Time For FFF Advocates To Put Up Or Shut Up


Last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate contained a letter to the editor from long-time resident William Scharringhausen, on behalf of the Park Ridge Kiwanis Club, criticizing the Park Ridge Library Board’s discontinuation of the “Food for Fines” (“FFF”) program. (“Food for Fines cancellation disappointing,” Sept. 30)

We published posts on 10.03.13 and 08.22.14 explaining why FFF was a form of theft from the taxpayers, and we stand by those posts. Not surprisingly, because misconceptions die hard, some of the pro-FFF arguments we criticized in those posts are resurrected in Mr. Scharringhausen’s letter – to go along with a new one such as: “Kiwanians saw the value of transforming a negative fine system into an opportunity to nurture the spirit of giving in our community.”

Heck, if that truly was their motivation, they should have approached fellow Kiwanian and Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski about “transforming a negative” parking fine system. With parking fines checking in at a $25 minimum as compared to a mere couple-to-several bucks average for Library fines, just think of how much more the “spirit of giving” could have been nurtured!

But the simple truth is that any real “spirit of giving” shouldn’t need to be nurtured by any kind of quid pro quo personal economic benefit, especially when that benefit picks the taxpayers’ pockets by what we estimated (because the Library staff didn’t even try to keep track of it) to be as much as $7,000 worth of of Library fines in any given year.

That’s not chopped liver for a Library that could have used that $7,000 to remain open for four or five of the weeks it was closed this summer.

Mr. Scharringhausen concludes his letter with what sounds like a challenge to Library Board members:

“We also anxiously anticipate the generous contributions of the Library Board members to this holiday food drive as they demonstrate leadership in our community without encumbering public funds.”

When I proposed abolishing the FFF program, I suggested that the Library could still be a collection point for food donations. And in order to walk the walk instead of merely talking the talk I also suggested that, instead of donating taxpayer funds, all Library Board and staff members could show their community spirit by making personal monetary donations towards the purchase of food for the needy.

That was a good idea then, and it’s a good idea now.

That’s why I pledge a $100 donation to the no-longer-FFF Library food drive this holiday season. And I invite all current Library Board members and those former Library Board members who voted for keeping the FFF program (e.g., John Benka and John Schmidt) to do likewise. Assuming everybody comes through with a Benjamin apiece, that’s at least $1,100 right there.

But let’s not stop walking the talk with just the Library Board members.

Several staff members who advocated for the continuance of the FFF program should also be willing to say “C” (as in C-note) to support the Kiwanis food drive for the needy. And let’s not forget those Kiwanians who showed up at the Library Board’s January 21, 2014 meeting to successfully (for the time being) lobby against elimination of the FFF program, including: Ted Sigg, Jack Owens, Gerald Berkowitz, Lloyd Lange, Frank Kaminski, Maureen Kaminski and Jay Terry.

If they all step up and donate the basic hundo in addition to what the Library Board members come up with, we’ll be kicking off the holiday season with around $2,000 just in cash donations – unsullied by any crass quid pro quo fine forgiveness – before the very first can of Green Giant “Niblets” hits the bottom of the Library’s collection drum.

And, better yet, the Library Board won’t have to waste valuable meeting time discussing such weighty Library operational issues as how the expiration dates on FFF contributions are checked, and how far past those dates the food is still usable so as to be credited against fines.

Robert J. Trizna

Editor and Publisher

Member, Park Ridge Library Board

To read or post comments, click on title.

21 comments so far

“But the simple truth is that any real “spirit of giving” shouldn’t need to be nurtured by any kind of quid pro quo personal economic benefit,…..”

You are 100% correct about this. I would add that the real spirit of giving should not be about using a charitable donation as an arrow or a means to call out your “opponents” as you used it.

Rumor is you go to SPC. While I am not a churchgoer I did read something like the following…..”Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly”.

Good lord PD…..You won! You can’t even take a victory without spiking the ball in their faces in the endzone.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This isn’t about winning, nor does it remotely rise to Biblical proportions.

This editor’s pledge was a response to Mr. Scharringhausen’s pointedly defiant challenge to Library Board members – or at least the majority who voted to end the FFF program – to “demonstrate leadership” through their own “generous contributions…to this holiday food drive.” That pledge also was intended to call out Mr. S and all his fellow Pharisees…er, Kiwanians to put up their own money in place of the public funds they were happy to have the Library misappropriate for the aggrandizement of their organization.

I never said it was biblical, you talked about the spirit of giving and quid pro quo, I referenced another idea or angle on the spirit of giving (apparently one you choose to ignore).

As for your pledge, it was nothing more than throwing it in their face and there was no need for it. It clearly shows that while you claim to be all about policy it is often more about personalities. You got want you wanted and your idea and your position carried they day. You could have been gracious or even silent but you had to stick it to them one more time.

I am not a PR old timer but I wish I knew all the history between you and the folks you reference. There are clearly some old scars that have not healed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There are no “scars” – just an abiding distaste for folks who so disrespect the taxpayers that they callously manipulate simpleton public officials into giving them tax dollars the taxpayers themselves are unwilling to give them directly.

So when a Kiwanis member rips the Library Board’s decision to stop misappropriating taxpayer money to fund the Kiwanis Club’s FFF program, and then challenges those Board members to donate their own personal funds to make up for those tax dollars no longer being misappropriated, you can bet your derriere this blog will call that person out.

This is the same issue as as when those community groups used to get handouts from the city council to make up for the contributions they were not getting from the taxpayers directly. If you are a private group or organization (Kiwanis, Rotary, Knights of Columbus, Boy Scouts, Jaycees, Community Women, etc.) raise your own money or do without. Stop expecting government to bail you out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly. FFF was a great deal for the Kiwanis: stick a collection barrel in the Library lobby, effectively buy food “donations” using taxpayer money (i.e., Library fines), then pat yourselves on the backs and take a victory lap for your fundraising prowess.

When you went after the community groups for taking public funds a few years ago, I thought you were being a jerk and submitted a few comments to that effect. But the more I read and thought about your arguments against public funds for private gorups, I came around to your point of view and actually started to resent members of thsoe organizations for treating those public funds like entitlements.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A notable quote from “The Godfather” is “A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.” Unfortunately, the same can be said for public officials who abuse their public trust, whether due to rank stupidity (see, e.g., the Uptown TIF) or pandering to special interests (see, e.g., community group subsidies, FFF, facade improvement, etc.).



10.06.14 7:34 pm:

PD should be applauded for his monetary pledge and for looking out for the taxpayers. If you want to call that “throwing it” in somebody’s face, I would say that Scharinghausen asked for it with his attempt to embarrass that board with his expectation that they will donate to the Kiwanis food drive.

I will be interested to see if Scharinghausen and his fellow Kiwanis members step up to the plate and meet or exceed PD’s contribution.


Have you ever driven by one of our schools? You will see signs talking about encouraging Civil behavior. Someone has to be the grownup, no??

“I would say that Scharinghausen asked for it with his attempt to embarrass that board with his expectation that they will donate to the Kiwanis food drive”. That is your defense?? He asked for it?? Your defense sounds like my kid defending another kids actions in middle school, not an adult defending the actions of another adult who happens to be an appointed official and a partner at a law firm.

Ever hear of being the bigger man??….”But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also”……oppps! There I go being biblical again.

Again, I would remind you the issue has been decide in your favor. Stop acting like you lost.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you want to run a revival, get yourself a tent.

We’re simply calling out Scharringhausen for his sour-grapes, cheap-shot attempt – apparently on behalf of the Kiwanis organization – to (a) slam the Library Board’s FFF decision as “diminish[ing] both a long-standing spirit in this community and our library’s function as a true ‘source of learning'”; and (b) leverage “generous contributions” from those Library Board members as a demonstration of “their leadership in our community.”

In such a situation, what you praise as turning the other cheek we reject as appeasement. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, we don’t do appeasement.

Lovely world you live in. You get to behave like a young teenager rather than a grown man because to do otherwise would be appeasement.

How about you and Mr. S have a slap fight in the middle of Hodges Park??

Appeasement?!?!?!?! BAHAHAHHH!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, appeasement – the act of pleasing or placating someone by doing or saying something they desire.

How about you coming out of the closet and putting your name and your credibility behind your cheap talk?

Your donation should be appreciated. And, I hope many do follow your lead. I hate that the debate over library funding has become so contentious, and an event like FFF being used as a hot button. I really take issue with the assumption that our community wouldn’t still contribute regardless of whether fines are waived. Regarding the issue of library funding, our household has had to make many sacrifices during this recession. I just expect board members and elected officials to be considerate of that. If the library were to say they’ve gone through their finances with a fine tooth comb, and tried their best to run things cost effectively for PR residents, then I could easily vote yes on the referendum. But I haven’t heard that. What are we to think, with a city and a library coming to the taxpayers for more, but a park district that runs surpluses and gets voter approval to spend millions more? Let’s stop the finger pointing, and let’s find solutions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Why do you “hate that the debate over library funding has become so contentious” – and NOT “hate” how money that belonged to the taxpayers (i.e., fines) and that the Library needed to operate was being diverted to non-Library purposes through FFF? Or how the Library was closed down for most of the summer?

One thing the Park District does well is CHARGE for its amenities – programs and services – that lets it run surpluses. But with the new obligation to service $21 million of new debt for facilities that are highly unlikely to pay their own way, we’d be willing to bet a crisp new $1 bill that those surpluses will decline and eventually disappear within 3-5 years. The only questions are whether Mountcastle will have used her shinier resume to move on to greener pastures, or have retired, by then; and whether any of the Park Board members who rubber-stamped Mountcastle’s tax-borrow-spend extravagandas will still be in office to defend their mismanagement.

Finally, finding solutions often requires “finger pointing” to identify the problem(s) and the perpetrator(s). Of course, the perpetrators rarely like when that happens.

All those of you who are saying Billy boy and the Kiwanis lost out on FOod for FInes overlook how he decided to crap in the Library Board’s mess kit with his letter. Cute.


Food for Fines went to the Maine Township food pantry. Only a little of it went to Kiwanis.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As it was explained to us, Kiwanis collected it (and took credit for collecting it) FOR Maine Twp., which distributed it – in some cases using Kiwanis members to help distribute it.

But either way, that FFF revenue was money to which Park Ridge taxpayers, and only Park Ridge taxpayers, were entitled; and which was diverted to/for the benefit of either (a) a private organization (Kiwanis) not legally accountable to Park Ridge taxpayers, or (b) a different governmental taxing body with a substantially different universe of constituents (Maine Twp.) and legally accountable to Park Ridge taxpayers only as a subset of a larger universe of taxpayers.

Actually if you want to be exact about it “that FFF revenue was money to which Park Ridge taxpayers, and only Park Ridge taxpayers, were entitled; and which was diverted to/for the benefit of people who did/do not have anything to eat.

I mean I know you are going to say that the Kiwanis got to look like they had done this great thing and I know Maine Township is a different body, but many of the people at the food pantry volunteer anyway. So the money that was diverted (or a form of theft as you say) was taken for the benefit of people who had no food.

I know you are going to say that makes no difference and will be able to make a case for that, but at least let’s be honest about who ultimately benefited from FFF. The 7K in uncollected fines was exchanged (or stolen as the case may be) for food to feed the hungry during the holidays.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If feeding the hungry is the Library’s mission, then why do it only “during the holidays”? Aren’t they hungry the rest of the year? And why not divert ALL that fine revenue to food food for the hungry rather than just a month’s fines? And where does it say that the Library’s mission of feeding the hungry is limited to just the Maine Twp. hungry v. Cook County hungry, or State of Illinois hungry?

And last but not least, if feeding the hungry is the Library’s mission, why wasn’t that $7K of diverted fine money included as a line item in the budget, so that the taxpayers could know how much of its money was being diverted to what purpose while Library management was closing its doors Sundays this summmer?

Let me begin by quoting myself. I love doing that. See I said the following…..”I know you are going to say that makes no difference and will be able to make a case for that…..”. I knew ya could do it! I could see you typing before I even hit the submit button.

All I said is that we should at least be honest about it (I could quote myself again if you like). If we believe the money was diverted (or stolen as you say) it was not for the benefit of some fat cat or for some other township or Kiwanis club as you attempted to portray it above. It was for the benefit of people who had no food during the holidays.

As much as you hate to admit it, that changes this for at least some people out there. If that was not the case, why did you word your “diverted to/for the benefit of either” comment the way you did? You got through the entire reply and never even mentioned the actual end beneficiary of the 7K that was “stolen” from the poor PR taxpayer.

Lastly, this is clearly a hot issue and we have an election coming up. I hope this makes it to a debate question in our elections. I would love to hear what Mel and Marty feel about this one!

EDITOR’S NOTE: If the Kiwanians can’t collect enough money and food through voluntary donations from Park Ridge residents – without any FFF-style quid pro quo misuse of tax dollars – then either (a) the Kiwanians suck at that job, or (b) Park Ridge residents don’t want to give money/food to those “people who had no food during the holidays,” or at least not in the way Kiwanis/Maine Twp. chooses to do it.

The less said by Mel and Marty, the better. Let their respective records speak for them.

I would suspect many Library users like me, who resented the Library’s closing on Sundays in the summer (not “all summer” as your inflammatory and inaccurate statement indicates) would have reluctantly agreed to do without if they were told their sacrifice meant hungry people in our community (yes, they do exist, Pubster)would be fed. That was not the deal put to the Board’s vote, but I suspect you and a few others would still say that “the poor you have with you always,” so sucks to be them, let’s move on to the next agenda item.
Bottom line: Non-profits need to sell like sonsofbitches, and government employees need to treat OPM like their own, but when that happens, folks like you will still think any contribution to society outside a government entity’s narrowly interpreted mission is theft. People should remember that you are a trial attorney and are constitutionally incapable of saying, “ya know, you might be right” or “you have a good point.” Doesn’t happen in court or in life, so let’s just enjoy PubDog for the rigor, not the rigor mortis, he provides that nobody else does.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t recall writing “all summer” because, despite Staff’s and the former Board majority’s intention to close it “all summer,” the new Board majority thwarted that effort.

If by “hungry people in our community” you mean hungry people residing within the Park Ridge city limits – i.e. those folks from whom the Library gets its tax-based funding – then please identify them (privately, not publicly) and this editor will undertake to help alleviate their hunger through PRIVATE funds VOLUNTARILY donated by people who really do care about the hungry but don’t need or want folks appointed to oversee the running of the Library acting as self-appointed consciences of the community when it comes to SPENDING OPM on things well beyond the Library’s mission.

Bottom line: If PRIVATE NFPs run by people the taxpayers DON’T get to elect can’t fundraise to fulfill their NFP’s needs, then either the NFP operators are inept and should resign, or their “cause” isn’t one the taxpayers share. Letting them wring money out of those taxpayers indirectly via government is ridiculous and outrageous.

We’re always glad to recognize good points. Unfortunately, too many of our commentators don’t have any – which probably explains why so many of them won’t sign their names to the boneheaded points they do make.


Ya see it is NOT that he won’t admit that you are right. It is simply that you are always wrong. In fact everyone else is always wrong (unless they agree with him). If one of us were right just once he would be happy to admit it!

Actually it is worse than that. Ya see we are not just wrong. We are freeloaders and/or thieves.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In your case, that pretty much sums it up.

I have a question that I hope you can address Mr. Trizna, that pertains to the library but not to the issue you are addressing. I have tried to find it on the library website but was not able to.

Could you clarify which towns and / or corresponding libraries that the Park Ridge Library has a reciprocity agreement? So a Park Ridge Resident could use a different town library and vice versa? Chicago and Niles has this type of arrangement.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we understand it, a Park Ridge resident can USE any community public library in Illinois. If you wish to check out books or materials, however, we believe there needs to be a reciprocity arrangement such as through the RAILS system:

If you ever start getting your facts from somewhere other than the newspapers – this may be a place for a humerus look…otherwise keep fooling your uninformed followers!!

EDITOR’S NOTE If you’d provide us with your copy of the president’s NSA morning memo, we’d consider publishing some of that info. But no matter what, we’re still not going to let you look at our humerus.

And thanks for reading.

It is very comical that people actually read this nonsense. This man gets his info(as he quotes) from inaccurate news articles – what a joke – you should all be Better thAn this!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Did you end up here on your way to Rachel Maddow, Glenn Beck, or TMZ?

The problem with relying on whimsical wafts of charitable emotion is that it’s not consistent enough to base an operating budget on. Relying on charity has been demanded by every religion, and even the most religiously demanding among us have failed to provide as the Lord directs. After thousands of years of misery punctuated by episodic revolutions, government evolved into the collection and administration/disbursing agency for the public’s general desire to quell chaos and perhaps reduce suffering. Here in ‘Merica, We, the People elect fellow citizens to pass laws that reflect our values, including the value of providing consistent funds to alleviate the suffering of human beings around us. Under God and all that. Taxes are the only effective, efficient and fair way to do the people’s will. Pitching for funds, planning and implementing and contracting services for fundraisers, etc. etc. is a full-time, actual job. Ask anyone in “development.” To expect a library staff or a social work staff or a hospital’s clinical staff to do that work while actually running the institution, performing the day-to-day operations and long-range management planning is uber-inefficient. Yes, any public entity can be improved, but fundraising is a real job.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve read the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and most of the Constitution. Maybe we missed it, but we don’t see where any of those documents advocate for, or establish, a government whose purpose is “providing consistent funds to alleviate the suffering of human beings around us.” And none of those documents appears to contemplate a country where residents would be economically dependent on government for their subsistence.

Of course “charitable emotion” isn’t “consistent enough to base an operating budget on.” No emotions are consistent enought for that. That’s why our government was founded on principles and reason, not emotion.

As for “development,” that’s just another word for salesmanship. And salesmanship is primarily a function of the quality and value of your product or service. So if charities aren’t able to raise money, it’s pretty safe to conclude that either they’ve got bad salesmen or an uninspiring product/service.

Maybe they should have done food for fines for parking fines. I don’t believe the city went after the half a million dollars in parking tickets that were never paid. Last I heard on the outsourced tickets it was suggested that they just be forgotten. Who was thinking of the taxpayers then?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Maybe they should just collect all fines and let the residents donate to whatever charities they want to donate to, or not.

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