market and they had no answer.

So come on 2;42. If you want a yes vote from me you are going to have to sell it!!

EDITOR’S NOTE If these private not-for-profit corporations ostensibly organized to provide services that the public needs and wants are unable to collect the money they need from voluntary private contributions, then something’s wrong.

We have concluded that the public thinks these organizations aren’t doing all that good a job, but maybe the public thinks the services themselves are unnecessary and not worthy of private contributions.

Curious…do you know who currently owns the Youth Campus property? And who put up all the signs promoting the passage of the referendum to purchase it? I was surprised that the owners of the property would have put up those signs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unless the owners want the PRRPD to buy the Youth Campus property because the PRRPD is paying more than the owners expected to get on the open market? Or the owners (or the owners’ agents) are themselves neighbors of the Youth Campus and don’t want it to become residential?


So are you saying that you think the city should reinstate the provious financial support for the cummunity groups??

@5:36, not really. I see land acquisition as part of the local government’s role, while funding for community groups is not.

Perhaps because I have been involved with charities and other non-profit entities that needed money. We raised funds privately and applied for grants. We did not expect handouts, as some groups in Park Ridge apparently became accustomed to.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And those groups became accustomed to handouts because their friendly politicians in City Hall were happy to dole out OPM to their favorite charities, without any accountability and only the most minimal transparency.

Taxpayer, the Youth Campus property was owned by an entity called The Youth Campus, the same entity that operated the foster care services. It has since merged with another foster care charity called Children’s Home and Aid Society of Illinois that supports foster families all over Chicagoland. They are interested in selling the property for several reasons, not the least of which is they would rather close the current contract with the PD than renegotiate with a developer. Add the fact that the charity has a mission to support children, and park land does that better than residential development. There was a bid process the Park District won over the summer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We must have missed that “bid process” – how many “bidders” were there, when were the “bids” opened, and by whom?

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