Send Lawyers, Guns And Money…


…to 505 Butler Place tonight, 7:00 p.m.  That’s when the Park Ridge City Council Committee of the Whole (“COW”) will take up two hot topics.

The “guns” are on the agenda by virtue of the State of Illinois’ new concealed carry law (HB 183), which is expected to be signed by Governor Pat Quinn on July 9, 2013.  Because of reportedly bizarre provisions of HB 183, municipalities like Park Ridge will have only 10 days from Quinn’s signing of that law to enact their own gun ordinances, such as ordinances banning “assault weapons.”

How and why municipal regulation of “assault weapons” was somehow tied to a state handgun concealed carry law – apparently through an amendment to the Firearm Owners Identification Act – is beyond our powers of comprehension. But, then again, we can say the same for a lot of what comes out of Springfield these days…and what doesn’t come out of Springfield, like genuine pension reform.

That’s why we agree with Mayor Dave Schmidt that whichever state legislators came up with the idea of this 10 day window for enacting “assault weapons” regulations or be permanently barred from doing so are “morons” and/or “idiots.”  We’d even toss in “imbeciles” for the trifecta of descriptions of people of low intelligence, except that special-interest pandering may once again be masquerading as low intelligence.

That’s not uncommon down in Springfield.  Or in Washington D.C., for that matter.  But we digress.

History is filled with really bad legislation passed quickly and reflexively rather than deliberately and thoughtfully, especially when the principal motivator of the legislation is fear.  Exhibit A: the “Patriot Act,” the least “patriotic” piece of legislation since at least when Congress voted to intern Japanese Americans in camps during World War II, although we give the nod to the Patriot Act because it affects all Americans rather than just one ethnic group.

Thanks to the proponents of HB 183, a mindless rush to judgment by the Council – whether for or against an “assault weapons” ban – is virtually certain.

Which is why we understand both the pro-gun and the anti-gun forces have been contacting our public officials over the past several days.  And why we wouldn’t be surprised to hear some mindless references to “cold dead hands” and “Sandy Hook” before the night is out.

The “money” part of tonight’s festivities will come in the form of a discussion of the “Uptown TIF Strategic Plan” for dealing with the albatross around the City’s neck known as the Uptown TIF.  Unfortunately, that Plan doesn’t appear to offer a lot of hope for the City’s being able to extricate itself from the economic drain Park Ridge taxpayers were saddled with approximately 10 years ago while their collective vision was distorted by all sorts of rosy promises, predictions and projections from our then-public officials and their hired-gun consultants.

The City is currently $5 million in the hole on the TIF-related debt service payments that the City’s TIF fund was supposed to be making, but hasn’t been able to make because the TIF revenues have been grossly insufficient.  And that doesn’t account for the tens of millions of dollars of long-term General Obligation bonds that still need to be paid off over another 13-15 years.

Fortunately, the current City administration and senior staff realize that managing the Uptown TIF deficit and debt is the single most important strategic issue facing the City.  But that task is as difficult as it is painful, with no good or easy answers.  And it doesn’t lend itself to nifty, emotional appeals like the pro-gun and anti-gun fanatics have become so adept at.

Whether the NRA and Sandy Hook sympathizers show up at tonight’s meeting to make their pitches about “assault weapons” remains to be seen.  But we’re betting there’s a better chance of them making an appearance than of any of our three pro-Uptown TIF former mayors, or any of those pro-Uptown TIF former aldermen, showing up and bragging to the current Mayor and Council about why the Uptown TIF was such a good deal back then, and why they voted for it.

And the “lawyers”?

We’re not sure exactly where they fit into tonight’s Council agenda.  But if the Council starts to make any stupid decisions on either of the two main-event items that put the City between a rock and a hard place, we hope there’s at least one lawyer handy to set the Council straight.

Because we can see the prospects of litigation arising from both of them.

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Looks Like Somebody’s Lying About City/Public Works Contract


Last week we published a post about the “he said, she said” dispute over a significant term of the recently approved contract between the City and the Int’l Union of Operating Engineers (the “OEs”)-represented Public Works Dept. employees.

The Reader’s Digest version of that post is: the “old” City Council – which didn’t include the two new aldermen – approved and then over-rode Mayor Dave Schmidt’s veto by votes of 6-1 (Ald. Dan Knight dissenting) of a contract with the OEs that contained at least one significant term different from the contract the OEs reportedly ratified; and then the City started docking Public Works employees’ checks for higher health insurance premiums contained in the new City-approved contract but not in the OE-ratified one.

So now the City is forced to litigate over it before the historically “management”-unfriendly Illinois Labor Relations Board (“ILRB”), and may be forced to arbitrate an unfair labor practice for the higher benefit deductions.

After running a OE-friendly story last week, this week the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate is running a second story featuring the City’s attack on the OE’s claims (“Park Ridge strikes back against union’s bait-and-switch claims,” June 17).  And this time, the H-A reporter correctly referred to City Council members as “aldermen” instead of “commissioners,” so consider that a small but positive step toward actually understanding what’s going on over at City Hall.

How could something as simple as both sides approving the same contract language get this screwed up?

Let’s start with these negotiations being conducted in secret “closed sessions” intentionally concealed from the taxpayers who will end up paying the bill for whatever deal is cut. Opening such negotiations to the public – and having them videotaped by WOW, like City Council meetings – would provide a clear audio-visual record of exactly what the parties agreed to.  It also would show the taxpayers whether either side, or both, were being greedy, unreasonable, or just plain silly in the negotiations.

But failing that, we have to wonder why the Council voted on a deal BEFORE the OEs ratified and signed it?  Had each alderman had a contract already signed by the OEs before they voted on the deal, any opportunity for either side’s creating a revisionist history of the deal would have been prevented.

Instead, we’ve got another stupid waste of time and tax dollars by City officials.  And, as best as we can tell, the City has no better than a 50-50 chance that it will actually prevail.

If you haven’t participated in public-sector union negotiations, you probably can’t imagine how bizarre they can be.  But if the newspaper’s reports are to be believed, the OE’s complaint alleges that its negotiators provided the “last offer” that included employees paying 10% toward their health insurance and locking in non-merit based raises of 1%, 1.75% and 1.75% for the next three years.  The OEs verbally communicated these terms to the employees and obtained an affirmative ratification vote.

Subsequently, the City’s labor attorneys sent the OEs’ labor attorney a written contract and asked her to confirm that the terms as stated were “acceptable.”  And according to Acting City Mgr. Shawn Hamilton, the OEs’ labor attorney “advised the City that the draft was acceptable.”

Unfortunately, the City’s counterclaim filed with the ILRB and posted on the City’s website for this past Monday (06.17.13) night’s meeting under “Labor Relations Update” is long on allegations and explanations, but short on documentation – most notably, documentation of exactly HOW the OEs advised the City that the City’s draft was “acceptable” to the OEs.  And considering that the ILRB counterclaim form has a line that specifically requests “Supporting Documents,” we have to wonder why the City didn’t attach any smoking-gun documentation it has.

That suggests to us that there is none.  Or that instead of the kind of smoking-gun documentation Hamilton is touting as proof the OEs are misremembering, misunderstanding, or outright lying about what contract terms were agreed to, the City’s got nothing more than an empty shell casing or two.

Once again, we find ourselves channeling Casey Stengel: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

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Is O’Hare Litigation In Park Ridge’s Future?


Since O’Hare International Airport’s new runway, 9L27R, opened several years ago, many Park Ridge residents south of Touhy Avenue have become zealous converts to the anti-O’Hare expansion cause – in ways they never even thought about before the $1/2 billion runway was completed and planes started buzzing their homes.

That’s because, before then, O’Hare airplane noise tended to disproportionately bother the folks north of Touhy and living under the northeast-to-southwest flight paths of runways 22L and 22R.  Since the east-west 9L27R opened, however, the howl from the newly-affected residents has been fairly constant and sometimes louder than from the airplanes overhead.

Not only did the noise provoke consternation and woe among those south siders, but talk about the emissions from low-flying planes took on tones evoking Love Canal, Chernobyl, or a Dr. Kevorkian cocktail.  And Maine South High School began being referred to as an air crash disaster site waiting to happen.

Consequently, the new runway provoked the creation of a City task force that subsequently evolved into the current O’Hare Airport Commission (“OAC”).  Yet during that same time period, neither the Council nor the voters have expressed support for spending substantial sums of money battling new O’Hare runways, more flights, more noise or more pollution.

We get the sense that most residents believe the deck is stacked against Park Ridge by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), the airlines, the State of Illinois, and even our neighboring communities that comprise the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (“ONCC”), an impotent tissue-paper tiger of an organization created by former Chicago Mayor Richie Daley and managed until recently by Daley’s favorite political tool-time girl.

No, not Pamela Anderson, but the recently-retired Arlington Heights mayor, Arlene Mulder, who liked Park Ridge about as much as the aforementioned Ms. Anderson reportedly likes abstinence.

Despite resident pessimism about the City’s ability to effect positive changes regarding O’Hare, the City Council – at its June 3 meeting – heard a lengthy presentation from attorney Richard Porter of the Chicago law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson.  Porter provided the City with strategies for persuading and/or forcing, the FAA to update or re-do the 2005 Environmental Impact Study (“EIS”) that was completed before the new runway was operational.

The hope of proponents of an EIS do-over is that measurable increases in noise and pollution levels might qualify Park Ridge for various forms of relief – such as more soundproofing of public and privates buildings (including homes), reduced traffic for the new runway, modified take-off and landing patterns, etc.

The first steps recommended by Attorney Porter would cost in the $15,000-$30,000 range.  If those are unsuccessful (and it sure sounds like they will be), the ultimate alternative would be litigation costing $150,000 or more.  Not chump change, to be sure.  But if it could significantly alleviate the noise and pollution over 1/3 to 1/2 of Park Ridge, it still might be a sound investment, if not a bargain.

But only if it’s successful.  And that’s a really, really big “if.”

Given the investment of so many special interests in O’Hare expansion and the newest runway, there’s no way either Chicago or the FAA will significantly reduce that runway’s traffic; and both of our U.S. Senators, Durbin (D) and Kirk (R), and our Congressman Schakowsky (D), barely even pay lip service to the problems O’Hare presents to our quality of life.  So any kind of relief will likely be modest, at best – along the lines of some sound insulation and perhaps the implementation of the “Fly Quiet” program which none of the special interests have embraced so far.

Is such modest relief worth $150,000-plus?

For people who can’t open their windows without being bombarded by aircraft noise, the prospect of even modest relief may be enough to inspire zealous advocacy and support, irrespective of cost.  That kind of me, me, me attitude, however, doesn’t mean that the Council shouldn’t seriously consider pursuing those remedies.

Unfortunately, Park Ridge has a long history of pouring money – boxcars of it – down the anti-O’Hare rat-hole, including a $650,000 “investment” in a new Peotone airport that was so speculative, so poorly conceived and executed, and just so plain stupid, that in olden days public officials responsible for such foolishness and waste of the public purse might have been tarred and feathered, if not horsewhipped, by irate taxpayers.  Not surprisingly, the chief perpetrator of that debacle, former mayor Ron Wietecha, ended up resigning his post and fleeing to Barrington almost immediately after the loss of that entire “investment” was confirmed back in 2003.

Given such a history, the Council should scrutinize any plans and proposals related to combatting O’Hare’s adverse effects on our community with all the circumspection and outright skepticism it can muster.  Anybody who tries to sell the City on any strategy or remedy must be probed, interrogated and cross-examined with the kind of vigor, rigor and tenacity reserved for Al Qaeda operatives at Gitmo.

Waterboarding discouraged, but optional.

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Did City Bungle Latest Contract Negotiations?


When is a contract not a contract?

When the union officials for one of the City’s collective bargaining units – in this case, the Public Works employees – aren’t happy with the deal they may have negotiated.  Or didn’t.

According to an article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Union: Park Ridge hiked insurance rates without telling us,” 06.10.13), Local 150 of the Int’l Union of Operating Engineers (the “OEs”) claims it reached an agreement with the City’s negotiators regarding an insurance rate increase, but the contract approved by the City Council contained an increase averaging $68/month more than what the OEs actually negotiated.

So the OEs have filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board to resolve this dispute.  They reportedly will also be filing another complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor because the City promptly began imposing that new rate, even though the OEs allegedly have not ratified the contract.

At this point we can’t tell whether this is a SNAFU or just another one-off FUBAR, but it sure looks like yet another annoying example of how the City’s labor negotiators are like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, regularly being out-maneuvered and out-negotiated by their union counterparts.  And then compounding the problem with some form or other of boneheaded conduct – like implementing a contract that hasn’t been ratified by the union, assuming the H-A story is accurate.

And, for the record, such an assumption might be suspect, given that the H-A reporter – one Rick Kambic, pinch-hitting for H-A City beat reporter Jennifer Johnson because the latter reportedly might have a conflict of interest via a close relative’s being a City employee – repeatedly refers in his story to the City Council “commissioners” rather than aldermen.  But, hey, that’s close enough for government work, or for reporting about it.

You may recall that this was the contract where Acting City Mgr. Shawn Hamilton was instructed by the Council to negotiate a cost-neutral deal; i.e., the cost of any increase in wages would be off-set by an equal dollar amount of union concessions on benefits.  You may also recall that Hamilton and friends simply ignored the Council’s direction and returned with a deal that, instead of cost-neutral, will cost the City (i.e., the taxpayers) $25,000/year of “new” cash for the next three years.  And Hamilton didn’t even offer an explanation of why they did it.

If this were a college basketball game circa 2000, that kind of in-your-face from the ACM would have had Hamilton fans chiding the Council with chants of: “Who’s your daddy? Hamilton!”

But the “old” Council didn’t seem to mind that kind of facial, meekly approving the contract and then over-riding Mayor Dave Schmidt’s veto as it’s last official act before the “new” Council – or, more accurately, newly-elected Alds. Nick Milissis and Roger Shubert – were sworn in.

Given this backdrop, it probably should come as no surprise that the taxpayers may take another trimming, compliments of Hamilton and his “negotiating team.”  And with this state’s Labor Relations Board and Labor Department stacked with the pro-union appointees of King Michael Madigan and whatever governor – Democrat or Republican – he deems worthy to actually sign such appointments, the chances of the City winning what likely will end up as a “he said, she said” game of liars’ poker are not good.

Fortunately, the amounts we’re talking about here aren’t bank-breaking.  But as we’ve written many times before, each arbitrary, non-performance based raise sets the stage for the next one, and the one after that.  And when it comes to police and fire contracts where impasse requires binding arbitration, the spiraling raises given to other employees provide the perfect excuse for an arbitrator to impose similar arbitrary, non-performance based raises on the City (a/k/a, the taxpayers) for police and firemen.

Of course, the simplest and best way to avoid this kind of chicanery would be to open the negotiations of these contracts to the public.  Not only open the doors and windows on them, but televise and videotape them so the taxpayers who foot the bill for these cock-eyed processes can actually see and hear how they are being represented by their public officials – and also see and hear the unions’ cases for consistently higher pay and better benefits without greater or more productive effort.

That way, when “he said, she said” disputes about what the parties agreed to arise, we could just “go to the videotape” – as legendary New York sportscaster Warner Wolf repeatedly invited – rather than run to the Dept. of Labor or the ILRB.

But public employee unions absolutely hate the idea of exposing all their demands and posturing to public scrutiny.  It’s a whole lot tougher to wrap yourself in the mantle of downtrodden-but-altruistic public servants when the public gets to see and hear your demands for multi-year contracts with 7% annual raises.  And as we saw with the harebrained firefighters’ negotiation “Ground Rules” secretly proposed by Fire Chief Mike Zywanski, our public officials don’t seem to like the idea of the taxpayers looking over their shoulders, either.

So long as our elected officials keep enabling this kind of behavior, however, it will continue – in the darkness and under radio silence.  So long as unions think they can get a do-over.

Starting with planting a story in a local newspaper.

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Having A COW Tonight Over Flood Control Handouts


Tonight the City Council’s Committee of the Whole (“COW”) is scheduled to consider a recommendation (the “Recommendation”) by the City’s Flood Control Task Force (“FCTF”) togive away hundreds of thousands of public/tax dollars – if not more – in subsidies, or “incentives,” to various residents if they install private flood control devices to help flood-proof their property.

Why is that kind of a recommendation wrong-headed?  Let’s start with it being fundamentally unfair.

If you’re a responsible Park Ridge resident who already has spent thousands of your own hard-earned dollars installing flood control devices (e.g., overhead sewers, check valves, etc.) in your home to protect from sewer back-up, the Recommendation will take some of your equally hard-earned tax dollars and give them to those less responsible residents who have heretofore neglected to install their own private flood control systems.

What’s fair about rewarding the negligent?

We would contend “nothing.” But at their last meeting back on May 15th, some FCTF members argued that it’s no less fair than when the City used public funds to install the flood wall on Riverside Drive 20+ years ago that only benefitted around 250 homes in that area.

That wall, however, was designed to protect not only all the private homes in that area (rather than just certain ones) but also the public streets from flooding and becoming impassable.  The FCTF’s Recommendation, on the other hand, would only protect a sprinkling of individual homes in various areas and do nothing to reduce public-area flooding, such as in the streets and other public ways.  In fact, FCTF members have even acknowledged that adding more private flood control devices could actually increase public (or “overland”) flooding, albeit slightly, by eliminating what effectively were water detention areas – those flooded basements – that held water until the sewer system could empty out.

So if you’re one of those responsible residents, the FCTF’s Recommendation will give you something new to worry about: a slight increase in the overland flooding that might breach your foundation or your ground-floor doorways, even as you’re paying for other folks’ flood control.

From a public policy perspective, this Recommendation has already flown past “tone deaf,” rounded “stupid,” and is heading for “brain dead.”

But the FCTF members sure don’t think so.  In fact, they actually consider their Recommendation a “cost saver” because they claim it will reduce the number of homes that pile all that sodden furniture and carpeting on the parkways, costing the City (a/k/a, the taxpayers) extra garbage collection expense.  That argument was conveniently underscored by a recent story in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Flood debris pick-up cost Park Ridge $76,000,” May 24) that produced a $76,200 bill from ARC Disposal for the April 18 flood clean-up.

Not surprisingly for a H-A story, however, that figure assumes a lot of facts not yet in evidence, starting with whether all of the homes throwing out waterlogged carpeting and other items flooded because of no flood controls, or because of overland flooding, seepage, sump-pump failure, etc.  Nor did the H-A story address the issue of whether homeowners should be sur-charged for such extraordinary garbage pickup costs that may be resulting from their own negligence.

Why has a task force that was formed to help come up with innovative ideas for city-wide flood remediation become so obsessed with these patently quick-fix handouts to a limited number of local homeowners?

Could it be that those FCTF members already have effectively thrown in the towel on coming up with meaningful ways to remedy, on a city-wide basis, the so-called “50-year” or “100-year” floods we seem to be getting once or twice a year?  Could it be that individual subsidies or “incentives” as proposed in the Recommendation are simply an attempt to grab the lowest-hanging fruit, no matter how unsound it is as a matter of public policy?

Consider that some FCTF members – without dissent from their fellow FCTF members or City staff – noted that all the FCTF’s recommended improvements to the sewer system (at a cost of tens of millions of dollars) will, at best, make the system capable of handling only 10-year floods.

But even if a grand plan for preventing 50 or 100-year floods may not be easily achievable, does it make any sense at all to throw hundreds of thousands of public dollars (or more) at private homeowners who, up until now, have been too stupid, or too irresponsible, or just too darn cheap to install private flood control devices in their own homes on their own dimes?

At the May 15th meeting, resident Joe Weber and new Second Ward Ald. Nick Milissis – himself a flooding victim – wisely warned that subsidizing private flood control will distract the City’s attention and resources from the far more important and difficult task of controlling  “public” flooding.  They also wondered aloud about what kind of people could be content to run the risk of flooding until now, but suddenly become motivated to install flood control devices by the promise of a couple thousand dollar City subsidy?

How about “imbeciles” (a step above the “idiot” but still a notch below the “moron”)?  Or maybe the old reliable “freeloaders” who seem to be able to pick up even the faintest scent of public-fund handouts and get to the front of the line?

Several of the latter were at the meeting May 15th and they, along with a couple of FCTF members, were shameless in advocating for the Recommendation for purely private, personal benefit: in order to prevent losing flood insurance coverage (due to too many claims) and to make their homes more marketable.

Hey, maybe the City should spring for a new roof and some fresh paint while we’re at it, just to improve the curb appeal?

We trust that the City Council will not be bamboozled by this kind of soft-headed welfare for the irresponsible, because our community has serious flooding problems that require serious answers.  And handouts of public funds taken from the many for the private benefit of a few isn’t serious.

Except to the hopelessly shameless and the terminally silly.

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No Employment Contract Required


Almost a year ago we welcomed the arrival of Shawn Hamilton as Acting City Manager in our post: “Will Interim ACM Create New City Manager Paradigm?”

At that time we branded him a “high-risk, high-reward selection” – the former because of his minimal public sector experience as the Grundy County Administrator managing a $14 million budget, the latter because of his more extensive background in private-sector banking and management consulting.  We expressed our hope that he might dispel the notion that private-sector skill sets don’t work all that well in a government setting.

Now, almost a year into this noble experiment, we think the results remain decidedly mixed in light of some significant mis-steps by Hamilton during his first 10 months in office.

For example, last October Hamilton stumbled badly out of the gate in what looked to us like an attempt to play “politics” with the new ICOPS contract.  He authorized and/or prepared an “analysis” demonstrating why the new ICOPs contract was better than the old one – but only after the new contract had already been passed, vetoed, and that veto sustained.

In December we discovered that Hamilton inexplicably had been sitting on the contractual “accounting” required from Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”) for a couple of months before reporting the results to the City Council.  Not only was that accounting non-compliant with the contract’s requirements, but Hamilton’s delay let the clock tick down on the City’s option of putting the 2013 Taste of Park Ridge event (“TOPR”) out to RFP; and, consequently, TOPR 2013 was given to Taste Inc. on a no-bid basis because there was no time to do anything else.

In January, we wondered whether Hamilton and new Finance Director (Hamilton pick) Kent Oliven would be up for the City Manager’s biggest test: the 2013-14 budget process.  They weren’t.  In fact, they were so discombobulated that the Council had to delay the start of its budget workshops for a couple of weeks while Hamilton and Oliven stumbled around just trying to fill in the blanks of the budget template that had worked so well the previous year.

By March, Hamilton was aiding and abetting Fire Chief Mike Zywanski’s attempt to end-run the competitive bidding process on a $150,000 contract to replace the Fire Department’s ambulance cardiac monitors.  Hamilton stood silently by as Chief Z tried to stampede the Council with a questionable-bordering-on-bogus “analysis” of comparable products, along with dire warnings about the endangerment of public safety if the no-bid deal wasn’t cut immediately.  Only when pointedly questioned by Ald. Dan Knight did Chief Z finally admit that delaying this procurement really wouldn’t jeopardize the health or safety of Park Ridge residents.

Also in March, Hamilton aided and abetted Human Resource Mgr. Mike Suppan in botching the contract negotiations with the union representing the City’s public works employees – the one that contributed $1,000 to the candidate challenging Mayor Dave Schmidt’s re-election bid.  Apparently Hamilton and Suppan couldn’t, or wouldn’t, follow the Council’s direction that any contract be cost neutral; i.e., that any wage increases be offset with union concessions on other items.  The result: Hamilton recommended a contract requiring the City’s expenditure of $75,488 of “net new dollars” over the contract’s 3-year term, with no explanation from him of why this was such a good deal for the City’s taxpayers.

And in April we wondered what Hamilton was thinking in recommending that the City Council pass a resolution proposed by the next-to-worthless Northwest Municipal Conference, encouraging the federal government to adopt a plan of immigration reform.  Hamilton’s recommendation was properly dismissed by the Council, which gave it a unanimous “no” vote with barely any discussion – except to criticize it.

These incidents, although few in number, raise enough questions about Hamilton’s priorities and  judgment to deny him “permanent” city manager status.  At least for the time being.

But apparently these and other gaffes by Hamilton aren’t enough to prevent the City Council from offering him the permanent City Manager position at the Council’s May 28th meeting.  To the contrary, the Council – with the exception of Ald. Jim “Sleepy” Smith (3rd) – sounds pleased with Hamilton’s performance, and has directed Schmidt to “negotiate” an employment agreement with him.

Frankly, we wonder whether they are as “pleased” with Hamilton’s performance as they are dubious about finding anybody better if they go through the time, effort and expense of conducting a formal search to fill that position.  Given the City’s recent experience with the likes of Jim Hock and Tim Schuenke before him, and what we read and hear about the city and village managers in other communities, they may be right.  And despite all these whiffs, fumbles and shanks, Hamilton still might be able to raise his game to the level of what we hoped for when he arrived.

But why give Hamilton a contract?

According to H.R. Mgr. Suppan, such a contract “solidifies the city’s position and the candidate’s position.”

That bit of squishy H.R.-speak may sound nice, but how does an employment contract solidify “the City’s position” when we all know that the moment Hamilton – or any other City employee, for that matter – says he wants to leave, the Council will most certainly bid him bon voyage on the theory that somebody who doesn’t want to be here won’t do a good job if he/she is kept here?

Let’s call a spade a spade: these kinds of employment contracts protect the employee.  Period.

So even though we’re confident Schmidt won’t negotiate the kind of fiasco deal then-mayor Howard Frimark cut with then-incoming city manager Jim Hock, a deal made exponentially worse by the Council’s demented contract extension months before five Frimark holdovers (Don Bach, Jim Allegretti, Robert Ryan, Tom Carey and Frank Wsol) left office, we question the wisdom of any employment contract at all.

The overwhelming majority of Park Ridge taxpayers who pay Hamilton’s salary don’t have employment contracts in their jobs.  They’re subject to Illinois’ “employment-at-will” laws, which permit their termination at any time for virtually any reason, or for no reason at all.

So why does Hamilton, or any public employee for that matter, deserve an employment contract when the private-sector employees who pay those public employees’ salaries don’t?

And if he doesn’t deserve a contract, then why was Schmidt directed to negotiate one?

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