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!

To read or post comments, click on title.

3 comments so far

Have these unincorporated areas form their own municipalities so they can create their own police department or try to contract it with nearby communities. While they’re at it, dissolve the townships starting with Maine, Wheeling and Elk Grove home all home of the RINOs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Given the irresgular layouts of the unincorporated areas, that won’t work.

Preckwinkle’s original idea of taxing them extra for the extra County services they get (and for which the rest of us pay City taxes) sounds like the best solution. Too bad Preckwinkle caved that easily on it.

Now we fully understand why the race to get the track of land up in the 1st ward captured and sold to the Park District. They [ Cook County ]may have wanted it for section housing ? Either way were all blinded by the kabuki dance/voting effort for sure.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We think you’re reaching on this one.

RE anonymous 08.03.13 6:04 am, I never heard anything about low income housing for the Youth Campus property, but wouldn’t Park Ridge’s annexation of Park Ridge Pointe add the low income housing to Park Ridge that the city’s Fair Housing Commission and/or the Human Needs Task Force have been wanting for some time? Could the members of those committees be working with the county to push for annexation of PRP

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have seen nothing in the minutes of those two groups that would cause us to think they are behind, or aiding and abetting, Crook County in this annexation push.

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