Council Says “No” To Maine Twp. (MTEMP) Shell Game


As has previously been reported in this blog, its editor was a member of a committee of Sixth Ward residents who, in June 2012, screened four candidates for mayoral appointment to fill that ward’s aldermanic seat when Tom Bernick abandoned ship after little more than the first year of his four-year term.

Based on the committee’s recommendation, Mayor Dave Schmidt nominated Marc Mazzuca, whose appointment was unanimously approved by the City Council.

We welcomed Mazzuca to the Council in our 06.23.12 post, and early on he displayed some of the qualities we expected him to bring to the Council.  But he soon became a poster child for aldermanic schizophrenia, painstakingly drilling down into some fiscal issues while totally and inexplicably ignoring other ones.

One night he would argue interminably for saving $20,000 by benchmarking city manager compensation against the federal government’s civil service pay scale, then turn around and rubber-stamp hundreds of thousands of dollars of police station “improvements” after a Q & A of Chief Kaminski so soft it would have made a marshmallow blush.  He has repeatedly voted for across-the-board, non-merit based pay increases for union and non-union employees alike without even any attempt at an economic or public policy justification.

Consequently, we couldn’t endorse his election in April, although he nevertheless won a four-year term by a margin of 20 votes.  But since that time, sad to say, he has done little to cause us to question our lack of an endorsement.

This past Monday night’s City Council COW meeting was a case in point.

Mazzuca joined Alds. Joe Sweeney (1st) and Jim Smith (3rd) in another attempt to give away a used City SUV (reportedly worth at least $3,000) to Maine Township government, reportedly because that  governmental unit doesn’t want to reduce its operating fund balance from $1 million to $997,000 for the benefit of its own Maine Twp. Emergency Management Program (“MTEMP”).  Although that giveaway was defeated a couple of weeks ago during the previous COW meeting, Sweeney resurrected it with a motion for reconsideration – which he could bring because he was absent for the previous COW vote.

We encourage you to actually watch Monday night’s debate on the issue, which begins at 1:39:14 of the City’s meeting video.  But for those who want the Reader’s Digest version, we’ll try to accommodate you.

Alds. Dan Knight (5th) and Marty Maloney (7th), both of whom had voted “no” two weeks ago, noted how giving away Park Ridge tax dollars to another taxing body is bad policy and bad precedent, with Maloney correctly pointing out that several areas of Park Ridge aren’t even in Maine Twp.  Ald. Roger Shubert (4th), who had voted for the giveaway two weeks ago, voiced similar concerns in announcing that he was changing his vote to “no” after additional deliberation.

With previous “no” voter Ald. Nick Milissis (2nd) absent, another 3 to 3 tie prevented the giveaway from once again getting out of the COW.

But Mazzuca’s and Sweeney’s arguments in support of the giveaway – wrong at best, disturbing at worst – should be studied as an object lesson in what having virtually no sense whatsoever of the legal and practical division between separate governmental taxing bodies sounds like.

Mazzuca began his defense of the giveaway by asserting that “[t]here’s still a taxpayer that is going to benefit” from the City’s donation of the SUV to Maine Twp. – presumably meaning that Maine Twp. will use the vehicle for the benefit of at least some Park Ridge taxpayers.  Such an absurd argument, however, could effectively justify the City’s giving the $3,000 SUV (or $30,000, or $300,000, for that matter) to any other governmental unit to which any Park Ridge taxpayers also pay property taxes, be it the Park District, School Districts 64 and 207, the Water Reclamation District, the Mosquito Abatement District, or Cook County itself.

While some savvy marketer might brand that as “Local Governments Without Borders,” all it does is make it even tougher for taxpayers funding multiple governmental units to track how their money is being spent and to hold any particular unit of government accountable for that spending.

Mazzuca then went further afield when he attempted to demean the issue and the applicable public policy by minimizing its cost, t.v. infomercial-style, to the average taxpayer: “It’s not nickels, it’s not dimes, it’s not even pennies,” he insisted.

No, alderman, it’s $3,000 – enough money to cover at least one of the arbitrary, non-performance based raises you irresponsibly voted to hand out to various City employees this year.

But Mazzuca’s dumbest argument was his grand finale: that with the City looking to renegotiate its Uptown TIF-related revenue-sharing agreements with other local governmental units (i.e., School Districts 64 and 207, and the Park District), denying Maine Twp. a free $3,000 SUV would be “a bloody flag” that would discourage those three governmental units from doing any kind of a deal with the City on the TIF.

If any reader can even begin to understand that bizarre linkage, please feel free to explain it to us.

But leave it to Sweeney to make even Mazzuca’s ridiculous arguments seem sublime.

After reciting all the things MTEMP allegedly “gives” to Park Ridge – 25 to 30 CERT bags valued at $100 each, CERT training, volunteers directing traffic during flooding, providing a light tower at Taste of Park Ridge, etc. – Sweeney displayed his ignorance (or his duplicity?) about MTEMP when he proclaimed: “I’m not talking Maine Twp, I’m talking the Emergency Management Group”

As if MTEMP is an independent organization rather than a branch of Maine Twp. government funded with $100,000 of Maine Twp. taxpayers’ money, a/k/a, our money.

That launched Knight.

“[MTEMP] didn’t give the City of Park Ridge anything,” he replied sharply.  “They gave it to us by expending taxpayer money.”

Knight then recalled MTEMP’s director’s appearance at the last COW meeting, where he referred to MTEMP as “his” organization.

“It’s not his organization, it’s the people’s organization.  And they don’t give us things, they tax us so that they can buy stuff, and then they give it to us.”

“You tell me how that makes sense.”


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Is Another Bad-Government Lesson On Tonight’s COW Agenda? (Updated)


The current Mayor and City Council appear to be the best group, collectively, of elected officials to oversee City government in more than 20 years.

Unlike most of their predecessors, whose style of governance consisted primarily of mindlessly rubber-stamping mayoral fiats (like Ron Wietecha’s costly anti-O’Hare obsession, and Wietecha’s and Mike Marous’ disastrous Uptown TIF fantasy) and boneheaded staff decisions, while at the same time writing of as many checks as they hoped the taxpayers could cash, the current occupiers of The Horseshoe seem to be much more a taxpayers-first, policy-oriented, trust-but-verify bunch.

But every so often one or more of them seem unable to resist the impulse to do something that is penny-unwise and public policy-foolish.  And tonight’s (08.26.13) Committee of the Whole (“COW”) meeting has the potential for providing another object lesson in that particular form of bad government.

We’re talking about the motion of Ald. Joe Sweeney (1st) to reconsider the August 12 COW vote rejecting – by a 3-3 tie – the wrongheaded and policy-bankrupt “donation” of a City-owned used 2002 Ford Explorer XLS, allegedly worth $3,000, to Maine Township government.  Or, more specifically, to the Maine Twp. Emergency Management Program (“MTEMP”), a branch of Maine Twp. government.

We wrote about the foolishness of that idea in our August 12 post, It Really Is The Principle, Not The Money,” so we won’t re-hash all those arguments here.  Instead, we’ll focus on its return to the COW agenda: Sweeney was absent from the August 12 COW and, therefore, has a right to seek a do-over because he did not cast a vote for the losing “donation” side.

If you’ve listened to Sweeney’s comments and observed his voting record over the last four years, you know that there’s virtually no amount of spending he won’t vote for if it’s in any way related to police, fire or public safety – all while insisting he’s a staunch fiscal conservative.  If Police Chief Frank Kaminski wanted an M1A1 Abrams battle tank to deter speeders on Touhy, or to repel an invasion by Des Plaines, Sweeney would be the first to leap to his feet in wholehearted, unquestioning support.

Heck, he’d probably even suggest throwing in an armored command car for Kaminski.

So unless one of the three aldermen who foolishly voted for the giveaway two weeks ago –  Alds. Jim Smith (3rd), Roger Shubert (4th) and Marc Mazzuca (6th) – gets religion and changes his vote, Sweeney’s expected “yes” vote will send the giveaway out of the COW to next week’s regular Council meeting for final approval.  Unfortunately, we don’t know what it would take to change any of those “yes” votes because none of the aldermen who cast them bothered to say why.

While Alds. Nick Milissis (2nd) and Dan Knight (5th) explained the reasoning behind their “no” votes on August 12, the three “yes” voters sat in stony silence.  That silence, although completely permissible under Council rules and procedures, cheats the taxpayers out of a public record of the voters’ reasoning – assuming there actually is any kind of “reasoning” behind such votes.

Both Milissis and Knight correctly noted that just because the City’s used SUV is worth only $3,000 doesn’t mean giving it to another separate taxing body like Maine Twp. is the right thing to do.  That’s because whether the SUV (or any other City property) is worth $3,000, $30,000, or $300,000, it still was paid for, and belongs to, Park Ridge taxpayers.  So there better be a darned good reason why property Park Ridge taxpayers paid for with their tax dollars is being given away to other governmental units – like Maine Twp. – which also tax those same Park Ridge taxpayers.

As Knight pointed out: “If we need $3,000, we raise taxes from our citizens.”  That’s what Maine Twp. should do if it needs or wants a vehicle for its MTEMP.

City staff should have known better than to even make such a foolish and policy-bankrupt recommendation to the Council.  But keeping a close eye on Staff is why we have an elected Mayor and an elected City Council.  Too bad three of them – and apparently the MIA Sweeney – don’t seem to be able to figure these things out any better than Staff can.

If these “yes”-voting aldermen and any Park Ridge taxpayers want to give away a $3,000 vehicle to Maine Twp., however, they should take up a collection to buy it from the City (and their fellow taxpayers) and then “donate” it.  Let Sweeney and Chiefs Kaminski and Zywanski chair the effort, assuming they don’t want to each write a check of a grand and fund it themselves.

But if any aldermen insist on voting to give away City property, they should at least end their sphinx-like silence and dazzle us with the reasoning behind what appears to be an unpricipled, foolish and irresponsible vote.

UPDATED 08.27.13: With Ald. Nick Milissis, a solid “no” vote, missing from The Horseshoe last night, it looked like Ald. Joe Sweeney and the other giveaway aldermen would prevail on Sweeney’s do-over.  But Ald. Roger Shubert came up big, changing his vote from “yes” to “no” because he finally “got” the principle involved.  So with a 3-3 tie – Sweeney, Smith and Mazzuca “yes” versus Shubert, Knight and Maloney “no” – once again the SUV donation failed to move out of the COW.

Not surprisingly, Sweeney had all sorts of half-baked reasons why this giveaway was somehow a good deal for the City and its taxpayers, all of which seemed to boil down to: MTEMP does all sorts of things for Park Ridge, so it’s time Park Ridge did something for MTEMP.  But as best as we can tell, most of those services MTEMP allegedly performed were not for the City but, instead, for privately-run events like the Taste of Park Ridge, Winterfest, etc.  So if MTEMP needs an SUV, maybe those private entities should step up to the plate, buy it from the City, and donate it to MTEMP themselves.

Mazzuca, on the other hand, actually may have had an even worse reason that Sweeney for voting “yes”: $3,000 isn’t enough money for the Council to stand on principle.

Seriously, Marc?  What rubbish!

Jefferson flashed no price tags when he wrote: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Let us know when you come to understand that concept, alderman.

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School Salary Increases: The Saga Continues


Oops…they did it again.

A recent report in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 207 administrators bank raises for new year,” August 15) confirms what we’ve all known for far too long: that the folks we elect to keep an eye on the bureaucrats we don’t elect, and on how those unelected bureaucrats spend our tax dollars, are themselves compulsive spenders.

So if you’re Maine Twp. High School District 207 Superintendent Kenneth Wallace or any other D-207 administrators and non-teaching staffers, you’ll be finding extra money in your pay envelope this coming year.  For Wallace, that means an extra $6,000 in salary – from $200,990 last year to $207,020 this year.

As H-A reporter Natasha Wasinski notes, Wallace now has had three straight years of 1% salary bumps, starting with a 1% increase in 2011, a 2% bump last year, and now a 3% hike.  And back in June, the D-207 Board gave him a $25,000 “performance annuity payment” – while also giving a 2% boost to D-207 support staff and a 1.5% boost to other administrators’ base salaries.


Chief D-207 propagandist Dave Beery tried to justify these increases by pointing out that administrative pay is based, in part, on performance.  Not surprisingly, however, Beery doesn’t explain what specific “performance” justified Wallace’s recent 3% pop, or his 1-2-3% three-year run (Anybody want to hazard a guess what percent next year’s raise will be?)  Or the “performance” that justified the $25,000 windfall.  Or the “performance” of all the other administrative and staff people.

Having studiously observed bureaucrats in the wild for the past 20 or so years, we’re willing to bet that whatever those “performance” standards might be, they are more about individual performance than student or district-wide performance.  Otherwise, Beery would be proclaiming District 207 achievements from the rooftops: “D-207 student achievement up 5%!”  Or “ISATs up in all 3 D-207 schools!” Or, mirabile dictu: “Rankings up, costs down at Maine Twp. schools!”

We don’t recall reading any such headlines.  Do you?

Interestingly, the H-A story reports that D-207 salaries and benefits collectively increased less than the Consumer Price Index increase of 2.5%, as if the CPI is even a rational benchmark for compensation increases.  Why is any public-sector employee compensation ever tied to the CPI – not only is it bad employment policy, but it’s an inflationary and divisive economic policy that actually rewards those public employees with COLAs for increases in the inflation to which their salary increases contribute, via the increasing number of tax dollars paid by private-sector employees who don’t get COLAs.

Not that the D-207 Board (or the D-64 Board, for that matter) cares about such things.

It also makes us wonder whether the raises would have jumped to 5% or even 10% if the CPI made similar leaps – because it seems like both the D-207 Board and the D-64 Board believe the taxpayers should be required to protect school employees from the adverse effects of inflation by giving them raises, irrespective of whether or not they actually perform their jobs better and more cost-effectively, or the performance of the schools and their students measurably improve.

In other words, fellow taxpayers, we get to insure our School District employees’ buying power, even though darn few of us have any similar kind of insurance in our own jobs.  Or tenure that virtually guarantees lifetime employment.  Or constitutionally-guaranteed pensions running up to 75% of our last salary when we retire from public employment…as early as age 55 or so.

No wonder the State is going bankrupt.

Nevertheless, we have to confess to almost feeling bad about hammering Wallace for his raises, however, seeing as he’s making almost $20,000 LESS than the drunken sailors on the D-64 Board are paying Wallace’s counterpart, Superintendent Philip Bender – despite Wallace’s overseeing an Illinois Top 20 high school district with a budget of $147 million, while Bender oversees a Top 100 (?) elementary school district with a budget about half D-207’s.

According to the H-A story, only new Board member Mary Childers voiced any concern about these raises on behalf of the taxpayers, although she apparently couldn’t quite bring herself to break from the rest of the bobble-heads who rubber-stamped those raises.

We know it’s tough being the only adult in a room full of children, Mary, especially when you aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid.

But it’s time to start just saying “no” to dopes.

To read or post comments, click on title.

$600,000 Here, $600,000 There, Pretty Soon You’re Talking Real Money


It’s no secret that we here at PW consider the current administration at the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District something decidedly south of a paragon of local governmental virtue.

So it probably should have come as no surprise to us to read in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate that the Park District’s new Centennial water park is now going to cost taxpayers nearly $600,000 more than the District was telling us last December, when the Park Board was passing the resolutions to green-light what was then billed as a $7.1 million project – without giving the taxpayers an opportunity to vote on it via an advisory referendum. (“Centennial Pool renovations will cost extra $600K for Park Ridge Park District,” August 12)

That’s because the parks and recreation “professionals” running the Park District know that you never put two park district funding referenda on the same ballot, or in consecutive elections – as the Park District could have done by putting the Centennial project on the November ballot and the Youth Campus project on the April ballot, if it didn’t want both of them on the April ballot – if you want to pass both of them.  When referendum questions are paired up in that way, the conventional wisdom is that the voters tend to pass the first and reject the second, or reject them both.

And being told “no” by the voting taxpayers is a capital offense to career government bureaucrats.

So Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle and her staff, aided and abetted by a profligate and complicit Park Board, masterfully delayed consideration of the Centennial pool/water park project until months after the deadline for putting a referendum question on the November ballot, into the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season when most taxpayers customarily are distracted.  That way, the District could commit almost all of its non-referendum bonding power to the less-marketable project and save its best sales pitches for the more-marketable “legacy” Youth Campus Park referendum.

The bureaucratic reasoning was that, with the voters lacking any memory of recently having voted to issue $6.3 million of bonded debt for a $7.1 million Centennial water park, it would be much easier to convince them to vote for issuing $6.8 million of additional bonded debt for a $13.2 million Youth Campus project.

And the bureaucrats were right!

But the news of the $600,000 cost over-run for the water park just as ground was being broken has raised a few hackles from the thinking taxpayers who are realizing that they got conned even more than they originally thought.

We tend to derive perverse entertainment value from listening to the propaganda ministers of our various local governmental units try to spin performance dross into political gold.  And, according to the H-A story, Park District minister of disinformation Kathie Hahn didn’t disappoint – dismissing the original $7.1 million figure as “early on in the project” and then applying a layer of populist varnish to the $600,000 up-sell: “When we went to the public hearings and input meetings, we heard from the public about certain things they wanted at this park so we made our best attempt to include those items.”

Pretty slick, Ms. Hahn!  But exactly what “items” are you talking about?

As we understand it, the District had already cut the single most-wanted feature of the new water park (according to the half-baked resident “survey” provided by…wait for it…the designers of the new facility, Stantec Consulting) even before the Park Board approved the project: a lazy river connecting the various pools.  So we’re curious about what new “items” are being added to the project that would account for the additional $600K.

That’s not saying the information wasn’t communicated by the District in some fashion.  Park Board meetings aren’t covered nearly as diligently by the local press as are the meetings of the Park Ridge City Council, where “press row” is regularly filled by reporters from the H-A, the Park Ridge Journal, and the Chicago TribLocal.  And while Mayor Dave Schmidt and the Council members often engage in spirited debate over issues, the Park Board usually behaves like a rubber stamp for current Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle and her staff.

Since returning to the PRRPD after 8 years as Supt. of Recreation for the Des Plaines Park District,  Mountcastle’s agenda appears to be not unlike that of many high-level local government bureaucrats: spend money and pile up debt on facilities-as-monuments.  Those monuments earn them bragging rights at the various “professional association” networking/self-promotion conferences and conventions – like those of the Illinois Association of Park Districts (“IAPD”) and the National Recreation and Park Association (“NRPA”) – they regularly attend, usually on the taxpayers’ dime.

In fairness, up until now Mountcastle has been able to control costs and post some welcome surpluses, apparently by retaining the operating budget philosophy and strategy adopted by her predecessor, Ray Ochromowicz, during his relatively short tenure at the helm.  And from what we’ve seen and heard, maintenance and customer service continue to improve.

But whether the District can stay that course now that it’s saddled with servicing $13 million-plus of new long-term bonded debt remains to be seen.  If all those suspect revenue projections for the Centennial water park and the Youth Campus Park prove to be the kind of pie-in-the-sky that the revenue projections for the Uptown TIF turned out to be, the Park District and its taxpayers could be hurtin’ for certain in a few years when the surpluses and fund balances are depleted but the PTELL keeps the tax increases capped.

By that time, however, expect Mountcastle to have moved on to other, greener pastures on the strength of these two new resume enhancements, compliments of Park Ridge taxpayers.  And the Park Board members who rubber-stamped these projects with only one referendum instead of two will have become former public officials – just like city manager Tim Schuenke and his Council accomplices on the Uptown TIF were long gone by the time the financial chickens came home to roost on that project.

Meanwhile, however, the Park District is adding $600,000 of “switch” to the water park’s $7.1 million “bait” price, with barely a ripple of protest by our elected officials on the Park Board who are supposed to make sure that the taxpayers don’t get “had” by this kind of bureaucratic hi-jinks.

Next up: The Youth Campus Park.

Bidding starts at $13.2 million.

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It Really Is The Principle, Not The Money (Updated)


Anybody who learned Government 101 – i.e., basic grade school Civics, at least before it got sliced and diced to accommodate more “contemporary” subjects like sociology, psychology, and Inuit studies – knows that there are divisions and levels of government.

Here in terminally-inept-when-not-outright-corrupt Illinois, we have more units of government than any other state: 6,994 separate “local” taxing bodies, or 2,100-plus more than runner-up Pennsylvania.  And of those 6,994 separate taxing bodies, 3,249 are single-purpose “special districts” such as library districts, park districts, fire protection districts, mosquito-abatement districts, etc.

All these taxing bodies are petri dishes for the breeding of fiefdoms loaded with taxpayer-funded jobs and opportunities for well-connected insiders to make deals and do favors for their families and friends.

Not only are all these layers of government expensive to maintain, but their overlapping boundaries also make it difficult to hold any finite, identifiable group of public officials strictly accountable for every dollar taken from the taxpayers, and every dollar spent.  That lack of accountability is another reason why all these units of government are favored by Illinois’ political class.

Which brings us to an item on tonight’s Park Ridge City Council Committee of the Whole agenda that merits a lot more attention than its relatively modest cost – $3,000 – would otherwise invite.

It’s described as “Vehicle donation to Maine Township Emergency Management Program” and it involves the proposed giveaway of a used Park Ridge SUV, worth an estimated $3,000, to a sub-unit of the Maine Township government our residents also support through our property taxes.

According to the materials accompanying Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski’s “Agenda Cover Memorandum”, something called the “Maine Township Emergency Management Program” (the “MTEMP”).was created by those folks who run the Maine Township fiefdom, and then given the “overall mission” to “provide emergency disaster services” to unincorporated Maine Twp. – areas which are also governed (and neglected?) by a Cook County government that wants to dump them on neighboring municipalities like Des Plaines, Glenview, Niles and…Park Ridge.

Maine Twp. government created MTEMP without getting the approval of, or even consulting with, the Park Ridge City Council.  Maine Twp. government set MTEMP’s “mission” without getting the approval of, or even consulting with, our City Council.  And, appropriately enough, until now MTEMP has been funded solely by Maine Twp. government.  That’s the way it should be: if you create it and control it, you pay for it.

But in another example of governmental “mission creep,” MTEMP apparently decided to expand its “volunteer” efforts beyond “emergency disaster services” for unincorporated Maine Twp. to provide non-emergency amenity services to privately-run events like Taste of Park Ridge, the Chamber of Commerce’s “Winterfest” – along with amenity services to such non-City public events as Maine South football games and the Maine East Carnival – all without the request or formal authorization of the Park Ridge City Council.

Also apparently without being asked or authorized by our City Council, MTEMP reportedly “outfitted our [CERT] team at not cost to the City” – according to Kaminski’s unsigned and undated (Unsigned?  Undated?  C’mon, Chief, you’re better than that!) memo accompanying his Agenda Cover Memorandum.

So now, having provided all those hours of amenity services on a “volunteer” basis as an arm of Maine Twp. government, without being asked or authorized by our City Council, and without any sort of formal intergovernmental cooperation agreement, MTEMP wants $3,000 – in the form of a used SUV.  And Kaminski, without a second thought and with the support of Fire Chief Mike Zywanski, wants to give it to them as a gesture of “support [of] their program and [to] say thank you for their years of service.”


Why should Park Ridge taxpayers pay for amenities provided by “volunteers” – especially when our elected representatives apparently never asked for those amenities or those volunteers, and never authorized them?  And why should Park Ridge give MTEMP, an entity which Maine Twp. government created without asking Park Ridge, a $3,000 used vehicle when MTEMP’s own Maine Twp. government is admittedly sitting on a fund balance of $1 million but won’t spring for the three grand?

This situation reminds us of those guys who used to swarm cars stopped at traffic lights, wash the windshields, and then expect money for a service neither requested nor authorized by the drivers of those cars.

There’s an old adage that, whenever somebody says that “it’s not the money but the principle,” it’s really the money.  But in this case, $3,000 is effectivley chump change for a City government with an annual budget of over $60 million.  So our objecting to its being “donated” to MTEMP/Maine Twp. government really is based on principle – a principle so basic and fundamental to government that it should be recognized by EVERYBODY in City government entrusted with the money it seizes involuntarily from residents through property taxes.

If MTEMP’s “volunteer” services really were so important to the City, Chief K and/or Chief Z should have asked the City Council, in advance, for authority to use those services and the authority to pay MTEMP for them.  Instead of seeking permission, however, the Chiefs apparently ignored the Council, went ahead and used those “volunteer” services as they pleased, and now want to guilt the Council into donating a $3,000 SUV – a/k/a, taxpayer funds – as some kind of gratuity.

Not surprisingly, that’s a win/win for Chief K and Chief Z, whose departments don’t have to rely on that $3,000 trade-in/re-sale value to get the new vehicles they want.  So spitting away $3,000 of Park Ridge taxpayer funds to help out their Maine Twp. public-safety fraternity brothers is of no consequence to them.  We suspect they’d be a little less cavalier with that $3,000 if they had to cut that amount out of their respective departments’ 2013-13 expenditures, however.

Giving away taxpayer funds to non-governmental entities was a bad idea when the money was being donated to private corporation community groups.  It’s an even worse idea when the money is going to help out the the bucks-up Maine Twp. political fiefdom…whose officials (Carol Teschky, Bob Provenzano, et al.) constantly brag about how well they are managing that fiefdom.

But if Chiefs K and Z really are so appreciative of those volunteer MTEMP services, we encourage them to propose $1,500 of cuts to their departments’ budgets for the current fiscal year.  Or else they can reach into their own pockets and either write personal checks to MTEMP, or agree to reimburse the City for the estimated $3,000 value of the SUV they want the City to “donate.”

How about it, gentlemen: Care to put your money – instead of the taxpayers’  – where your mouths are.

UPDATED 08.13.13.  Last night the City Council’s Committee of the Whole (“COW”) rejected Chief K’s recommendation to make a “donation” – on behalf of Park Ridge taxpayers – to Maine Twp. government, in the form of a used City SUV with an estimated value of $3,000.

Alds. Nick Milissis (2nd) and Dan Knight (5th) made the arguments against this wrong-headed idea, and they were joined in their “no” votes by Ald. Marty Maloney (7th).  Alds. Jim Smith (3rd), Roger Shubert (4th) and Mark Mazzuca voted “yes” without explanation; and, in the absence of Ald. Joe Sweeney (1st), the 3-3 tie prevented the proposal from moving out of the COW.

Whether the three aldermen voting “yes” had any good reason(s) or were mindlessly rubber-stamping Chief K’s recommendation remains unknown, as none of them reportedly spoke to the issue.  Hopefully, they’ll wake up and realize that giving away Park Ridge taxpayer money to any other governmental entity – especially one which most Park Ridge taxpayers already are being forced to support with their property tax dollars – is bad public policy; and they’ll do so before the next such boondoggle comes before them, as it inevitably will.

But for the time being, a big Watchdog bark-out to Alds. Milissis, Knight and Maloney for understanding Civics 101.  Now if only they can teach it to the other folks around The Horseshoe.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Combatting School “Hazing” Requires Responsibility On Every Level


About ten years ago, a battle-weary veteran female Dade County (Florida) state’s attorney offered a remarkable quote when questioned by a reporter about a particular sex crime she had successfully prosecuted: “Half of my cases would disappear if kids were taught that you don’t suck a penis for a cookie.”

Needless to say, that prosecutor wasn’t one to mince words.

But she raises a point that should not be lost on the Maine Township High School District 207 administration as it seeks to investigate and address the kind of “hazing” that allegedly went on at Maine West High School: At what point does a “boy” or a “girl” become charged with the responsibility of understanding that having one’s orifice(s) penetrated with anything, whether by a classmate, teammate, coach or teacher, is NEVER an appropriate or acceptable element of a school activity?

Had that lesson been adequately taught and learned, we suspect we wouldn’t be writing this post.  And a number of students would not be scarred by the reprehensible conduct of fellow students.  And District 207 wouldn’t still be running the meter on attorneys and consultants to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating that conduct and the alleged blind eyes of the coaches cast toward that conduct.

According to newspaper accounts of the situation, the five month-plus investigation into the alleged hazing of players on the Maine West boys’ soccer team already has cost the District approximately $115,000 of attorneys’ fees paid to a prominent Chicago law firm.  The District also has paid an undisclosed amount to California-based consultant Community Matters “to survey the climate of bullying, hazing and harassment in the district” and produce a 24-page report, which was delivered to school administrators in May and can be accessed through the D-207 website under Community Matters Presents Report.

And the District and/or its insurer is also burning cash in defending against a civil lawsuit for money damages filed by the victims of this hazing.

All because it appears that male soccer players at Maine West somehow thought that conduct described in news accounts as “sodomy” – which covers more than one kind of sex act – was okay.  Or because those players didn’t necessarily think it was okay, but they didn’t have sufficient courage and resolve to resist the peer pressure that reportedly endorsed it and encouraged it.  And because some coaches allegedly knew about this conduct but did nothing about it, a la the Penn State football program.

We find it difficult to fathom how this sort of “hazing” could occur to the extent and for the length of time it is alleged to have occurred.  We find it equally difficult to fathom how sheltered even a 14 year-old boy would have to be so as not to understand and appreciate the wrongness of this kind of conduct – from the perspective of either the perpetrator or the victim.

We’re not suggesting that the accused coaches don’t bear the principal responsibility for this situation if it is determined that they knew about this conduct and did nothing to stop it.  That would be deserving of criminal prosecution as well as termination; and, to borrow a page from the Mennonite playbook, shunning.

But the finding by the law firm investigating these incidents that staff at the District’s three high schools reported having less time to be in places where hazing and bullying incidents are likely to occur highlights the age-old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Just as there are not nearly enough attorneys and investigators in the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate and prosecute all the incidents of political corruption in Chicago and Crook County, it is unlikely that D-207 will ever have enough staff to provide complete and seamless policing and prevention of all hazing and bullying that might occur.  It is, therefore, incumbent upon the students themselves to buy into and self-police a “zero tolerance” attitude toward such behavior.

That means the “kids” themselves are going to have to accept some responsibility for refraining from, resisting and reporting these kinds of abuse.  And their parents are going to have to accept some responsibility for impressing on their “kids” that this conduct is criminal and intolerable.  Aberrant behavior of any and every type must be rejected clearly, convincingly and consistently by our community as a whole.

The message must be unequivocal that the kind of behavior engaged in by those Maine West athletes is nothing remotely close to “boys being boys” or acceptable team-building activity.

With or without a cookie.

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Is Preckwinkle Pushing Unincorporated “Slums” Into Park Ridge? (Updated)


As anyone who’s been paying attention (or reading this blog) knows all too well, the City of Park Ridge is in a financial squeeze – in large part because of the squandering of tens of millions of dollars of borrowed money (a/k/a, bonded debt) on the wrongheaded Uptown TIF development, including millions of dollars in subsidies to the private developer.

But we’ve heard that the City’s economic struggles aren’t deterring Crook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle and her County Board cronies from trying to push some of the expenses and responsibility for the unincorporated areas of Crook County – many of which are economically depressed and which are currently serviced, albeit less than efficiently, by Crook County government – onto municipalities like Park Ridge.

That strategy was recommended in April 2012 by the 13-member Crook County Unincorporated Task Force (the “CCUTF”) which Preckwinkle formed in 2011, purportedly to come up with a better way to deliver services to those unincorporated areas.  In reality, the goal was to find ways for the County to dump its costs for servicing those areas onto neighboring municipalities in the face of what Preckwinkle herself describes as the County’s “staggering budget deficit.”

Interestingly enough, Preckwinkle originally recommended charging the 98,000+ residents of unincorporated Crook County about $150 a year to maintain such County services as sheriff’s police patrols.  But that surcharge must have stepped on somebody powerful’s toes, because Preckwinkle soon dropped it like a hot potato and promptly came up with the idea of the CCUTF.

Funny how that kind of stuff seems to happen so often here in Crook County.

And this being Crook County, where only “somebodies who somebody knows” get political appointments, the CCUTF was made up of a number of usual suspects.

There were overtly political types like County Board members Tim Schneider and Deborah Sims, Maywood mayor Henderson Yarborough, and Maine Township’s own Carol Teschky.  Those of us who’ve watched Teschky over the years know that, in this kind of crowd, Carol was little more than a bobble-head doll readily nodding agreement with whatever she thought would ensure that she gets to keep her job (and pension) as Maine Twp. supervisor.

The covertly political CCUTF members were: Scott Saef, a prominent land use and zoning attorney with Sidley Austin LLP whose ties to Mike “Prince of Darkness” Madigan go back to a tour as the Speaker’s attorney back in 1993; and Barry Nekritz, high-powered real estate attorney with Faegre Baker Daniels and husband of high-profile Illinois state representative Elaine Nekritz.

The ostensibly non-politicals on the CCUTF included Adrienne Archia of Blaylock Robert Van, LLC, a municipal finance and debt underwriting consultant (who wants a piece of whatever bonded debt is needed to force these unincorporated areas into existing municipalities that don’t want them?); and DePaul University professor of “public service” H. Woods Bowman, whose CV suggests that he is 100% on board with anything that expands government services.

Then you have the folks who head up those pseudo-governmental organizations that make noise but accomplish little, like Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation; David Bennett, executive director of the fluff-and-stroke Metropolitan Mayors Caucus; and Randy Blankenhorn, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

But the CCUTF member we’re most interested in is the emissary Preckwinkle is rumored to be sending out in the next couple of weeks to sell this unincorporated assimilation strategy to Park Ridge Mayor Dave Schmidt, Des Plaines Mayor Matt Bogusz, Village of Glenview president Jim Patterson and Niles Mayor Andy Przybylo.

King William Harris.

The King was a member of the CCUTF, ostensibly by virtue of his chairmanship of the Metropolitan Planning Council.  In a January 2009 story, Crain’s Chicago Business described him as an “heir to the Toni hair care and other industrial fortunes.”  He’s got an undergraduate degree and an MBA from Harvard, and he’s held a number of top positions with Pittway Corporation (one of those “industrial fortunes” to which he is an “heir”), Aptar Group and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  He’s also been a director of those same entities, along with the Alberto-Culver Co. and Penton Media, Inc.

Not only is he a trustee of the University of Chicago, but he’s also a member of the Dean’s International Council of U of C’s Harris School of Public Policy – named after his uncle and mega-donor, the late Irving B. Harris.

This King very well could be one of those Chicago stereotypes: the “guy” behind elected officials like Preckwinkle.  More likely, however, he’s a front or surrogate for those kinds of “guys” who have figured out that people with Harvard and Yale pedigrees provide pretty darn good shields against close scrutiny.

As the King‘s biographical information suggests, he’s several cuts above the typical partisan puppets and jamokes Chicago and Crook County voters regularly elect to public office.  So when the King speaks, people probably listen – which would explain why Preckwinkle is sending him as her designated pitch man.

Whether he’s a match for the estimable Ron Popeil or Vince “ShamWow” Offer is unknown, which is why we’d love to see and hear the royal pitch King will make in trying to get Schmidt and his fellow honchos from our neighboring communities to sign onto annexing such marginal unincorporated areas as Park Ridge Commons and the neighboring areas north of Lutheran General Hospital – areas which are on their way to becoming Park Ridge’s equivalent of slums.

We assume he’ll wax eloquent about intergovernmental cooperation, raise the fear factor of rising crime and violence emanating from those unincorporated lands, and give vague assurances of County financial aid as if such assurances have any value coming from as economically bankrupt and corrupt a cesspool as Crook County government.  Preckwinkle is desperate and needs ways to save money, and pushing County obligations onto municipalities like Park Ridge is a low-hanging fruit way of doing it.

Presumably Schmidt will keep his ears wide open and the City’s wallet tightly shut.

Because no matter what the content of the King’s speech might be, its only purpose is to separate Park Ridge taxpayers from even more of their money.

UPDATE 08.04.13.  An agenda item on tomorrow night’s Park Ridge City Council meeting is the upcoming meeting being scheduled by King Harris for Mayor Schmidt and his counterparts in Des Plaines, Glenview and Niles.

As can be seen from the King’s memo attached to Schmidt’s Agenda Cover Memorandum, “close to 40,000 of the 110,000 people who live in unincorporated C[r]ook County live in Maine and Northfield Townships adjacent to your four communities,” many of whom “live in aging multi-family apartment buildings and are members of moderate to low income families.”  In other words, areas that pass for “slums” up here in the northwest suburbs.

Not surprisingly, the King suggests that, “[v]ia negotiated inter-governmental agreements…[these municipalities] might be able to take over code enforcement, construction permitting, and general police work without annexing any land.”  His memo contains not even a hint of a firm commitment of Crook County funding to cover the costs of these services from which the County wants to walk away – not that a firm commitment, or even a signed contract, would provide adequate security when coming from an economically-staggering governmental unit like Crook County.

If a May 1, 2012 Chicago Tribune article is a reliable guide, many residents of those unincorporated areas don’t want annexation because they don’t want to be under “the taxing and ordinance-heavy thumbs of their more restrictive neighbor towns.”  That sounds to us like code for: they’re a bunch of freeloaders, which appears to be corroborated in that same article by reports that Preckwinkle acknowledged taxes collected from residents of unincorporated areas aren’t enough to cover the cost of the services they use, making the County’s continued servicing of these areas expensive and unsustainable.

Which makes Preckwinkle’s dumping of her original plan to surcharge those areas $150 per year to eliminate that shortfall even more irresponsible and unacceptable.

But you Republican readers who enjoy pointing fingers at all those inept and/or corrupt Illinois Dems might be chagrined to discover that a leading opponent of Preckwinkle’s surcharge was none other than Republican County Board member Tim Schneider – who, along with his family, got bailed out by Crook County taxpayers when the Dem-dominated Crook County Forest Preserve District Board, of which Schneider is a member, agreed to buy their failing 56-acre privately-owned golf course (Rolling Knolls Country Club) for nearly $5.75 million in January 2010.

And, irony of ironies, Rolling Knolls was located in…wait for it…unincorporated Crook County.

Go figure!

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