Park Board Approves Unseen Contract “The Mountcastle Way”


Would you sign a multi-million dollar contract to employ a number of people for several years without reading it closely and carefully?

Neither would we.

But that appears to be what four of our elected Park Ridge Park District commissioners – Board president Mel Thillens and commissioners Joan Bende, Richard Brandt and Mary Wynn Ryan – did at a “special meeting” on June 26th that mysteriously started at 5:30 p.m. rather than the Park District’s customary 7:30 kick-off for Board meetings.

That odd kick-off time, alone, should have raised a question about what was going on. Another attention grabber should have been the Agenda, which consisted primarily of 4 innocuous-sounding amendments to the District’s personnel and administrative policies that didn’t seem to implicate any sense of urgency worthy of a “special” meeting.  Until Item 7, which should have been the red flag.

“Closed Session.”

Those two words on a local government meeting agenda should be viewed by every taxpayer as interchangeable with “WARNING!” and “DANGER!”

If you’re looking for something kinky in any local government meeting, you’ll rarely go wrong by investigating closed sessions. That’s where scheming bureaucrats and feckless elected officials run and hide anytime they’re trying to conceal things from the taxpayers – even though the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) doesn’t require closed sessions for anything, or require that anything said or done in closed session be treated as secret or confidential. And because bureaucrats and politicians hate it when anybody points that out about IOMA, we take every opportunity to do so.

Defenders of closed session usually argue that any “official action” (i.e., a vote) resulting from closed-session maneuvering still must be taken in an “open” meeting after the closed session, which is true as far as it goes. But often that public vote is on some vague-sounding motion or resolution that reveals little, if anything, to the average listener about the substance of what actually is taking place – or what took place in the closed session.

In this case, the Park Board’s “Closed Session” agenda item carried no reference to the IOMA section under which it was being conducted, so Item 8 served as the only hint: “Reconvene…to take action, if any, on the matter of approval of a collective bargaining agreement between the Park Ridge Park District and Service Employees International Union Local #73.”

What collective bargaining agreement, you might ask?

Who knows? No collective bargaining agreement/contract was part of the Board packet published on the District’s website on June 26, and none is there even now as this post is being published.  And if that’s not bad enough, watch the Special Meeting video and you will discover that the Board hadn’t seen it, either!

If that sounds to you a lot like Nancy Pelosi telling Congress it needed to vote on the ACA before its members could read the whole act – which has become known in some circles as “The Pelosi Way” – you’re not alone.

At the 10:49 mark of the meeting video Thillens moved to go into closed session to discuss the collective bargaining agreement. Biagi immediately voiced an objection to the closed session, however, which started a 7-minute discussion during which Thillens, several staff members and the District’s counsel tap-danced around what they could/should and couldn’t/shouldn’t say in open session; and whether they could run into closed session any time something problematic popped up.

It was during that discussion that Commissioner Mary Wynn Ryan asked the $64,000 question:

“What is more important, transparency or getting the best deal for the taxpayers?”

While it’s a great question, it causes us to wonder whether Ryan thinks those two things are mutually exclusive?  Or was she just buying into the “sizzle” being sold by the bureaucrats who negotiated the new contract, H.R. Director Diane DiGangi and Building & Grounds Supt. Terry Wolf (in whose department most of the SEIU-represented employees work), who self-servingly (?) proclaimed it “a great contract” and seemed to suggest that it might somehow be jeopardized without immediate Board approval?

Ryan’s question was initially answered at the 18:10 mark of the video, when the Board voted 4 (Commissioners Thillens, Biagi, Ryan and Brandt) to 1 (Commissioner Bende, with Commissioners O’Brien and Phillips absent) against going into closed session.

That led to about 35 minutes of open-session discussions during which we learned, among other things, that the SEIU wanted to dump three positions from its bargaining unit, thereby perhaps costing those employees their jobs.  Dumping bargaining unit members is almost unheard-of because most unions normally push the limits of the law to add members to their bargaining units. But further along in that discussion it came out that those employees being dumped favored the decertification of SEIU as the bargaining unit’s representative.

So much for how the SEIU deals with dissent in its ranks.

But that must have been just a bit too much transparency for the Board, including Ryan, because at the 52:10 mark Biagi inexplicably made a motion to go into…you guessed it!…closed session. And despite no explanation of why closed session was desired, the Board voted 5-0 to run and hide.

When the Board members emerged approximately 25 minutes later they promptly voted 4 (Thillens, Bende, Brandt and Ryan) to 1 (Biagi) to approve the contract they apparently still hadn’t read, before adjourning.

What went on during that 25-minute closed session is a mystery. We assume it involved the contract that the Board at that point still hadn’t seen. But unless the Board votes to make the recording and/or the minutes of the closed session public, we likely will never know what was said and done in that closed session.

We sincerely hope the contract the Park Board approved in such a NON-“transparent” fashion truly turns out to be the “great contract” DiGangi and Wolf insisted it is. But voting to approve a multi-year collective bargaining agreement without seeing the final contract, and without giving the taxpayers an opportunity to read and comment on it before it is voted on, is a totally horse-bleep way to do The People’s business.

And since such an insult to transparent government occurred under the watchful eye, if not at the behest of, the Park District’s executive director, we’ve got a name for it:

“The Mountcastle Way.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

40 comments so far

Impeach the Board?
Fire the Director??
Can the lawyer???

This is an absolute how-not-to for those wondering how to be or behave as an elected public official.

And what the hell is with Thillens? This is how he conducts himself on the Park Board as he runs for a higher office? OMG…that’s what I was to see in my State Rep. NOT.
Cripes Mel, get a damn clue.

This whole Board ought to be embarrassed. Are they capable of that?

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s what happens when the inmates/bureaucrats are allowed to run the asylum. Irrespective of whether or not the new contract is great, merely good, bad, or downright ugly, this process was a travesty.

But let’s not conflate the Park Board with the Illinois General Assembly. No matter how Thillens may have dropped the ball on this matter, do you really want to re-elect a guy like Moylan that will help ensure at least another two years of Mike Madigan as Speaker?

Waiting for Mel, et. al., to offer their explanation for all this.


Rick? Joan? Mary?

Anyone? Bueller?

Side note, after following these meetings, they sure do seem “light” of actual board members attending.

But, that is the problem with “single issue” candidates like Bende and Phillips….during the election season, they ONLY talked about the Senior Center. Well, now that issue is muted, we have no idea what they are for or against.

That being said, I believe some (rare) closed sessions are worth it, and I’m betting the Park District Board is correct and this helps the taxpayers. They are the only successful local governing body.

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this until we see the results. The city council puts everything off and does nothing, so it’s refreshing to see leadership.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, we can’t wait to see how “successful” the Park District will be – after a few years of servicing that $20 million of bonded debt for facilities that are unlikely to generate enough revenue to even cover their operating costs once their novelty wears off.

The current Park Board members will be gone by then (like the mayors and aldermen who stuck us with the Uptown TIF), and Mountcastle (like former CM Tim Schuenke) will have either retired or leveraged a higher-paying job with another park district looking for a director to push through a bunch of expensive toys.

I like Mel and, like will local elected officials, I appreciate the time he puts in for zero compensation. However, the hypocrisy makes my head spin!!!

Essentially Mel is now doing (and has been doing) everything to Park Ridge that he says he is going to fix in Springfield if elected.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yeah, but look at it this way: if he’s elected and the Republicans gain a majority in the House, you get a two-fer – Mike Madigan’s no longer Speaker and Mel’s no longer a Park Board member.

A few things:

1. I get your point about a vote for Mel is a vote against Mike. At least you are honest about it. That does not make the FACT that this guy says one thing and does another any less vomit inducing. Go to his website and read the quotes about the taxpayer and look at them in the context of some of the things he has championed as an elected official, including his participation in the topic of this piece.

2. I have to respectfully disagree with your choice in names. Pelosi (speaking of vomit inducing) was/is an elected official while Mountcastle is simply an employee. Nancy chose and encouraged other elected officials to vote for the ACA in a very untransparent way and they did. Not a single park board member had to vote for the agreement without reading and publishing it on the website. THey also did not have to vote for going into closed session. It should be named after one of the board members. As Mel is president I believe the honor falls on him.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Re your #1. Agreed.

Re your #2. No congressman “had to vote” for the ACA, just like no Board member “had to vote” for a contract they hadn’t read. But Pelosi was the dominatrix of Congress back then, and Mountcastle is currently the dominatrix of the Park Board, notwithstanding the occasional dissenting vote by Board member Rick Biagi as he demonstrated with his sole “no” vote on the unread SEIU contract.

This thread is one of the reasons that voter turnout is so low. This is what politics has come to. Here you have a guy (Mel) that you have essentially lambasted repeatedly for very justifiable reasons on this blog. Here you have a guy that you essentially admit is a hypocrite and yet you encourage people to vote for him. Again, this is what politics has come to.

Let’s see…..completely mishandling things, 20 mil of bonded debt, structuring the pool so it would not have to go to referendum, lack of transparency…….yeah!!!! Vote for Mel!!!!

Here is a question. Can you envision something that he might do that would cause you to tell people not to vote for him???

EDITOR’S NOTE: Voter turnout is so low because republican government demands more personal investment – in time, effort, education and engagement – than our increasingly self-absorbed citizen is willing to commit; and because our schools do an absolutely horsebleep job of teaching civics.

We are not telling people to vote FOR Mel. We are pointing out that, like it or not, he is the only alternative to Marty Moylan. And a vote for Marty Moylan is a vote for the continued reign of Mike Madigan – who with his corrupt Democaratic Party, aided and abetted by 3 co-conspirator RINO governors (Thompson, Edgar and Ryan), has driven this once-great state into a 30-year death-spiral from which it likely will not recover.

And if THAT’s not clear enough for you, try this on for size: We would do ANYTHING in our power that is not clearly illegal to remove The Prince of Darkness from the Speakership of the Illinois House.

Why do you have such a problem with Mountcastle. She is an employee, not an elected official, and from what I see she is doing a good job of making the Park District an economically successful venture.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you want to understand our beefs with Mountcastle, check out our posts on 01.06.12, 01.19.12, 11.01.12, 12.29.12, 08.16.13 as examples.

We’ll hold off our opinion on how “economically successful” Mountcastle’s tenure has been until the novelty of her Centennial water park wears off in a couple/three years; and until after the Youth Campus Park is built.

And how do you know that Mel Thillens if he is elected will not be drawn in/bribed by Madigan’s money and power and vote how the Speaker wants? Mel Thillens is a hypocrite whose demonstrated that the only sure vote Mr. Thillens will make is one that benefits him personally. Given that he would fit in nicely in Springfield.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t. But we do KNOW that Moylan will vote to keep Madigan the Speaker, and that is not acceptable to us.

Dear Anon. at 9:29 a.m.,

Your statement is true if “economically successful” means taking in more money than you spend, which in Gayle’s case means soaking the taxpayers, or, to be accurate, convincing the park district board to keep soaking the taxpayers. So it’s not Gayle who is making it economically successful, it’s the taxpayers. You’re welcome.

Sincere regards,

5th Ward Taxpayer

EDITOR’S NOTE: Let’s be fair, FWT: While the customer provides the revenue, the retailer conceives of the product/service.

Frankly, we hope we’re wrong – in fact, spectacularly wrong – about the Centennial Water Park going into the red if/when the novelty wears off in a few years. But if the water park keeps generating revenues in excess of expenses beyond those first few years, Ms. Mountcastle and the Board who steamrolled it through without a referendum can take credit for that success – even though we still believe incurring $8 million of expense and $7 million of long-term bonded debt should never be undertaken without at least an advisory referendum that the elected officials are free to disregard if they believe the voters got it wrong and have the nerve to say so.

You are writhing in horror that everybody loves the upgraded Centennial Pool and says so. It’s common knowledge that you are running Park Ridge and that you are thwarted that you can’t dictate to the Park District as you can the aldermice at City Hall. Mr. Thillens did the hard thing by thinking for himself and what was best for the Park District’s taxpayers, rather than bending over for your ill-considered demand that every negotiation be conducted in public so that the taxpayers lose their leverage. If you conducted negotiations for your clients in this way you’d be fired, and the fact that the Park District is a public body does not justify bargaining with the union in a way that would harm the public. Transparency is supposed to enhance good deals for the public, and when it does, the Park District is transparent. When transparency results in a bad deal for the public, the Park District utilizes the privilege of closed meetings in the extremely narrow areas in which it is legally permitted. But go ahead and demonize Mel for thinking for himself. Marty of course certainly thanks you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’d love to address all of your delusions, but we’ll focus on the only relevant one: please explain (a) how the Park District’s conducting union negotiations in open session “would harm the public” and (b) identify any instance in the past 10 years when transparency result[ed] in a bad deal for the public”?

Why would Mel (or a few other Park Board members) ever consider “thinking for himself” – or reading a contract that he’s voting to approve – when Mountcastle can do it for him?

Marty Moylan doesn’t have to run against Mel: Mel’s Park Board voting record has made that almost unnecessary. All Moylan has to do is create/maintain the fiction that he’s not Madigan’s bee-yatch, a fiction we keep on dispelling at every opportunity.


First, let me state clearly, I (along with my entire family) LOVE the new pool. I am glad that it was built and consider it a good use of my tax dollars. However, all that does not change Mel’s problem.

You paint him as “thinking for himself” yet a non-prejudiced view of his actions (those you applaud) compared to the caricature he presents in his current campaign indicate he does not seem to have a consistent “thought”.

The old saying is you can’t have it both ways yet that is exactly what Mel (and many others on the right) is/are trying to do. He goes on and on about the poor taxpayer and yet his actions, with the pool and the new park land, show absolutely no concern for those same taxpayers.

Mel doesn’t want to cut spending. He simply wants the money shifted from some current programs and spent on what he wants.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Like so many Illinois RINOS, and ALL the Illinois Dems.

Hey 1154…go talk to some of the “aldermice” privately and ask them how they feel about the author of this blog. I can assure you he is not calling their shots. Most of them detest him to varying degrees. The others merely tolerate him. At least he tries to back up his arguments. You however have failed miserably.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Detest”? Well, at least they do a pretty good job of hiding it when I’m around.

And as Winston Churchill said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Maybe they are afraid you will “evil blog” them if they say how they really feel.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That would be a pity.

2:10 – Pretty laughable propaganda. The city council is (5 out of 7) pretty much one mind controlled by one mind who are all buddies to a varying degree. They are a club. An unsuccessful club, but nonetheless an old fashioned boys club.

While of course they differ on a few things, they are pretty not-so-secretly on the same team. A few of them even despise each other, but it’s the “I’m still glad you’re here” because no one else is worthy club. If you don’t think the agenda of City Council is driven by this blog, you are naive, dumb or insane.

As I said above, I do agree that the Park Board absolutely gets lambasted on here while being the most successful action-driven force for taxpayers and the future.

Centennial Pool is a HUGE win for the city. Completed on time, near budget for a project of this scale as well. It was beautifully done. It is packed. It is enjoyed, and it’s a jewel of Park Ridge.

Take that “No” crowd! I think I even saw an older gentleman still able to stroll around the park in peace and admire the trees!

Anyone shocked there isn’t an article of detailed description of consumed crow?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just pay Amazon the $5.49 for “The Silva Mind Control Method” and let’s see what you can do.

As for this Council being “[a]n unsuccessful club,” that sounds like bad whine from sour grapes by a former inhabitant of The Horseshoe back when the mayors and the council were neglecting infrastructure, running up debt and posting deficits like there was no tomorrow. Which, for them, there wasn’t – because they all slipped back into private life before their screw-ups became common knowledge.

It wasn’t that many years ago we heard “a HUGE win for the city” and “a jewel of Park Ridge” used to describe the $35 million non-referendum Uptown TIF – until the perpetrators fled from public office and the truth became known.

About five years before that it was the new middle-school concept and the $20 million Emerson Middle School, a snazzy building that has failed to produce even the level of academic performance previously achieved by Lincoln Junior High – although at least the taxpayers got to sign onto that deal via referendum, but only because (as we recall) D-64 lacked the non-referendum bonding power to do it non-referendum.

And about five years before that it was the $8 million Community Center, which the Park District did by maxing out its non-referendum bonding power and building a facility that was poorly designed and too small the day it opened, but got the “jewel” description until the shine wore off in a few years.

When it comes to local government boondoggles, history does repeat itself. Unfortunately.

The ongoing criticism at this blog of the Park District and it’s programs often reads like an alternative reality that could only exist in the minds of people who don’t actually utilize and pay for PRPD programs on a regular basis. When I first moved to PR five or six years ago the programs they offered were decent but minimal. Perhaps that is actually the preference of Mr. Trizna, who knows. But they have been greatly expanded over the last three years, all under the leadership of Ms. Mountcastle. From the preschool programs to the summer camp programs and the newly expanded aftercare programs. Each and every one of them offer value for the money spent by participants and all of them operated at a profit to the PRPD.

Ultimately, this comes down to ideology. If you don’t think the Park District should be doing anything other than perhaps having a couple of green spaces to keep mowed and a maybe, maybe, a few playgrounds open for residents then you are apparently in the camp of Mr. Trizna et al. If you are like the rest of us tax payers who pay for and use and appreciate all of the programs and facilities operated by the PRPD, you are the enemy.

The sadly deluded enemy, at that. Oh, the irony.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since you claim to have “first moved to PR five or six years ago,” perhaps you can be excused for not knowing that this editor spent his 8 years on the Park Board (both elected and re-elected in contested races) advocating for more and better programs AND facilities “operated at a profit to the PRPD.” Unfortunately, certain staff members and a majority of the Board for most of those 8 years were satisfied with the same old same old – so long as it was inexpensive or free – because “the park and recreation professionals know what they’re doing” and “the Park District isn’t supposed to make a profit.”

Even though, of course, no governmental body is “making a profit” so long as it is depends on sucking tax dollars out of its residents.

Ultimately, this does come down to ideology: Whether you believe, as Jefferson did, that “[w]henever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” especially via referendum when it involves major expenditures and/or debt; or whether you believe that the people are mindless pawns to be manipulated or simply ignored by the bureaucrats and rubber-stamp elected officials.

This editor has always stood by the former and against the latter. Too bad you can’t seem to grasp that concept.

Let’s see: If it were up to you, we’d have a crumbling Centennial Pool fewer and fewer residents used, one busting-at-the-seams middle school, a non-existent year-round health club, a few bedraggled, inaccessible fir trees instead of Houlihan’s, Bluefish and Jason’s Deli connected to the rest of the City with a safe, attractive walkway. The horror! The horror! We have a beautiful, amenities-filled town that keeps at least some of the swimming, working out, dining out and family activity fans spending some of their recreation dollars in Park Ridge. What will they think of next?

EDITOR’S NOTE: If it were up to this editor we’d have a first-rate (preferably year-round) Centennial Pool that a majority of the voting taxpayers supported; one first-rate junior high school with larger K-6 elementary schools; a Life-time Fitness or similar PRIVATELY owned and run health club paying property AND sales taxes rather than costing the taxpayers money; and an equally attractive PRIVATELY-funded Uptown development (just like we got a PRIVATELY-funded Whole Foods because a wise and frugal, rather than a foolish and profligate, mayor and Council just said “no” to a developer’s demand for millions of dollars worth of subsidies).

And please let us know when all those “recreation dollars” you’re so proud of total up to the $8 million cost of the Community Center (not including all the lost RE and sales taxes) and the $6 million (to date) Uptown TIF deficit.

Nobody is losing his or her job because of leaving the bargaining unit at the Park District. But you know that, right? Just fanning the flames, eh? And if they were losing their jobs for any other reason that could not be blamed on the union, you’d cheer for the benefit to the bottom line. Puh-leeze. Don’t pretend to care about employees, you’ll lose credibility.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If we knew that, we would write that.

Of course we care about public employees, but not as much as we care about the taxpayers who pay their salaries, benefits and pensions.


As previously stated, I love the new pool!! But does it bother you that he is a hypocrite??

EDITOR’S NOTE: Which “Anonymous” are you addressing, anon? And are you referring to Mr. Thillens or someone else?

Sorry my question was not clear….the anonymous you have been going back a forth with for the last few posts. He/she talks of Mel thinking for himself and about the new pool being a jewel, but never answered my earlier post so I directly asked….does it bother him/her that Mel is a hypocrite? He has said many things about protecting the poor taxpayer yet his actions have been just the opposite.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While this editor cannot and will not attempt to speak for the other “anonymous,” he has no problem with supporting a “hypocrite” in a situation such as this – when it means the possibility of ending the catastrophic reign of Speaker Madigan and the Democrats that has destroyed this once-great state.

Anonymous at 5:02-having lived here for over 20 years I can assure you that the PRPD has had preschool programs and summer camps and many other programs that are great for kids for years. (We used to have to line up in the wee hours of the morning to get a spot in the preschool program.) So Gayle Mountcastle should get no credit for any kind of innovation in this area. Many of the good kid friendly programs of the PRPD have been in place for years.

What Gayle Mountcastle can be credited with is leading the charge to burden the PRPD with $20,000,000 of debt to fund two projects. That in fact is reflected in our tax bill where the PRPD portion of our home’s bill went up 33%. This $20,000,000 of debt will also continue to affect the PRPD for years as other PRPD assets which could use some repairs and or updating will have to wait-there is no money to spend.

And just to give you a bit more background, during these past two decades or so before Ms. Mountcastle took over the taxpayers of PR got to vote three times on whether or not we wanted to spend millions of dollars on a waterpark and we voted NO each time-quite overwhelmingly.

Ms. Mountcastle and the PRPD board were undeterred by these prior votes of the taxpayers. They wanted a waterpark so they built it anyway.

So please hold off on the applause for Ms. Mountcastle until the true cost of the waterpark is determined a year or two from now once the bloom is off the rose. And wait until the YC build out is complete-what ever that may end of to be. Both of these projects stand little chance of generating enough revenue to cover their annual operating costs or the costs of the debt to build them.


If I may paraphrase…..”7:53, I’ve been to waterparks. I know waterparks. Waterparks are a friend of mine. 7:53, it is no waterpark.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sure it is, just a small half-baked one – like our small half-baked Community Center. And in each instance that is because the public officials who wanted each of them were afraid of the voters and, instead, did an end-run around them by almost maxing-out the District’s non-referendum bonding power.

A decade from the now (and longer) the people of Park Ridge will just have a park and a pool. It won’t be new, it will just two beautiful pieces of our wonderful community. It won’t be tainted by all do-nothings and complainers. They were much needed. In contrast, we look at Oakton and see what? Failure. No ideas…almost like it’s being run by the city council.

Breaking news: Open space / public park space isn’t supposed to pay for itself. Of course, we hope there will enough “revenue” to make it close, but the park is meant for community enjoyment.

Should we go through every playground and see if each monkey bars pay for themselves?? Maybe we should put a quarter slot on each slide?? I mean, that’s the mentality of some of what we have running our city and clearly guiding the city.

Final question for the editor: Do you REALLY believe that parks should be “profitable”? If so, that’s a skewed sense of what government does. A “profit” since Park Ridge parks are overwhelmingly used only by Park Ridge people, would be over “taxing” the users of the parks.

Here’s the mission statement from the park:
“Park Ridge Park District’s mission is to enhance Park Ridge’s quality of life by providing park and recreation opportunities for all residents while being environmentally and fiscally responsible”
Maybe I’m slow, but I don’t see profit anywhere in the mission statement.

Again, it sickens me that all the old coots who used up our resources, now are too cheap to do anything to continue the beauty of our community.

Jeez, we live in Park Ridge. We pay a crapload to live here (in land, housing and taxes) and guess what, I”m more than happy to throw a hundo a year towards a new park. I’d actually vote to pay a hundo more to make all the current parks nicer!!

It’s not OPM, It’s MFM.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, it’s OPM because people like you always take more than you pay.

You sing the same old tune of how “everybody” wants the things that you want – but you never seem to want to give “everybody” the chance to prove you correct by voting on those things. That’s because you’re a species of FREELOADER, in your case the kind who anonymously talks the big “I’d actually vote to pay a hundo more to make all the current parks nicer!!” talk but never actually walks that walk – which is why you whine about paying “a crapload” of taxes.

While on the Park Board this editor – in response to freeloaders like yourself (including some on the Board) whining about paying user fees – suggested that the Park District go to referendum on making the Park District entirely free to all residents, with the taxpayers picking up the total cost. Even the freeloaders knew better than to test that outcome.

The Park District has never turned a “profit” and won’t until the taxpayers pay ZERO taxes to the Park District because user fees, grants and lottery winnings support all its facilities and programs. And we’ve never advocated for that – only that when boxcar dollars are being spent, boxcar debt is being incurred, or a significant and long-term change is being made to a portion of this community, the taxpayers get to vote on it.

Meanwhile, freeloaders like you will keep sucking up OPM for your favorite amenities, and for free education for your kids, until you’ve used them up; and then you’ll move to a lower-tax community.

Let’s drill down further…where should user fees stop

1. Should slides have a “quarter slot”? I have never slid down a slide in park ridge.
2. Should there be gates around all parks, and only those who are a member to pay per use be able to use them?

3. Parks have an intangible value to the community, but how do we determine who’s getting too much OPM?

Not sure how old the editors or commenters children are , but park district programs are not cheap. Going to the pools isn’t cheap. I bet those who actually USE the programs are subsidizing the rest of those that don’t!!!!! Since that’s a huge revenue component. What if there was no baseball, soccer or other sports? Who would subsidize all that open space?

So who are the freeloaders? The ones that “stroll” the park or breathe in the fresh air or those that pay the rate higher than all of our neighbors for programs??

Those are serious questions, because it’s important to know how radical peoples beliefs are about Local government. It’s not a R vs D, it’s a belief of how nice we want out community.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nobody’s ever suggested that PARKS – not buildings, not jungle gyms, not ball fields, not soccer fields – should charge user fees, if for no other reason than nobody seems to want them fenced in to control access only to the pay-for-players. So that’s a red-herring question/argument. But if you want to fence them in and charge, say so – and please identify yourself so you can take credit for that idea.

Until until after six years of this editor being on the Park Board and advocating “fully-loaded” costs did the District finally start calculating fully-loaded fees rather than taxpayer-subsidized fees. Even now it’s unlikely the Park District is making a net profit on its programs if somebody really “drilled down” into it.

If there were no organized baseball, soccer, etc., perhaps ordinary people would engage in disorganized use. Or it would just be beautiful green spaces.

Of course, nothing’s ever “cheap” to a freeloader unless it’s free, which is why you’ve already said enough to prove your freeloader credentials. Unfortunately, you’re not alone; but, fortunately, you’re not even close to a majority – which is why you and your friendly neighborhood Park District bureaucrats and Board members hate referendums where the “majority” counts.

8:48-chopping down dozens of healthy trees and taking on $20,000,000 of debt for 2 projects seems neither environmentally or fiscally responsible.

The best thing about this blog is the opportunity it provides for people of differing philosophies to articulate their beliefs. We are seeing at least three different philosophies working in our community: Old-School Unaccountability at the school districts, Teabag/I’ve Got Mine Sucks to be U at City Hall, and the happy (or happier) Third Way at the Park District. All public bodies are going through some major growing pains spurred by the Recession, and the result is likely to be more accountability and more results-oriented(but not just next quarter’s profits, sorry!)decision-making. That doesn’t mean bare-bones or no financial support. Quality of life depends first on safety, sanitation and the like, which is why police, fire and public works get the lion’s share at the City. But that doesn’t mean everything else that creates quality of life should be individually paid for. If you like how that works, go to Central or South America. Here, we fund stuff to share and that makes everybody’s life better. Quiz tomorrow.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Your quality-of-life enhancer is somebody else’s expensive frill, but that concept’s lost on the “eat dessert first” crowd.

When you can come up with a scale for measuring the community-wide “quality of life” provided by the Centennial Water Park, let us know. Hint: It’s not do-able. The closest you could have come would have been by putting it to referendum and counting the votes, but Mountcastle and her Dwarfs were terrified of that result so they dispensed with it.

And at the rate Illinois and Chicago are declining economically, Central and South America aren’t out of reach.

Hey 255, I’d like to know the identity of the two aldermen who are not mind-controlled. This should be good. Meanwhile, I surmise you do not have much regard for the voters who elected the automatons to the Council. So get off your butt and run for office.

EDITOR’S NOTE” You can’t run for office anonymously.

Adding to 11:05’s comment: The Youth Campus “park” isn’t a park, it’s an office complex where Gayle can go to work every day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: How about calling it an “office campus”?



Reading these responses is very interesting. Before the new water facility was completed a beautiful park did exist. The old park was very functional. Playgrounds,picnic areas, horseshoe pits, and open fields for soccer,football,and baseball. Centennial Park has been converted to a commercial district with parking lots and concession stands that will only be in operation for about 80 days a year if the weather permits. They didn’t even take down several dying trees next to the new pool. How much were the cost overruns, already fees have increased and taxes are being assessed. For what ? Taxpayers are paying for something they already had.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Let’s not get carried away here. The old Centennial pools were at “failure” stage.

IF a replacement water facility truly was the community’s best investment for that property – a question Mountcastle and her Dwarfs weren’t about to let the community actually vote on – simply replacing the old pools would probably have been a mistake, given that water entertainment has totally eclipsed swimming.

The current capital value of that “investment” is probably around zero because it can’t come close to paying for its operations and debt service with its operating revenues. And the value of the land probably has actually diminished by the construction of the water park because it’s unlikely anybody – even another park district – would want to buy it to operate it; and anybody who would buy it for other uses will have added expense for demo.

But it will take 4-5 years – while it is still relatively new but the novelty has worn off – to determine how “successful” it is. And by then all the perps will likely be gone, just like the Uptown TIF perps (except for Rich DiPietro) fled City Hall by the 5th anniversary of that boondoggle.

How many do you think the PRPD cut down? Were you ever in Centennial Park before the waterpark was started in August 2013? Just wait until they start clear cutting the trees on the YC to put in the proposed amenities on that property. And I forgot to mention the nearly $1,500,000 taken out of reserves to provide the full funding for the waterpark and parking lot replacement. Not sure how these actions by the PRPD board fulfill the mission of environmental and fiscal responsibility.

FWT – 07/11

1) For the record, I was the sole commissioner to request that we hold the debate in public session and I convinced a majority of my fellow commissioners that this was the right thing to do.

2) I was the sole commissioner to vote against ratifying the collective bargaining agreement – not on substantive grounds but because I had not been given the opportunity to read the entire agreement nor had any of the other commissioners (two of whom were absent) prior to the vote.

3) The reason I asked later to go into closed session was to seek the advice of counsel regarding the Board’s apparent interest (at the time) in ratifying the agreement without first having read it. I was concerned that if we had actually voted it down because we hadn’t been given an opportunity to read it prior to the vote, the union might have been able to lodge an unfair labor practice claim against the District for failure to bargain in good faith. Since I was unable to convince a majority of the Board to either vote it down or hold off on voting until everyone had read the agreement, my concerns were moot.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks for the explanation, Commissioner Biagi. At least somebody over at 2701 W. Sibley is willing to go public about why they did what they did.

Now repeat after us: “Open sessions good, closed sessions bad.”


I was an am in the park (right where the pools are daily. That is year round and I was there daily when the pools were being built.

You have every right to be against the pools but to overstate the negatives (and of course there were some negatives) is just plain stupid. dozens of trees….why not say hundreds….or one million?!?! Similar to 5:54 saying the taxpayer is paying for something they already had…..what????

1:01 –

In addition to the Boys Club, the Mayor has this extremely well-written and well reasoned blog which helps guide public policy and reigns in any differing opinion on the council, because they are so scared of what the editor writes. That isn’t a BS, comment, this is an excellent and much needed blog. But, there is no opposition.

Maybe we can call the editor the (Frank Underwood) “Whip” of the city council?

Here’s your scorecard (Not listed by ward):

1. Knight- Mayors BFF and head of the City Council. I believe not one issue is decided on without Knights consultation. Maybe he’s the “mind-controller” along with this editor ????

2. Schuburt- Another BFF of Mayor, also asked to run by Mayors crew.

3. Sweeney- Appointed by Mayor. Strays from him sometimes, but overall he goes along with the Mayors crew. Only difference from Mayor is he will go along with any “public safety” measure.

4. Mazzuca- Worked in Mayors initial campaign for mayor (after working for Frimark) then Appointed by Mayor, then in re-election worked in Mayors campaign office. Of course, he is in his own strange world, but overall a reliable vote for the Mayor. Maybe not for the same reasons, but same result. However, then it costs everyone 1/2 hour of listening to his self-important diatribes and attacks on city staff.

5. Millissis – Another BFF of the Mayor. Will always vote with the Mayor except if it’s for ridiculous handouts for his ward. Will spend Millions for 23 homes, but will say no to anything else for the sake of fiscal responsibility. However, that’s his job as Alderman to watch out for his ward.

6. Smith- Gets demeaned and talked down to, because he isn’t a BFF of the Mayor. Totally on his own in ever way.

7. Maloney- He’s tricky. He votes with the Mayor very often, but is definitely on his own. I wouldn’t consider him part of the boys club. Excellent Alderman.

Knight is also an excellent alderman. It would just help if there was a little opinion diversity around the horseshoe, instead of one big boys club.

Sorry to stray from the topic, but 1:01 asked!

I’ll circle back…the Park Board, does have different opinions, but they find a way to work together to succeed. Maybe the diversity of opinion helps, or maybe the “evil” Gayle Mountcastle is better than the CM or his staff????

I encourage everyone to watch the city council meetings and try to disagree with the above!

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s actually pretty entertaining, 255, and a pretty sharp political strategy as well; i.e., portraying aldermen as weak dependents of the mayor and/or intimidated by this blog so that they might vote in certain ways just to prove they’re not.

And it’s that much more effective when you can use the anonymity this blog allows to, variously and faux-independently, rip a fiscally responsible City Council while calling the Centennial water park “a HUGE win for the city…[and] a jewel of Park Ridge” (07.14 @ 2:55 PM); beef about paying “a crapload to live here” (07.15 @ 8:48 AM); and then, as “255” in this comment, advocate for “a little opinion diversity around the horseshoe instead of one big boys club” without identifying any of the “diverse” views you are looking for.

Or, given your propensity for referring to the Council as a “boys club,” you’re looking for gender diversity?

Speaking of Boards, congratulations to you and the rest of the new Library Board which voted last night to reopen the Library on Sundays. I am especially happy the two new Board members I just appointed and who were confirmed by the Council stepped up right away to help get it done. Kudos.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It corrected a mistake that never should have been made, and only after it cost Library users and staff 8 summer Sundays of a darkened, locked Library. But better late than never.

9:24 am-by the park district’s own admission and information they would be taking out dozens of trees-if memory serves somewhere between 75 and 100 to facilitate this new waterpark and parking lot renovation. Look at how many trees were taken down in the parking lot alone.

It’s nice to hear that the library will be open on Sundays again but also amusing to hear the Mayor take credit for it with his two new appointees.

It’s been clear that he plays both sides of the fence. he supports less funding for the library yet coyly says he might vote yes to the referendum he basically forced on it — but this Sunday thing was an especially calculated move. As if he (and you for that matter) really cares whether the library is open on Sundays…this faux outrage at its closure was a nice way to appear righteous while simultaneously reasserting your disrespect for its personnel.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Are you a Pooh-like “Bear of Very Little Brain” who just doesn’t understand what’s going on? Or is it that you just can’t accept the fact that government is actually being run in many respects “for the People” rather than in disregard and to the detriment of their interests, as was done under past administrations and continues to be done by public officials of certain other governmental bodies?

Just in case its the former, we’ll try to educate you: The Mayor (and the aldermen, and this editor) can oppose giving the Library hand-outs of scarce dollars from the City’s General Fund yet not oppose, and even support, a referendum by which a majority of the voting taxpayers affirmatively and measurably choose to be taxed a specific amount for that Library funding.

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Truth be told, the “Sunday thing was an especially calculated move” of purely political opportunism by the Library’s senior staff and the former 6-person Board majority (2 of which are no longer members) to manipulate public opinion and avoid giving the taxpayers a referendum vote at all.

But we suspect you already knew that.

I get what you’re saying about the Mayor’s prerogative to deny funding yet support a referendum, I just think it’s hypocritical and a calculated way to pander to both supporters and detractors of the library. As for what I supposedly already knew, I only know what I observe which is that it seems you decided to use Summer Sunday closings as a way to make yourself and the mayor the heroes and make the library look calculating and political. The irony.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Actually, it was the Council’s “prerogative” to deny funding, which we believe was unanimous – WITHOUT even a vote by Schmidt.

And if you’ll look at our 04.14.14 post – and the referenced Library Board meeting minutes – you’ll see that the Library administration and then-Board majority didn’t just “look calculating and political”: they were.

But, of course, you already knew that, too.

People like 255 focus on people instead of issues. I don’t care who is with the mayor, or his BFF, or dislikes him, or dislikes the editor of this blog. All I care about is how they govern, and except for the flooding I think the city is run better than it has been in a long while. And unlike past administrations at least the current mayor and aldermen are at least looking for solutions rather than ignoring the problem.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When you don’t have any ideas of your own, and don’t have good arguments against the other guys’ ideas, shooting at the other guy is all that’s left.

Sounds like 255 might be inflating the Maloney for Mayor 2017 trial balloon. Could 255 be one of Sen. Dan K’s political operatives because Maloney and Sen. Dan are pals, and several of the other aldermen (along with Mayor Schmidt) are known Republicans? The games people play.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s an interesting take. Actually, we’re just hoping Maloney runs for re-election this April.

To Rick Biagi – the Union Members get a summary, I find it DUMB that you would not have a chance to read to entire agreement before board ratification. Should of called SEIU, I’m sure they could of scrounged up a summary for you!!

As for the job classifications scratched from the Union – one of the positions was never in the recognition clause, and the other job classification was never filled. These were Payroll & Office Assistants.

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