Public Watchdog.org

“I’d Rather Persuade 8 Than 8,000”

04.29.14

Those words were spoken by then-city manager Tim Schuenke a little over a decade ago when he was telling the then-Library board and staff how they could get a new library as part of the Uptown TIF.

The “8” represented a majority of the City Council back then.  The “8,000” was a convenient symbol for the number of voters it might take to win a referendum.

Back then the Council had 14 members – 2 from each ward – before master manipulator Howard Frimark was elected mayor and decided to go Schuenke one better.  Frimark sponsored and passed a referendum in November 2006 to cut the Council from 14 to 7.

Because, of course, it’s easier to convince (and elect) 4 than it is to elect and convince 8.  And with the “right” 4, you can pretty much tell the 8,000 to pound sand.

The relevance of Schuenke’s pithy statement comes to mind now that two referendums are being discussed.

One of those is for an increased tax levy targeted to providing more money on an annual basis for the Park Ridge Library to replace the extra funding – above and beyond the base funding prescribed by Illinois law – the City used to voluntarily give the Library back when “tax, borrow and spend” was the unofficial motto of City government.

The other is for a multi-million dollar bond issue to pay for the cost of flood remediation for 2-3 distinct sections of the City.

Those who want to take more out of government than they pay in didn’t mind a bit when the City was deficit spending to the point where its General (operating) Fund balance dropped so low that occasionally money to cover the City’s payroll had to be borrowed from one of the City’s enterprise funds, like the Sewer Fund or the Water Fund.  Nor did they care all that much, if at all, that such reckless management, along with the Uptown TIF debt, was leading to the downgrading of the City’s credit rating that continues to this day – as noted in City Finance Director Ken Oliven’s April 11, 2014 TIF Update Memorandum:

“The Uptown TIF obligations caused the City’s debt rating to be both downgraded and put on negative outlook in 2012.  This increased City borrowing costs for debt issued that year.”

Notably, Oliven’s memo goes on to quote a Moody’s rating report that “[a]lthough management is implementing the necessary policies to balance the TIF operations and rebuild General Fund liquidity, the positive results have yet to be demonstrated in audited results.”  That’s a pointed reference to the efforts Mayor Dave Schmidt and the Council have made to reduce spending while keeping annual tax increases in the moderate 3-4% range.

But Moody’s goes on to warn that “[i]f actual operating results in fiscal 2013, 2014 and 2015 negatively deviate from current expectations by a significant magnitude, the city’s credit rating will likely face downward pressure.”

That means higher borrowing costs for the City, especially if/when it issues the tens of millions of dollars of bonds it will need to pay for the flood control projects currently being debated.  And which should go to referendum.

Not surprisingly, these kinds of ominous warnings from bond rating agencies don’t faze the folks who think their own particular one-trick ponies are entitled to special funding treatment by the taxpayers.  They know that their best chance for getting such special treatment is convincing 4 of the 7 people sitting around The Horseshoe at City Hall instead of having to go to referendum and convince 8,000 voters– as they might need to do for any referendum issue on the November general election ballot.

Like the referendum the City Council gave a preliminary green light to at last night’s City Council COW (Committee Of the Whole) meeting.

The basic concept of going to referendum for a separate Library tax levy increase was approved by a vote of 5 (Alds. Milissis, Shubert, Knight, Mazzuca and Maloney) to 2 (Alds. Sweeney and Smith).  Nevertheless, the idea of a binding referendum rather than a merely advisory one passed unanimously.  And going to referendum this November passed 6-1, with Ald. Smith voting “no.”

That decision, having passed through the COW, still has to be approved by the full Council on two readings.  Meanwhile, the actual text of the referendum question and the dollar amount of the levy increase will need to be determined.

That’s a blow for the Library Staff and a majority of the Library Board who didn’t want a referendum of any kind.  They had hoped to pressure at least 4 aldermen into handing over an extra half-million dollars or more a year of unmarked City funds than to ask the taxpayers directly for those funds earmarked expressly for the Library.  That way, they never would have to find out by actual vote count how many taxpayers really wanted the Library to get all the funds the Staff and Board majority insist they do.

But if a referendum couldn’t be avoided, they preferred the April ballot to November’s.

Because they’d rather persuade 4,000 voters in April than 8,000 in November.

To read or post comments, click on title.

31 comments so far

Fair enough. Assuming your $500K figure is correct, $500,000 divided by about 14,000 Park Ridge households = $35.70 more per household per year to the Library (actually less per household since there are more than 14,000 households, so the per-each would be lower).

$500,000 divided by about 37,000 residents = $13 more per person per year to the Library (actually less per person because there are slightly more than 37,000 souls aboard).

We’ll see if Park Ridge families, seniors, and other high users value the Library’s need to reduce its shortfall as being at least half as important as a new Youth Campus park.

And we’ll see if Park Ridge families will be willing to spend an extra $13 a year per child to have the Library stop cutting quite so many corners, budget-wise.

It will be interesting to find out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The $500K figure has not been finalized: it could be more or less.

But we wonder what data proves that “Park Ridge families [and] seniors” are “high users” of the Library, given that the Library literally cannot identify any who is using the Library at any given time, other than by catch-as-catch-can visual recognition that is not actually counted or recorded.

And exactly what “corners” are being cut?

I’ll wait for the final language and dollar figures before deciding whether to vote “yes” or “no”.

Yet, these long division problems, to justify more taxes, are worrisome. Why?

Because every single line item of public spending is a shared responsibility among all taxpayers.

To wit — and help us out here, dear editor — how much per household or person are we already spending on the library?

In other words, it’s not “just” $13 via a new referendum, it’s $13 plus whatever we’re all paying already.

I must admit I’m more inclined to spend on the Library than on the Youth Campus, but that’s just a personal POV.

The bigger issue is: When do all these increases stop? When do we say, No More Increases?

EDITOR’S NOTE: As best as we can tell, the Library currently gets $3.707 mil via property taxes. So dividing that by 14,000 households equals $265/household – or $100 per each of 37,000 residents.

Great post. I moved to Park Ridge in summer 2002 when the last Library referendum was going on. I like the idea of letting the voters sound off on these kinds of things.

I was at a COuncil meeting a few months ago when the flood control plan was being discussed, and what struck me was how 60 or so people tried to intimidate the Council into giving them flood control with no cost to them, so I saw what Schuenke meant first hand.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Public officials and residents alike who want something but don’t think the public will support it oppose referendums – unless that’s the only way they can get what they want. Hence, the Park District knew it didn’t have the non-referendum bonding power to do both the Centennial water park for $8 million and the Youth Campus Park for $13 million, so it used its non-referendum bonding power on what it knew was the less marketable/electable project and were left having to take the more marketable/electable project to referendum.

Taxpayers have to start realizing that they actually pay for these higher-level bureaucrats to go to “professional” meetings, conferences and conventions at which they learn these various techniques for manipulating the public and separating it from its money.

Editor: “That’s a blow for the Library Staff and a majority of the Library Board who didn’t want a referendum of any kind.”

I’m curious, Mr. T., how do you know what the Library Staff want (now is this the whole Library Staff, or just Senior Staff. You play a bit with terms when it comes to that). Have you asked them? I mean, I understand that would mean you’d actually have to engage with the staff of the library on which you are a board, but outside of that, I’m not sure how you know where they stand on a referendum. I myself am all for a refrendum. I just hope the wording can be a little less misleading than it was during the referendum for the new library.

Editor: “They had hoped to pressure at least 4 aldermen into handing over an extra half-million dollars or more a year of unmarked City funds than to ask the taxpayers directly for those funds earmarked expressly for the Library. That way, they never would have to find out by actual vote count how many taxpayers really wanted the Library to get all the funds the Staff and Board majority insist they do.”

And is every financial decision in this town when it comes to funding sent out for a vote of the taxpayer. How about that abysmal sidewalk reconstruction on Prospect(hey! didn’t that cost half a million taxpayer dollars. No wonder they wanted to refuse the library that. We needed a cement crosswalk on Prospect!). Did anyone get to have a say on that?

I guess we’re supposed to just look the other way when it comes to spending money on pet projects.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ah, Ms. Enright…welcome back.

I assume senior staff (“Staff”) speaks for all staff unless members of that staff show up and speak for themselves. And since you haven’t shown up at any of our Library Board meetings or sent any letters to the Library Board telling us how enthusiastic you are for a referendum, excuse me if I assume this comment is just after-the-fact bandwagon-jumping by an employee AND RESIDENT/TAXPAYER who’s raise this year – arguably coming at the expense of the Library’s being closed Sundays this summer – will almost certainly be significantly larger than any additional taxes you might pay if the proposed Library referendum passes.

So it’s all good for you.

As for your contention that the 2002 Library referendum language was “misleading,” I don’t remember you being one of the two objectors to it, or who showed up at the public hearing at City Hall in September 2002 to voice your opposition to it. So I’ll chalk that comment up to simple sour grapes on your part.

Finally, no, everyting isn’t sent out to referendum, nor should it be. But once again, Ms. Enright, I don’t recall seeing, reading or hearing about your showing up at City Hall and voicing your objection to the Uptown TIF, the Uptown redevelopment project, the tax giveaway to the developer, or any of the “streetscaping” you now complain about.

So apparently if it doesn’t involve your one-trick pony, the Library, you don’t care enough to get off your duff and do your civic duty. No surprise, that.

I’m with 5WT on this, but I’ll go even further. First off, the library board/senior staff had better think very carefully about how they word the referendum and how much they ask for. If they try to imply the entire $550K of budget cuts since 2009 are absolutely essential and necessary then I, and I hope many others, will give them an automatic “NO!” for being dishonest and greedy. From what I can tell the only cut that has mattered to the public in a meaningful way have been the $20K Sunday hours cut, and even giving them that much seems problematic at this point.

The board majority/senior staff should have, as a first priority, been able to keep the building open normal hours, with heat or A/C and electricity on, internet access, a current and varied selection of materials and adequate staff to run the operation. That meets the basic definitions of a library. After that had been achieved, any extra money could have been spent on bonus programs, community events, food drives on their dime, raises, etc.

The fact is, in attempting to pressure (aka: blackmail) the town into reversing their budget cuts, they’ve also proven, absolutely, that they don’t have their priorities straight and are not fit to actually run a library. If $3.7 million can’t even keep the doors open normal hours, something is wrong with management. Cutting Sunday hours before attempting to make every other cut possible (that would have had less of an impact on the public) was NEVER an acceptable move. What it did prove is that the people in charge of the library were far more concerned with hurting their own organization’s credibility for the sake of proving a point, than they were with running the best possible library that the budget would allow.

As harsh as it may sound, I think everyone who willingly damaged the library’s ability to serve the public should resign their position and let people more skilled in organizational management step in and fix this situation the proper way. Whether or not the library ends up winning more funding at referendum, what it definitely needs is a group of people willing to put the public first and do what it takes to make the operation work, no matter what budget they have in any given year.

For anyone not seeing the larger picture here, let me ask you this: what makes you so sure giving the library what they want at this point ($550K presumably) will prevent them from spending it all on new staff hires, more building renovations, and then deciding it’s still not enough to keep the library open on Sundays? Or maybe in a couple years, it will be Saturdays and Sundays, until we meet whatever the demands are at that point? I simply don’t think it’s possible to put any trust in the current board majority or senior staff anymore.

It’s also very important for every taxpayer to keep in mind that these organizations –whether they be police, fire, the library, the park district, city management, the council– only exist to serve us. If they willingly fail to do that, it needs to be recognized and dealt with.

EDITOR’S NOTE A common misimpression – created and fostered by bureaucrats, certain elected officials, and devotees of bigger and/or more paternalistic/maternalistic government – is that “serving the public” is akin to selflessly doing the work of the angels when, in reality, it’s little different (if at all) than any private sector “service” job or business.

I thought I should add an addendum to my previous comment, that when I use the terms “senior staff” or “board majority” in relation to the Sunday closings, I am specifically referring to Director Janet Van De Carr and the board members who set out to “significant[ly] impact” the community by supporting the closure.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks for the clarification, which Ms. Enright presumably appreciates.

Relax, all. Just as the Park District’s referendum did not state the District’s entire annual budget PLUS the new $60+ per household if the measure passed,the Library referendum will not state the existing entire annual Library budget PLUS the $35 a house or whatever it turns out to be. The $500K or whatever that final number is will be the only number on the referendum. It’s now the City’s referendum but the Library, another batch of folks who can read, is certainly at liberty to make sure the phrasing conforms to law. Referenda are required to state things pretty baldly and not go on with wording that either discourages or encourages a “yes” vote. Those who want it to pass better get a group together as competent as Mr. Thillens’ group for the Park was, however, since Mr. Trizna, a trial attorney, will be battling very persuasively against passage — not as a Library board member, of course! — but as a private citizen.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Trizna will most definitely NOT “be battling…against passage” – either “very persuasively” or otherwise. All Mr. Trizna will be battling for is honesty from the Library Board and Staff as to how much additional money the Library will be asking for and why it is needed. Once the referendum is put on the ballot, Mr. Trizna intends to take no “Yes” or “No” position but, instead, will accept the voters’ decision – as he always has done.

Considering the deficits listed in the “Budget Summary”, post 4/21/14, there’s a certain distasteful audacity in the Library even asking for more money – and I love, use, and sopport the Library!
Fiscal responsiblity has begun to seem like a figment of someone’s (mine?) imagination.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Great strides have been made toward establishing fiscal responsibility at City Hall, much to the chagrin and outright distaste of the tax/borrow/deficit-spend crowd that dominated City government from Marty Butler’s departure in 1991 until the election of Dave Schmidt in 2009. Unfortunately, the tax/borrow/deficit-spend attitude still remains entrenched in certain parts of City government, as well as in other branches of local government.

Hey Paine @ 11:17 AM – That was the harshest and most unreasonable post I have EVER read.

First up, “Dishonest and greedy”? No dollar figure has even been discussed, let alone decided, and yet you already throw the term “greedy” out there? The Library has taken cuts from their budget over the last five years and has tried to deal with those cuts every year without ever having the public feel those cuts. No Library hours were cut and services were kept intact. THE PUBLIC CAME FIRST. But although the public never knew it, the Library did incur the losses of excellent personnel. Explain how that is greedy or dishonest.

Second, “Cutting Sunday hours before attempting to make every other cut possible (that would have had less of an impact on the public) was NEVER an acceptable move. “ Maybe you should take a look at the Library’s web page under “Library Financials Update” (which I’m sure was approved by the Library Board) and make sure your statement is completely accurate. But of course, if you don’t want to bother looking it up, here’s the gist. The Library DID make significant cuts…$73,600 in new materials was CUT ; Personnel was CUT by $182,200, meaning MORE people have lost jobs, lost hours, and a librarian position was left empty ; the 50 year old building itself will go without repairs to the CUT of $140,000 ; off-site storage rental CUT ; events the Library used to participate in with the rest of the city have been CUT to reduce personnel costs ; the marketing budget for programs and services was reduced. On top off all this is the push to add fees to patrons to increase revenues to keep those Sunday hours, which is like adding insult to injury. I would say all of the reductions equate to making “every other cut possible that would have had less of an impact on the public”.

Third, “The board majority/senior staff should have, as a first priority, been able to keep the building open normal hours, with heat or A/C and electricity on, internet access, a current and varied selection of materials and adequate staff to run the operation. That meets the basic definitions of a library. After that had been achieved, any extra money could have been spent on bonus programs, community events, food drives on their dime, raises, etc.” AND ” If $3.7 million can’t even keep the doors open normal hours, something is wrong with management.” Let me ask you this. Have you spent even one minute finding out what it takes to do all the varied jobs of running a Library, let alone what it costs? Extra money? What extra money? Why on Earth do you think that all the cuts have taken place? That’s the whole point. There isn’t any extra money, which is why the Library will try to gain some of that money back by going to referendum. And by the way…the Library IS running the “best possible library that the budget [would] allow”.

Fourth, “…what makes you so sure giving the library what they want at this point ($550K presumably) will prevent them from spending it all on new staff hires, more building renovations, and then deciding it’s still not enough to keep the library open on Sundays? Or maybe in a couple years, it will be Saturdays and Sundays, until we meet whatever the demands are at that point?” Ok, I’ve got to ask this. Are you nuts, or maybe just a bit paranoid. That’s got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Let me ask this…what makes YOU so sure about those ridiculous claims?
What do you think is going to happen? That the Library is going to hold the taxpayers hostage for more money if they don’t get what they want? Oh, and just an FYI, not so long ago, the Library used to be CLOSED on Sundays, and due to Patron requests, the Library put the public first and started Sunday hours. Stupid…

But let me be clear. I WANT the referendum. I sincerely hope that it passes. For within my HUGE tax bills if the Library is only getting “$265/household”, and that in itself is peanuts compared to where the rest of it goes, I will GLADLY pay the measly $13. Worth every penny!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey Jane:

“THE PUBLIC CAME FIRST” until it suddenly didn’t – and the Staff and Board majority chose to close summer Sundays rather than charge even a nominal $1 fee for computer use and programs, or defer staff raises – so that it could blame the City Council for treating the Library no differently than it treated the rest of the City.

The Council cut something like 11% of the City’s workforce over the past few years just so that it could hold annual tax increases at under 4% while not sustaining yet another cut in its bond rating – so the Library can hardly claim it’s been singled out for harsh treatment. But, once again, rather than try to raise revenues through the most modest of user fees, Staff and the Board majority chose to close summer Sundays and then pointed the finger at City Hall.

It’s good to know you “WANT the referendum.” Too bad the Library Staff and Board majority didn’t…so that the City Council basically had to make the decision for them. Now we’ll get to find out by objectively measurable votes, rather than anecdote and speculation, what the taxpayers want.

Jane NEVER said the library was singled out. She simply refuted the claim made by Paine.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Okay, she never outright SAID it – she just IMPLIED it by ranting about all the cuts the Library has made, as if they’ve been made in a vacuum.

I love how when figures are given, in order for the extra costs are to be palatable to the taxpayers, it is $37.50 per household, or $13.00 per person. But our taxes are not based on households or persons – it’s based on assessed valuation – which goes up every year, and the tax levy is forecasted to go up 16% next year! Determining the assessed valuation is a not an exact science (maybe a whole new discussion in itself), but what are the figures for a $350,000 – $500,000 – $750,000 -$1,000,000 home, so I can figure out how it will impact my budget, which by the way does not include deficit spending.

EDITOR’S NOTE: First of all, we expect the Council will do something so as to sharply reduce that projected 16% increase. But irrespective of that, those numbers are legitimate but incomplete…and averages, which are inherently misleading but still useful.

Most bureaucrats and many/most elected/appointed officials consider deficit spending a requirement of government. That’s why our state is so screwed, and why Park Ridge is so screwed.

I have three dogs in this fight. I’m a Park Ridge taxpayer. I regularly visit the library, always on weekends. I live in the Second Ward and have flooding problems.

As a taxpayer I don’t like but can tolerate the city’s portion of my tax bill going up 3-4% each year, even though my salary doesn’t go up 3-4%. I can read numbers and I know what the city’s up against, and from what I read I know the city council is trying its best to straighten things out.

As a weekend library user I’m ticked it will be closed every Sunday this summer. That is nothing short of a failure and should have been avoided by cutting raises, cutting something else, or generating revenues as PWD and others have suggested. Or they should have cut one hour off each weekday, because 11 hours instead of 12 is minimal.

As a flood victim, I’m willing to go to referendum on a flood remediation plan so it annoys me that the library people sound like they would have done nothing about a referendum in the council did not force the issue. I am also offended that anybody would consider library funding more important than flood control funding.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There are a lot of people who think their wants should be everybody’s needs, and who want whatever they can get at somebody else’s expense. Those tend to be the folks who we refer to in shorthand fashion as “freeloaders.”

It’s funny when harsh opinions get faced with facts. Nice post Jane.

5WT- Yes, costs go up! There are raises, energy costs, supply costs, product costs and yes even meager 2-3% raises for the people working there! Let’s revisit this again. These library workers are not $100k + pensioned 9 month a year 3rd grade teachers. These are hourly employees. There is not a lot of fat to skim of salaries. The library is being fair as possible while their budget is being gutted.

It’s funny to watch the library few hundred grand take up about 3 articles recently, while the $20 Million flood buy off gets a couple sentences.

Paine- You have set the record for distasteful posts, that really shows your character. I hope you aren’t a public official, but I have a feeling you are. And back to an old post, you posted an old article about flooding. Every Alderman besides Alderman Smith (and kind of Knight) has indicated they will move multi-million dollar sewer projects forward without SSA’s.

Let’s get the scorecard out:

* Mayor doesn’t want referendum on $20+ Million of flooding
* Mayor wants referendum for a few hundred thousand for the library and will even fight which month it should be on the ballot.

What’s worse?

A. Schmidt, Mazzuca, Sweeney: who want an open ended “sewer” tax increase, which will open the door for any future council to raise it under the name of “city-wide” relief. That’s a LIE. It’s to buy-off Millissis ward and the favored country club area.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please provide authority for your contention that Mayor Schmidt “doesn’t want referendum on $20+ Million of flooding.” Feel free to use newspaper articles, Council meeting minutes or any Watchdog post.

This editor proposed that those “meager 2-3% raises” for Library personnel could be paid for with “even [more] meager” usage fees, so that the Library could remain open on Sundays all summer, but Staff and the Board majority didn’t want one “meager” paying for the other. Where was your outrage over that, CW?

CW, we have no idea who Paine is, but you sure sound like a Library employee or Board member. Does that explain why you seem to be suggesting SSA’s for thousands of dollars of flood remediation are fine, but Library user fees for just a few dollars aren’t?

We’ve already written a number of posts about flood remediation and expect to write many more. But for the time being that’s on the back burner while the Library referendum is on the front – perhaps because it’s a much simpler issue.

ATTENTION TAX PAYERS OF PARK RIDGE!!!!!!!!
You are paying the salary to the sum of $100K plus, plus full benefits to a man who is a complete idiot. His name is Kent I believe He comes to work around 1030am every day then makes up some BS and leaves around 2pm. EVERY DAY!!!
He is your FINANCE DIRECTOR. He doesn’t live in park ridge so you the TAX PAYERS are not in his best interest He #$#@s up more things than somebody that works part time and is paid a lot of YOUR money should. HE BARELY WORKS a 20 hour week These are facts my friends Hopefully The City Council will become aware of this idiot, and make a change. Because its YOU THE TAX PAYERS AND VOTERS who are being scammed by this fool. The president hired him. good luck to all that still live in Park Ridge, I am moving out shortly, because this City is being run into the ground by individuals who don’t care about YOU. If youre comfortable paying this man all of this money to barely show up to work, but think of yourself or family members that are out of work or going through tough times, and think of this fool who is paid $100,000 plus and his 20 hour work weeks.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While we have been critical of Mr. Oliven on several occasions, we know of nothing documented or even anecdotal that would support ANYTHING you write, other than the fact that he doesn’t live in Park Ridge and he does make over $100,000.

As for who the “fool” might be, we seriously question the credibility (and the sanity) of anybody who doesn’t know that Park Ridge has a “mayor,” not a “president.”

But if you feel so strongly about Mr. Oliven, before you leave Park Ridge for good you should show up at City Hall this Monday night and share your thoughts, “facts” and opinions with the mayor, the Council, the City Mgr. (the only City official with the legal authority to fire Mr. Oliven) and Mr. Oliven himself.

Let me re-phrase, you are partially correct. My error. Sorry about that.

Here’s a different quote from the Park Ridge HA

“Schmidt said it is unlikely a referendum with “limited projects,” like those targeted for specific neighborhoods, would pass. If anything should go to the voters, he said, it is a much larger stormwater management program that identifies additional flood-relief options across the entire city and the estimated cost, potentially in the tens of millions of dollars.”

Next, his initially appointed Alderman Mazzuca wants a new tax called a “storm management fee” which echoes what the mayor alluded to above.

To me, it’s not honest. We know which projects that we’ve paid hundreds of thousands to be studied. Those are for the Country Club and for the 2nd Ward. To call it city-wide, when the first $20+ Million go to two areas is a way for the whole city to be conned in to supporting these limited area projects.

I read much of the above as something you have previously criticized. Remember when you wrote that the Youth Campus had “something for everyone…” or something like that. How is not hypocritical to say the same about the “Storm Management” new tax? He is literally saying “city-wide” when clearly, it’s not. In fact, it’s the biggest per home city tax dollar giveaway that I can even think of in Park Ridge’s history. When will our friend the 5th Ward Taxpayer see any of it…or any of the other wards that are in the back of the line after $20 Million is already spent!!

IF, this editor and the Mayor are consistent, then, the 2nd Ward 22 home (100 year flood protection) should be its own referendum line item. So should the Country Club. It is ANYTHING but equal.

And NO ONE should trust Mazzuca’s or any politicians free-flowing fund for something like a “Storm Management” fee. Haven’t we seen this movie before? There isn’t more money from the fund, it’s just an easier way to take $$$ from us, because you know little Billy could be floating down Birch with his teddy bear if we don’t have this new tax.

I’ll say it again, but Alderman Smith is the ONLY sane voice on the flood matter.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have made our position on flood control clear on several occasions: either each of the three specific areas for which flood control is currently being discussed should be made Special Service Areas, with the City (a/k/a, ALL its taxpayers) contributing the equivalent of the cost of relief sewers, and the residents of those areas paying the difference; or they should go to referendum. The costs are too great, the benefit too localized, and the bonded debt that would have to be incurred too substantial, for the City Council to simply give away that much money and incur that much debt.

Whether you like it or not, the three areas you identified have already been designated as priority areas by the FCTF and Burke. The idea of a comprehensive City-wide flood plan, on the other hand, has whatever merit any “global” solution tends to have – if only because it is intended to alleviate EVERYBODY’S problems and, therefore, should be fairer to ALL the taxpayers. If that’s an unpalatable idea or an unpalatable price, however, the voters can say so.

But don’t even try to equate something as essential as flood control to a 100% pure amenity like Youth Campus Park.

And every time you say that “Alderman Smith is the ONLY sane voice on the flood matter” you throw your own credibility under the bus.

CW – google Thomas Paine and maybe you’ll get some insight into “Paine of PR”.

Or, at the least, some common sense.

Oh, and let me add, CW, that “Paine in PR” might be cleverly using a play on words. Either way, or both ways, I tend to agree with the reasoning.

CW, I’m not a public official. I’m a 28-year-old resident and professionally, I consider myself something of an expert-in-training in spotting poorly run organizations. In fact, my whole livelihood at this point is dependant on seeing those flaws in publicly traded companies and avoiding them at all costs, because I only get “raises” if those organizations are performing at their best.

As to Jane’s supposed refutation of my points, listing all the cuts the library has made does not in any way address Janet Van De Carr and the board majority’s specific intention to harm the taxpayers by preferentially cutting Sunday hours over something else that might have gone completely unnoticed by users. If we are being honest it is a legal form of blackmail, wherein the message to the public that they will take drastic measures to hurt us in a way that they know we care about, in order to maintain their organization how they want it at any cost. I don’t think it makes me at all paranoid to not trust that this won’t set a new precedent for how to get your way with the taxpayers. It’s a bridge you don’t want to cross if you want the public to keep trusting that you have their best intentions in mind.

If you think I am being offensive or harsh, you might want to read those minutes again, because there is no mistaking that from the language used that this was the sole intention. Yet, somehow that isn’t offensive considering the amount we all already pay per year to keep the library going?? And yes, I think any future attempt to conflate the $20K needed to keep the library open on Sundays with the $550K they might otherwise want to spend on other things that apparently matter less to the public (to the point that the public didn’t even notice they were gone) would be “dishonest and greedy”. I’ll make my decision when I see the wording on the referendum, but if it isn’t absolutely clear to the public that it would only cost $20K to restore Sundays, then this whole referendum will be nothing more than an exercise in FUD tactics.

CW, some costs go up, but not all costs *need* to go up.

Given how precarious public finances are these days, at all levels of government, you’d think that day-to-day staff would work harder to cut costs. Maybe negotiate better contracts for day-to-day operations, or cut entirely some unnecessary programs. They might even understand that “meager 2-3% raises” are still generous in comparison to what taxpayers are seeing in their own paychecks. Maine Township elected officials and D-64 teachers are locked in at +3% per year — are you?

Regarding Jane’s post, the one fact conveniently left out is something that’s right there in the Library Board meeting minutes: Closing on Sundays was purposely chosen as the cost-cutting measure most likely to be noticed by the community, which, the plan was, would trigger a series of events resulting in bigger budgets. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I’m undecided on how to vote on the Library referendum because it’s not written yet, but I’m more likely to support the Library than I was the Youth Campus (aka Gayle Mountcastle’s new office complex). But it doesn’t increase my confidence level that some people felt we taxpayers could be bamboozled by a brazen attempt at manipulation.

CW, where is the article or document that shows all the aldermen (minus Knight and Smith) supporting the move to complete these projects without SSA designation or referendum?

I frankly find it hard to believe because the costs listed are insane! For example, if all three areas were completed (Mayfield and NW Park with 100-year protection and the CC with 10-year) it would be either a 26% property tax increase or a $355 sewer fixed charge per utility bill.

(http://www.parkridge.us/assets/1/Events/2014%2003-08%20flood%20reduction%20financing%20options.pdf)

After witnessing actual fiscal responsibility prevail (gasp!) amongst this council and the mayor for some time, it seems highly unlikely that this will move forward with no significant resistance. Even with flood control being a much higher priority than the library or retail, I just don’t buy it… but I could be wrong.

Touche Paine.

5WT – “Regarding Jane’s post, the one fact conveniently left out is something that’s right there in the Library Board meeting minutes: Closing on Sundays was purposely chosen as the cost-cutting measure most likely to be noticed by the community, which, the plan was, would trigger a series of events resulting in bigger budgets.”

I sincerely apologize for “conveniently” missing one fact. That being said, I think you really nailed it on the head– It was all right there in the Library Board minutes for the whole world (or at least our little town) to see. No nefarious secret meetings, no closed doors. All right there and out in the open and printed out. It was purposely chosen to make it clear to everyone that the Library had been already making MANY and HUGE cuts that no one knew about or cared about. That is definitely not to say that those cuts didn’t matter, because they most certainly did. But the fact is, no one noticed. The budget kept getting slashed every year and not one taxpayer gave a rat’s patooty, mainly because they really didn’t know about them. I believe it was chosen to make a statement. To say, the Library cannot take anymore cuts. And so finally, the Library makes a cut that everybody notices and now it’s being turned into some sort of plot to “legally blackmail” the town into getting more money, but when the Library was being hacked no one cared. Am I supporting the closing of summer Sundays? No. Absolutely not. Why not close an hour earlier every night? Stay open til 8pm instead of 9pm. Why wasn’t that an option? And yes, I know what is going to hit me between the eyes next…what about those fees for computer use and programs? What about them. Ok, yes. They COULD add revenue to the Library and MAYBE they could save the summer Sundays. OR….they could drive patrons to Niles or Des Plaines where they can use those services for FREE. You can’t get money from patrons who won’t be there. Cut costs? All kinds of thing have already been cut. (See my previous post) And cut “unnecessary programs”? Which ones? Children’s programming? Book clubs? Then the Library would hear all kinds of complaints from ANOTHER group of unhappy patrons. Raises? It’s my understanding, there haven’t been any raises for quite some time. And 2-3% is overstating…by a long shot.

To be clear, I am NOT stating that the Library is being singled out for harsh treatment by the city. I am fully aware of all the problems facing PR. And I am one of many lucky residents that faces no flooding problems (as of yet) in my area. Nor am I saying that any of these things don’t matter, of course they do. But the Library matters too.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gee, Jane, how is it that, in one breath, you talk about the information about the Library Board’s political machinations being “[a]ll right there and out in the open and printed out” but then, in the next breath, you claim the public “really didn’t know about” how the Library’s “budget kept getting slashed every year”? Wasn’t THAT information also “all right there and out in the open and printed out,” too?

The three minority members of the Library Board suggested alternatives to summer Sunday closings, including cutting an hour from each of the weekdays, but the Staff and Board majority wouldn’t hear of it – just like they wouldn’t hear of charging a measly dollar for computer use or our allegedly valuable programs that could have generated enough revenue not only to keep the Library open summer Sundays but, also, to pay for the employee raises. The refusal to do that, however, shows where the Staff’s and Board majority’s priorities lie.

And if a $1 computer use or a $1 program fee “could drive patrons to Niles or Des Plaines where they can use those services for FREE,” then good riddance. Anybody who would waste 5-15 minutes and the gas it takes to avoid a $1 charge is too stupid and/or values his/her time too little to be taken seriously; and we would be much better off if they took their freeloading ways to those other communities.

All sorts of things “matter,” Jane. It’s about setting priorities and taking care of what matters most for the most people.

Deciding what matters most for the most people — or in a restatement you probably find scary — the greatest good for the greatest number — is what politics are all about. Every voter is a values voter. So neighbors, vote your values. If you want your library funded at the minimum required by the state of Illinois, that’s your call. Perhaps in the long run, we will follow Louisiana and ensure that no state funding, let alone local funding, is wasted on libraries.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If we found that concept scary we’d have to find our own Consitutional form of government scary (and we don’t), because it is founded on the principal of entrusting the “greatest number” (of voters casting votes) with determining the greatest good – so long as it doesn’t create tyranny by that “greatest number.”

Now, tell us about all that “state funding” Illinois is currently sending to the Park Ridge Library.

Jane said that the Library made certain cuts over the past few years, but “no one noticed” and “not one taxpayer gave a rat’s patooty.” OK? So why all the angst? Obviously the vast majority of taxpayers and even Library users are not as worked up as the handful of militants out there about these cuts.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly. But that could be the same argument concerning the many years of deficits that the City was running up as the City’s General Fund was being depleted, even while the City’s portion of the property tax bill was increasing at around 5% per year. So that can be a slippery slope.

Sure the information was there. I never said it wasn’t. But the fact is, until the cuts were made that the public noticed, nobody bothered to look it up and read those minutes. Why would they, unless of course they follow the Library meetings religiously. I’d say it’s human nature that most people take notice of things, anything really, only when it affects them in some way. If it doesn’t, than why would they take notice of it?

As for the $1 fees, you have to know that people will go out of there way for something free or even cheaper. Look at gas prices. People will drive miles further than the nearest gas station just to save .10 on a gallon of gas, even though they are going to use more gas just to get there. Does it make sense? Probably not. But neither would I call that “freeloading” either, just trying to be thrifty. And to be fair, the Library hasn’t charged for any of those things ever. So to the average person, that’s going to feel wrong. Libraries are true equalizers. Anyone can go in, use the computers, attend free programs, read newspapers and magazines, research genealogy, check out books and more. And no one should feel that they can’t based purely on the fact that they cannot pay, no matter how modest the fee is. It has already been stated that there have been some people that have come into the library to use the computers (to look for a job!) and were told there was a fee to use the computers. They left and have not returned. You may say “Good riddance”, but I’m sure there are many people that feel that way. How does a person looking for a job afford that same fee each time they come in to keep looking for a job? Ultimately, it is possible that this could drive down circulation too.
By the way, I totally agree about setting priorities. The Library serves the entire community year round. So it is a priority. Obviously, just not everybody’s priority.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Library Staff and the Board majority have gone out of their way to resist any effort to come up with legitimate numbers for Library users. The reason is simple: without legitmate numbers the Big Lie – “the Library serves the entire community year round” – can continue to be told without an iota of evidence.

Until we as a society – Park Ridge, Crook County, State of Illinois, USA – start insisting on separating the truly needy from the purely greedy, the taxpayers will continue to get bilked by the shameless freeloaders.

Since you clearly don’t buy the revolting concept that larnin’ and access to culture, such as it is, should be for ever’body who wants it, exactly how do you want the library staff to accost users, readers, browsers, computer-ers (those wretched jobless folk are invisible just when it would help them to be visible, eh?) magazine readers, kiddie event listeners, lazy freeloading mommies with the kiddie event listeners, etc. etc.? Make them flash their card at every station? Have a security guard make sure only Library card holders from Park Ridge are allowed in at all? You really have given up on the rest of humanity, haven’t you? Happy law day. A harsh mistress is better than being alone, I guess.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The irony here is that we’re not the ones who insist most users of the Library are so greedy and tightfisted that they won’t pay $1 for computer usage and for program attendance, even knowing it would keep the Library open summer Sundays and pay for employee raises. And we’re not the ones who think most people are such slugs that they have to be bribed with Library fine forgiveness in order to donate food to the hungry.

If anybody’d “given up on the rest of humanity,” it would appear to be you and those who share your cynical view of your fellow citizens.

Contributor correction: My quote, “the law is a harsh mistress” was a mash-up of two other quotes:
“The Law is a harsh master” (The Bible–Romans 7: 1-6) and “The law is a jealous mistress” (Joseph Story, 1779-1845) So take your pick. Or not. My apologies for the error.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We choose “not.”

You’re still evading my point about information being accessible to all residents regardless of income. Based on thousands of years of recorded history, do you really believe making it difficult for people to better — or at least comfort — themselves spiritually, emotionally. cognitively and yes, financially — is going to result in a more pleasant, peaceful environment for you and yours? The facts say otherwise.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kumbaya.

Are you suggesting that charging $1 for computer usage would be “making it difficult for people to better…themselves”? Seriously?

With all books, magazines, etc. that the Library has that anybody can use, for free, to better themselves, you’re suggesting that for want of $1 their lives will be lost? Seriously?

Based on your theory, why are the books and magazines free? Come to think of it, why are there no meters in the library parking lot?? He’ll, why not pay toilets??

EDITOR’S NOTE: For too many reasons to list hear, or to waste on somebody whose absurdist questions reveal a freeloader mentality. But try this one for starters: Books and magazines are, by their nature, limited subject “read only” resources that further the Library’s purpose of informing and educating the public. The Library’s computers (and its wi-fi Internet), on the other hand, can serve numerous private purposes unrelated to the acquisition of knowledge and education; e.g., private e-mail, on-line gaming and gambling, for-profit employment activity, etc.

And if the theoretical doesn’t work for you, here’s a practical one: computers (like copiers) can easily be automated and made money-operable. Books and magazines cannot.

This comes as no surprise to me, at all, in regards to the $4.1 million the library wants to use the referendum to raise in taxes over the next 4 or 5 years:

“Van De Carr said the tax increase eyed will allow the library to restore hours that have been cut on Fridays and Sundays and keep the library open on Sundays during the summer. The funds will also restore cuts in materials — though no eliminated staff positions will be filled — and allow several capital projects to be completed, Van De Carr added.

Some of the projects identified through 2020 include ongoing window repair and replacement; a new $100,000 vestibule; remodeling second and first floor restrooms; replacing all library carpeting at a cost of about $180,000; new lighting in reference services, estimated at $100,000; replacing the exterior doors and framing at the original, Touhy Avenue entrance; and technology replacement.”

(from http://parkridge.suntimes.com/news/librarymeet-PRA-05082014:article )

At this point I will update my previous suspicion that the senior staff and board majority might be “dishonest and greedy” in their attempt to win this referendum. It seems they are going to be merely greedy, which is a vast improvement, because now we at least know what this is really about. A lot of those “cuts” the public DIDN’T notice weren’t really cuts at all- they were simply a long, unfulfilled wish-list of “capital projects” in the form of building improvements that add up to the better part of $1 M. I was a bit surprised not to see ventilation/mold issues on that list, since that tactic worked so well for the police department to secure the funding for their lovely, but completely superfluous, storage/bike shed. And since a library is, by its nature, filled with old dusty books, they might have even been able to justify a $250,000 HEPA filtration system added to that list. Of course I say that jokingly, but I’m sure it won’t be long until someone comes on here and tries to bully me into accepting that if we don’t immediately fund these improvements, we are putting both the staff and patrons health and lives at risk.

I’m also curious how the library employees (ie: Laura Enright) feel about this? How could anyone still be convinced Van De Carr cares about those who lost their jobs or had their hours cut, anymore than she cares about Sunday users? I certainly noted when Enright commented that the library is currently understaffed and struggling to properly care for its patrons. So after restoring Sunday hours, restoring adequate staff would have seemed like the next crucial step to ensuring the library was functioning properly, but apparently Van De Carr prefers new carpet??

I sincerely hope that by May 20th someone puts together a more acceptable proposal for a levy that would simply address the Sunday closures, cut hours and possible re-hiring of a couple staff positions if it is determined that the library is currently under-staffed, as Enright claimed. Failing that, when this referendum is lost (and in this form IT WILL BE), the library needs to rid itself of Van De Carr and find someone who wants to run a great library with any budget, rather than indulge their “lobby envy” of other local libraries.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

PD- Without access to the meeting minutes yet, I can only assume from the HA article that you might have been the ONLY board member pushing strongly for transparency at that meeting (especially considering Char was absent and the article didn’t mention Egan’s position). I appreciate this a lot, and am somewhat surprised that the rest of them agreed to go along with it, to the extent that we now see the focus is less about meeting user needs and more about building improvements. Are Van De Carr, Schmidt, White, Ebling, et al. completely unaware of what a trigger issue the staffing cuts are for some? If they’ve read the same passionate commentary from the staff and former-staff that I have and are choosing to ignore it, it must either mean that they think it’s overblown and that the library is not understaffed, or that they are just single-mindedly set on these “capital projects” at all costs.

I hope the minutes from this meeting or the May 20th meeting will allow more insight into the thought processes behind this and answer that question. At this point it’s hard not to view this as an attempt to play the same game as Mountcastle, where the goal is to gain and spend the largest sum of money possible to build up the most impressive assets under your control, whether the demand is there or not.

But like I said, knowing this is the case is vastly preferable to having anyone still think this is just about summer Sundays…

EDITOR’S NOTE: No objection to honesty and transparency was voiced at the meeting. Whether and how that translates to the referendum question and/or the “informational” material that the Library might generate in connection with the referendum remains to be seen.



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