Public Watchdog.org

ELECTION 2013: City Council Endorsements

04.08.13

Three Park Ridge aldermanic seats are being contested on Tuesday, based on the staggered system that was implemented in the wake of former mayor Howard Frimark’s successful cut-the-Council referendum in November 2007.

Second Ward:   The announced retirement of Ald. Rich DiPietro has opened up that aldermanic seat for the first time in 18 years.  And the way the two Greek-American candidates are going at it suggests Athens v. Sparta 2,400 years ago.

George Korovilas has set his opposition to the 80-unit apartment complex proposed for the corner of Northwest Hwy. and Greenwood as the flagship issue of his campaign, along with his opposition to needless City regulations – two positions on which we heartily agree with him, although we don’t view them as anywhere near the top of the City’s priorities.  We’re also not quite sure what to make of his call for a “complete audit” of City finances, in part because that already occurs every year; and his call to “reduce wasteful spending” is undercut by his failure to identify specific items of waste, including no mention of how he would address the ever-increasing personnel costs.

Over the years we have been critical of Nick Milissis, going so far as to speculate – in a less-than-kind way – that he was being groomed by former mayor Howard Frimark for a Council seat.  Consequently, his endorsement by former alds. Curt Edlund and Maureen Strauts (rubber-stamp Homeowner’s Party aldermen in their day) who also have publicly endorsed hug-meister Larry Ryles over task-master Mayor Dave Schmidt, gives us a bit of pause…as does his endorsement by current High School District 207 board president Sean Sullivan, who has been a dependable advocate for every non merit-based pay increase for teachers and administrators that has come down the pike during his tenure.

So while it would be easy for us to be wary of Milissis, as we wrote in our post for our Park District endorsements: “easy” is often, if not usually, wrong.  And in this case, we believe his engagement in City issues over the past four years and the positions he has taken in this campaign have earned Milissis our endorsement, notwithstanding his other endorsers.    

He has spoken publicly against spiraling personnel costs and other expenditures that appear more “want” than “need,” like the police station expansion and renovation project that has pushed the number one “safety and health” issue – mold remediation – out to the third year of that three-year project while more office and storage space is treated as a priority over what Chief Kaminski and his Task Force branded a serious health issue.  Really…a bike corral over mold remediation?

Millisis’ presentations at both the Town Hall meeting in February and the Republican Women’s forum in March demonstrated a comprehensive view of Park Ridge issues that his opponent has not matched.  And we fully expect that, if elected, he will not be revealed as a Frimark disciple or the typical go-along-to-get-along guy that used to be the rule in City government – and still is the rule in school board governance.

Fourth Ward:     Current Ald. Sal Raspanti is retiring after one 2-year term because of work obligations.

One of the candidates vying for the open seat is J.B. Johnson, to our knowledge the first-ever black aldermanic candidate and wife of blood-drive organizer extraordinaire George Johnson.   She is opposed by Roger Shubert, who also has a well-known spouse: Amy DeGrazio, former owner of New Prospects.

Our endorsement goes to Shubert, primarily because of his emphasis on continuing “the positive fiscal momentum in the city of Park Ridge after years of budget deficits,” not only for its own sake but also because a financially-sound City enhances its ability to provide a more credible business-friendly environment without fiscally irresponsible gimmicks like TIFs and façade improvement subsidies.  We also believe he correctly has identified the new Centennial aquatic facility as the No. 1 “4th Ward” issue, and one about which that Ward’s alderman might actually be able to do something concrete for its residents.

Ms. Johnson is an engaging person who seems to be relying on personality instead of public policy to get herself elected.  Her campaign “platform” is a crazy-quilt of platitudes, generalities, personal anecdotes and name-dropping (e.g., Bill Gates, Rand Paul, “pal” Keith Olberman).  We also wonder why her number one issue is “[m]oving Public Safety of our citizens up a notch” – especially given that Park Ridge was recently recognized as one of the safest cities in America with populations over 25,000, with an already-low crime rate that keeps declining.

Sixth Ward:    The toughest decision of the three aldermanic races is in the 6th Ward, where appointee Ald. Marc Mazzuca is seeking his first full elective term against Vincent LaVecchia.

In the interest of full disclosure, this editor was a member of the four-person 6th Ward residents mayoral committee that interviewed Mazzuca and three other candidates for appointment last summer to fill the unexpired term of then-ald. Tom Bernick, who went “over the hill” after barely a year in office.  At that time, we had high hopes for someone with an economics degree from the U of I/Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from the University of Chicago, who seems to revel in drilling down into the most arcane data – as he demonstrated with his painstaking study of the City’s new water rate ordinance.

Unfortunately, in a couple of key respects those hopes have been dashed rather than realized, most significantly by Mazzuca’s rubber-stamping of the cop shop expansion/renovation plan that ignores the allegedly health-threatening mold problem for the next two years while new/additional office and storage space is being built; his request for a do-over and his subsequent flip-flop on the mayor’s veto of the across-the-board, non-merit based pay increases for the ICOPS; and his recent vote to give more non-merit based pay increases to the City’s Public Works employees.

Non-merit based raises are simply bad public policy, especially where each pay increase given without measurable linkage to improved efficiencies and/or enhanced employee performance actually encourages future non-merit based pay increases for other City employees, thereby perpetuating the upward spiral of the City’s personnel costs.

On the other hand, his opponent, Vincent LaVecchia, is like a cat in heat when it comes to pursuing additional retail and overall economic development.  He has stated that the first thing he would like to do if elected is to lead an economic development team and sell unspecified retailers on Park Ridge’s “great demographics.”

While his energy and enthusiasm are laudable, we’ve been hearing that kind of talk for decades.  And we have to question how he realistically believes he will be successful when both the City’s old quasi-private Economic Development Corporation and, in more recent years, its six figure-salaried City E.D. Director, produced pitifully lackluster results in selling retailers on Park Ridge’s “great demographics.”  More importantly, he hasn’t explained the fact that the most significant retailer to locate in Park Ridge in years, Whole Foods, decided to come here while the City had no E.D. person or department in place – and despite the City’s outright refusal to give Whole Foods and/or its developer the financial incentives and concessions they requested.

Under these circumstances, although each of them brings certain assets to this endeavor, we can’t give either one a clear advantage over the other.  Consequently, this is a “you-pick-‘em” race, perhaps based on what we’ll call dueling flyers: Mazzuca’s versus LaVecchia’s.

Whatever you do, however, and irrespective of whom you support, make sure you get to the polls tomorrow if you haven’t already done so.  Otherwise you’re part of the problem – apathy – rather than part of the solution.

To read or post comments, click on title.

21 comments so far

My name is George Korovilas and I am running for 2nd ward alderman. I noticed my name, as well as my opponent making comments on this site that address my positions. Therefore, I would like to address them myself so there is no confusion. There are many priorities that I have slated on my agenda. There is the stopping of the proposed 80 unit apartment complex which was over the density requirement by almost 100%. I along with a few 2nd ward residents attended EVERY single zoning meeting and spoke to the commission regarding this project. My opponent, who stated that he “did not understand” why I would care about this project since it is not in our ward (http://youtu.be/0YMg9ziZv5I?t=21m8s) went on to say that he would go to EVERY zoning meeting on this project. My opponent in fact showed up to ZERO meetings. The zoning commission had a straw vote before the last meeting and this project was slated to pass. After the meeting, on account of those that showed up a!
nd spoke to the commission, two members switched their vote and this project was denied. The editor can confirm this by calling the zoning commission. GOAL ACCOMPLISHED!
Another priority is cutting the FAT out of our city budget. An example of this: Our city attorney BUZZ makes over 300 thousand dollars every FISCAL year (http://www.parkridge.us/assets/1/Documents/MasterContractList011612.pdf) on PART TIME work. We can hire a full time attorney between 70 and 100 thousand a year (Saving the taxpayers 200 thousand dollars a year). We can also implement an energy saving plan at city hall, which has already been implemented at the park distract as well as Maine Township YET the City of Park Ridge did not even want to hear of the plan. This is a guaranteed savings of 62 thousand dollars a year. Just these two ideas will save the taxpayers of Park Ridge close to 300 thousand dollars EVERY year. This is just me scratching the surface. Imagine how much more waste we can find and CORRECT!
This leads me to my next priority—FLOODING. My opponent has attended every single council meeting (since handing in his application to run for alderman) YET FAILED to once address the council on WHY our WARD was picked LAST to fix the flooding problem when he was there. My opponent now is trying to convince the residents of the 2nd ward that he will LEAP frog over the other wards to have ours fixed first. Are we to believe that the other aldermen, who have already voted on this, are going to now change their minds? What I propose is to take MY Tax Saving ideas (almost 300 thousand dollars a year) and put that to work FIXING our flooding problem ASAP. Also, I find it ignorant to state that since someone does not physically attend the council meetings that they do not care. I have watched and/or read most council meetings and COW meetings for the last 10 years. IF my opponent believes he knows more about “Roberts Rules of Order”, then I challenge him to a frie!
ndly test that a third party person can write up and may the best man win.
Another Priority is reducing ordinances and regulations that have started to burden the homeowner. Do you realize that we now need a permit just to lay sod in our front yards? How silly is this? According to BUZZ, we also need PERMISSION to trim ANY tree branch in our back yard from the forester, otherwise we can get fined. The permit process is a mess. It should all be streamlined. I have even spoken to business leaders in our ward that wanted to have an Octoberfest but it was so difficult to find out exactly what was needed that they abandoned the idea.
Another Priority is the TIF. My opponent keeps saying we just need to bring more business into Park Ridge. We all KNOW we need to do this. But the Mckenna Cain report stated that even if the uptown was FULLY developed, we would still be losing money. Therefore, let us refinance the TIF ASAP. This will save us 1.2 million dollars a year. Let us contact Cook County Assessor and have the Uptown TIF be assessed by individual parcels rather than by neighborhood blocks (just like we are—are they special over there?). This will raise an additional 250 thousand dollars a year. We can then renegotiate with the parks and schools to lower our burden since uptown is NOT fully developed and lastly we can extend the loan on the TIF saving us millions as well.
I believe in MULTI tasking. These Priorities are not in any order. We can accomplish them all at the SAME time. I have not seen anything in print or in talks with my opponent showing WHAT or HOW he wants to accomplish anything in our ward. The only answers I keep getting is that “he is willing to learn”. Really? I have sent an email to this editor almost a month ago asking to sit down with him to discuss the issues and the differences between myself and my opponent. The response I got was that, this was not necessary because the editor will just look to see what is out there to make his endorsement. I emailed my brochure to him to make sure he knows what I want to do and today I have written this up to show the public. I have no idea what my opponent wants to do for our ward! I read his brochure which only says to vote for him because of his appointments to positions. Nothing on what he wants to do. Also, just to show character. My signs in my ward have!
been disappearing over the nights. A GOP man was almost arrested four days ago trying to take my sign down on woodland ave. I did not want to press charges cause this is so silly. But I did call the GOP and spoke to them. At first they said it was a crazy person doing this until I informed them I had a license plate and name. If they can just tell their people to stop that would be great. He apologized and said it will not happen again. Unfortunately, my signs now went missing at Wally’s. I spoke to the owner who was upset and said he will take my opponent’s sign down as well. I told him it was not necessary. I just want to know if he took them down. This is what I have been facing. So let us talk issues and leave the political nonsense out of it.
Thank you for your time,
Dr. George Korovilas

Damage control on yet another endorsement for Milissis. George didn’t even bother to change his post from the previous string. At least put some effort in it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: C’mon, gang, he made his points.

Hey George,
Did you know the city buildings are exempt from paying an electrical bill? I guess that punches a pretty big hole in your energy savings plan and makes your made up 60k in savings per year go bye bye.
As far as your outlandish claims on the legal fees. Your figures were so badly inflated that Bob Chiarito of the Trib local took it upon himself to discredit them by doing some research and correcting you in the article, Grand total of savings under Korovilas: Zero. Do you really think grandiose and illusory claims like the ones above will go unchallenged? The voters of Park Ridge aren’t simpletons.

What I don’t get is that it was said here I think by the blog owner that the endorsements by past officials to Ryles is fitting as they are the ones that dug the hole that we have here? Shouldn’t this be the same case for the former Aldermen endorsing Milissis?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not really. As we recall, Edlund and Strauts were already off the Council before the Uptown TIF started to get any traction. But all three ex-mayors and several aldermen endorsing Ryles had their fingerprints on that boondoggle; and several others were accomplices in the major deficit spending years later.

Nick (I mean anonymous) if you attended all council meetings (nice touch of posting that you are attending but several times you are caught on video playing with your smart phone) you would realize that if you go to the city website where all financial documents are posted you will see that in addition to the 75k retainer our city attorney firm receives he has billed the city 200 to 300k total as many tasks are billed hourly and not included in retainer. A private sector lawyer would know this. Anyways. Also check out city check book by vendor and scroll to Comed (it’s alphabetical so we will give you some time to do so ) and note the various Comed bills paid during fiscal year ( the reporter forgot about fiscal year). You are welcome. I hope pubdog is right and you are willing to learn bc your last post shows you have a lot of that to do!

In fact if you read the journal endorsement and didn’t just have your eyes glaze over after seeing your name in print the journal said korvilas had a good idea on electrical savings that the city should explore. It’s actually similar to what park dist has done but you stopped paying attention to park dist when you lost that race.

Wasn’t DiPietro on council and responsible for tiff? He endorsed milissis in writing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Absolutely. We also heard he has a “Milissis” sign in his yard, next to the “Schmidt” sign. Go figure.

If I might add, I emailed the Chicago Trib reporter when he released his report. I explained that the way he wrote the report that readers will infer that I am wrong about the numbers. His response is below (which states that I am right)but he said that readers will not infer that my numbers were wrong. You can email the Reporter if you want to verify:
“I quoted Mr. Korovolis and then received the contract from Park Ridge. It shows that the retainer is for 72k a year to attend all city council meetings plus 8 additional meetings. On top of that, they can bill Park Ridge hourly between 90 and 225 dollars an hour, depending if a paralegal, lawyer or partner does the work. That can feasibly add up to 285k, as Mr. Korovilis said. No one said his quote was wrong in the article.
To date in 2013, Park Ridge has paid $29,116.22 to KTJ, according to the info provided by Park Ridge Deputy Clerk Cheryl Peterson.
I am copying in my editor Georgia Garvey on this email.
Thanks, Bob Chiarito

As my links show The City of Park Ridge in the Last two FISCAL YEARS have paid 312 thousand to 320 thousand per FISCAL YEAR. There is no reason for me to lie or try to deceive. All I ask is for those that know how to check these, please feel free.

Also what I thought I read here was that the current 2nd ward Alderman was on board with the tif and responsible for some of the Hock dealings? That’s what I meant by my earlier post at 1:03

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you look at the list of Ryles’ “100+ years of City Council experience,” we recall the following being on the Council when the TIF itself, some part of its funding, and/or some part of its indebtedness was approved: Wietecha, Marous, Frimark, Bartolone, Bateman, Beaumont, Benka, DePaul, Disher and Huening; and the following were on the Council for post-TIF deficit spending: Frimark, Allegretti, Bach, Carey, Machon, Markech, Radermacher and Ryan.

Accuracy in reporting. Maybe endorsements by papers shouldn’t mean much given the lack of depth of analysis some reporter seem to make?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Once again, opinions vary.

I agree with the way you ended this blog entry, please go out and vote. Be counted.

I am hoping there is a very high turnout this election, especially because of the referendum on the ballot.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The higher, the better.

I want to know who the socialist legislature was that granted exemptions to municipalities from paying electrical bills? Maybe that was one of the contributing factors to Greece’s economic troubles but never heard of such a radical idea in the states! Our next mayor should look into that and if he can secure such an exemption add some more street lights around town. Pubdog you got to call milissis (I mean anonymous )out on that flub. C’mon where’s that fire that used to give it to the old 6th ward alderman when he made sure bizarre statements?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bernick was a special case. Did he even last a year? But at least he threw in the towel and admitted defeat.

Thank you Public Watchdog for your endorsement. Clearly this is not something you hand out without much thought and scrutiny. When you think the candidates are close, as far as qualifications and ideas you don’t automatically pick one just to say you endorsed a candidate, as evidenced by your not endorsing a candidate for 6th Ward. Clearly that wasn’t an issue in the race for the second ward and I can only say I will work really hard to keep all the promises I’ve made during this campaign season. You have been critical of me in the past and that makes this endorsement all the more important. It also serves to remind me of the responsibility I will be undertaking should I be elected tomorrow. I take this very seriously and trust that you will be there along the way to keep me to my words as you and the rest of the voters should. Thank you again.
Nicholas Milissis

EDITOR’S NOTE: Walk the walk, young man, and you’ll be fine. There is nothing more sacred in secular American society than the public trust, which John C. Calhoun called “[t]he very essence of a free government.” Respect it and hold it dear.

Just when I thought I had the whole school board vote decided on…..I just got a call from Susan Sweeney!!!!! She wants me to vote for the same two guys as you do…..Paterno and Seib. There are two questions that come to mind.

1. Didn’t she lose??

2. Why was she calling me from Highland Park?

ohhhhh….what to do….what to do!!!

Do they really think that a 7:51PM robocall the night before the election from Susan Sweeney is going to get them over the hump?? Considering the political participation level in PR (and all over) I bet the main reaction from those receiving the call was…..”Who the hell is Susan Sweeney??”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, here’s an idea: let’s ask “Who the hell are YOU?”

We’re guessing you’re somebody who would vote for the John Heyde-approved ticket of Scott Zimmerman and Terry Cameron. After all, it takes a real “leader” like Heyde to give us the 4th highest paid administrators and the 25th highest paid teachers – while the student achievement stumbles along a couple of quantums beneath those ranking; and the D-64 kids feeding into Maine South appear to be lowering that school’s ranking, too.

When folks have pointed out the differences between D64 and Maine South rankings you have always pointed out and theorized that the private schools were bringing up the scores – after all it could not have been that D64 was doing a good job teaching our kids.

Now that the scores at Maine South have gone down a bit what do you so….point to D64. So D64 got zero credit for sending kids who had been taught well on to their next level in learning but now they get the blame for the scores going down.

If it was the private schools that were bringing the scores up (for which you had zero proof) what is to say it is now not the private schools whose quality has slipped to bring the scores at Maine South down?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We DID theorize that parochial and private schools might be bringing up the Maine South scores, as did we theorize that Maine South was doing a great job of raising the performance levels of the students once they got there.

The reason D-64 is such an easy target is: (a) most Maine South students come from D-64 schools, so problems with D-64 education will have a greater proportional impact on Maine South than problems with the education at the private/parochial schools; (b) the D-64 ISAT scores have been mediocre for a high-end community like ours; (c) the ISAT scores do not appear to reflect what we should be getting from the 4th-highest compensated administrators and the 25th highest paid teachers; and (d) D-64 administration never addresses why the ISAT scores aren’t higher, other than the standard silliness about “we don’t teach to the test” and “we educate the WHOLE child” – as if all the other districts who do better are compromising their educational quality for “cheap” ISAT results.

Mr. Paterno wants to save money by having nice volunteers take over some of the special ed teaching. And that’s the least destructive of his ideas. Check out the political blog he has unabashedly linked to his child psychologist (Lord help us!) website.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Lord help us”? Christian proselytizing in connection with secular education? Goodness gracious, what’s THAT all about?

Susan Sweeney stumping on behalf of Paterno and Seib…more evidence of a partisan agenda.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jan Schakowsky e-mailing and direct-mailing on behalf of Larry Ryles…more evidence of a partisan agenda.

It just dawned on me that you have generated 4 rather long, well thought out posts in the last week (a higher volume than normal). I realize these posts take time and effort on your part along with your day job and other responsibilities.

Whether I agree or disagree with the posts, thanks are certainly in order for the work you put in and the dialogue it generates.

Now everyone go vote!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks…but what “day job and other responsibilities”? 🙂

“…the D-64 kids feeding into Maine South appear to be lowering that school’s ranking, too.”

This isn’t the first time you’ve said this and it’s beginning to rankle, to the point where I actually asked Ken Wallace flat out if he thought this was the case. His answer was an emphatic “no.”

If you disagree, how do you explain the yearly transfer of Catholic school students into D64 schools? I know several SPC moms, one of whom transferred her son to D64 in fifth grade and one who’s been considering it each year since sixth grade because they believe the math and language arts curriculum is lacking in the upper grades.

Also, don’t forget that a portion of MS’s student body comes from south of the Kennedy, from another public school district. How do you know it’s not those kids who are dragging down the rankings?

I guess the only way to know for sure would be to find out where the best and worst performing MS students fed in from. In the meantime it seems irresponsible to blame D64 for MS/207’s shortcomings if you have no hard evidence indicating that’s truly what is happening.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We DON’T know what’s dragging down the rankings. Heck, maybe Maine South is doing as good as it’s ever done but the other high schools are just doing better than before.

But so long as the D-64 Board, the D-64 Administration, the D-64 teachers, and all their apologists who keep telling anybody who’ll listen what great schools we have start explaining why our kids’ ISAT scores are mediocre when compared to the better-scoring districts in comparable communities, there would appear to be NO justification for having the 4th highest paid administrators and the 25th highest paid teachers.

The enthusiasm with which Rep. Schakowsky has endorsed Ryles is 1/100th of that with which the local Republican ladies are stumping for Paterno. But it will be VERRRRRRRY interesting to see if Jan’s endorsement hurts or helps Ryles in Park Ridge — and whether Gerry Butler’s (Gerry who?) endorsement of Dave helps him enough to offset the lack of support from later mayors (and/or their wives.)
If Mayor Dave wins, he will be a chastened soul who understands that people skills ARE part of the job. If Dave wins, it will mean that voters are grownups and won’t shoot the messenger of financial realities. It will also be a win for the tree-huggers who agree with Dave that trees are part of our infrastructure, not just parsley garnish on the town.

If Ryles wins it will be a big payback win for Frimark. And Larry will soon be chastened by the job of “respecting” (i.e. awarding more money to) employees while delivering mo’ betta services to the public and reducing costs.

I’ll bring the popcorn, you bring the carbonated beverages, OK?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The “local Republican ladies” are Park Ridge residents, just like the local Democratic lady (who’s also on the Park Board) and a local Democratic guy (who’s also on the School Board) are “stumping” for Zimmerman. But Jan doesn’t live in Park Ridge, yet her political director Alex Armour not only is handling her support for Ryles but also lending a helping hand to the Our Parks Legacy campaign – and having his photo taken with OPL p.r. guru Dick Barton.

8:39:

You say that if the Mayor wins he will be a “chastened soul”. This one has me scratching my head!!

I mean I am not sure I can see the Mayor as Chastened…even if he DOES NOT win….but if he wins?? Chastened??

I do not think those who are voting for him want him to be chastened. That is not what they are voting for, in fact they like the fact that he was not chastened when people pushed back. For example, he was not chastened when a majority of his vetos were overridden. Some might argue he should have been but his supports would not want that.



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