City Re-Visiting Evanston Water “Agency” Tonight


We rarely have anything good to say about that banana republic to the east of Park Ridge known as the City of Chicago. 

Then again, what good can be said about what purports to be a “world-class” city but has been driven to the brink of bankruptcy from decades of pillaging by the Daley Family and its retinue of carpetbaggers and scalawags –and now presided over by Daley Family confidante The Rahmfather? So when somebody suggests a way for Park Ridge to break its shackles to Chicago as its exclusive supplier of Lake Michigan water – a suggestion that is being re-visited by the City Council at this evening’s meeting – our default reaction is to jump at the chance.

That’s probably a mistake.

Park Ridge currently is served by two water lines from Chicago, thereby giving it redundancy in case one line fails. So far, there has never been a failure in the supply of water from Chicago.

The proposed water agency to be formed by Niles, Morton Grove and Park Ridge, on the other hand, would bring in Lake Michigan water through Evanston. But it would do so by only one line, without any redundancy.

The start-up cost to Park Ridge is now estimated at $49.9 Million, which would be funded by a 30-year GO (“General Obligation”) bond, which requires that ALL City assets and income streams be pledged to secure repayment.  The assumed interest rate of 4.5% means that the City would end up paying more than $90 Million over the 30-year loan term – for only 50% of the infrastructure (one water transmission line) that it already has in place with Chicago!

Sorry, folks, but undertaking a guaranteed $90 Million debt for 30 years in order to reap projected savings on water, without any redundancy in the system, sounds like fool’s gold to us.

Kind of like the Uptown TIF funded by GO bonds that were to produce a $24 Million profit after 23 years and are now projected to saddle us with a $15 Million loss.

The bottom line here is that Niles and Morton Grove want at least one more warm municipal body to share the boxcar infrastructure cost, and Park Ridge is it. Which is why they are putting on a full-court press to force Park Ridge to join their club.

As we wrote in our April 21, 2015 post: we’ve seen this movie before, and it’s a horror film.

Except without the popcorn and Raisinettes.

To read or post comments, click on title.

19 comments so far

And without the Trader Joe’s, the Chico’s, the Jos. A. Bank, the Bluefish, the Houlihan’s, the Jason’s Deli, the fountain, the staircase, the plaza, the vista, the parking…

EDITOR’S NOTE: All of which the City might well have gotten for free, or a fraction of the final cost, had the then-mayor(s) and alderdopes not been so quick and happy to have the City grab its ankles for PRC. Contrast that with how the late Mayor Dave and Alds. Sweeney, DiPietro, Smith, Raspanti, Knight and Maloney made Whole Foods and its developer blink 10 years later, and the stupidity and irresponsiblity of the PRC giveaway looks even worse.

Check out the Wholesale Cost Projections in the Council packet. They project $109 Million of total savings (in current year dollars) over 32 years. That is even better than that $24 Million projected profit from the TIF over 23 years.

And like with all these long-term deals, by the time the numbers start coming in and the projections start going south, the perpetrators will have long been out of office, and moved away, or dead, without any accountability. What a deal!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly right.

Except for Ald. Rich DiPietro, every mayor and alderman (back when there were 14 of them) in office when the TIF was created in 2003 and when PRC was awarded the deal in 2004 was out of office by May 2009, before anybody realized that the deal already had gone south for the City economically.

I agree about the problems with long-term public debt. Chicago is a good example, with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt rung up by Daley that won’t be paid off until most people won’t even remember what it was for.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The same thing was true with former Gov. “Big Jim” Thompson’s $2.3 Billion “Build Illinois” program that started back in 1986 and required bonds that are just being paid off THIS YEAR (2015), and Gov. George “No. 16627-424” Ryan’s $5.72 Billion “Illinois First” program started back in May 1999, the bonds for which won’t be fully repaid for years to come.

It would have been irresponsible not to have entertained this as we have, asked the questions that we have and requested the expanded analysis as we have.

You might want to watch the video from last night’s meeting to get a flavor of how, at least, this discussion went.

There are several questions still to be answered and better analysis to be done.

For me anyway, this will go no where unless I’m somehow convinced that we’re well sure that a switch is a rock solid benefit and we have some downside protection, ie. opposite of what others of my predecessors did when entering into the disastrous TIF and intergovernmental agreements.

Realize though, staying put means throwing in with Chicago for the long haul.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re among the very last people who would advocate “throwing in with Chicago” on anything, much less “for the long haul.” So we agree that it WOULD have been “irresponsible” not to explore this Evanston initiative.

Fortunately, Alderman, as chair of Finance & Budget you have seen, up close and personal, many/most of the problems with the Uptown TIF, albeit in a forensic sort of way. And as we’ve seen at the state, county and Chicago levels, intergenerational debt and the math that goes with it ends up being one heck of an albatross.

To the first comment: 4:08pm

Without blah, blah, blah but WITH a +/- $40 million reversal of fortune that includes an actual $15 million loss on the City’s “investment” in the failed TIF and the related intergovernmental agreements.

You can take the money the City makes annually from Chico’s, Trader Joe’s, the restaurants, the fountain and the vistas (huh?) and the $15 million loss will be covered in about 50 years. Maybe. So, yeah, that’s a great “investment.

You’re either one of the ankle grabbing elected officials PW references or a member of the visionary Uptown Advisory group that steered the City into the financial abyss know as the TIF. All of whom should be shamed and vilified forever.

The only possibly dumber thing ever done by City officials was rejecting the idea to buy property on the other side of Higgins, adjacent to the highway. Property that could have been, and was, developed commercially.

Thank you very little.

Hindsight is always 20/20. You don’t seriously believe that the several administrations of City elected officials and “professional” employees could foresee the recession and voted for the TIF anyway. Not even you could believe that. Lots and lots of ambitious, forward-looking projects got whacked badly — our local housing prices are still trying to crawl back from the nearly 40% loss in value. I know it doesn’t fit your narrative of irredeemably stupid, venal elected officials, but even you must recall the contortions and lawsuits involving people on life support who were conscripted by your eloquent pals in the anti-development club which held up the TIF project for several years until about 24 months before the Recession hit. The sales cycle for real estate is a bit longer than for a legal case, in case you didn’t know; and the City was legally required to sit through hundreds of hours of filibustering and blustering from CB, aided and abetted by you and other equally eloquent people. You may not acknowledge that a protracted campaign of legal threats and the world’s 2nd-worst economic downturn had anything to do with the TIF being upside down, but others do.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gee, Class Warrior, from the sound of all your lame alibis you could be one of those irresponsible alderdopes who went cuckoo for Coco Puffs over the Uptown TIF and its empty promises of game-changing “vibrant” retail and windfall revenues for the City back in 2001-2007.

Which also could explain why you ignore how, back in 2003 when it counted, more than a few residents had pretty close to 20/20 foresight about the dangers of the Uptown TIF, as demonstrated by their principled opposition to TIF-ing an Uptown area that D-64’s first-rate TIF attorney (John Murphey) assured the spineless D-64 board was not TIF-able because it did not satisfy the legal “but for” TIF test.

An elected official entrusted with public funds shouldn’t need to “foresee the recession” to know that locking in tens of millions of dollars of long-term bonded public debt in order to give wink-and-nod sweetheart deals to connected private developers based on pie-in-the-sky revenue projections is either “irredeemably stupid” or “venal.” Or maybe even both.

Competent, responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money don’t chase questionable deals like cats in heat (as our City officials did back in 2001-2007), and then shamelessly dodge accountability when things go bad (as those officials have done ever since). They’re like the guy who darts out into traffic without looking, gets hit by a car, and then asks how he could have anticipated being hit by an orange Volvo.

Lastly, we’re very pro-development – but not when it privatizes profits while socializing the losses by dumping them onto the taxpayers. That’s what our elected alderdolts let PRC to do with the Uptown TIF, and that’s what Mayor Dave and his Council didn’t let Whole Foods do almost a decade later – despite the clowns from the City’s Economic Development Task Force demanding giveaways for WF and its developer.

Class Warrior, hindsight might be 20/20 but those elected officials, staff and the advisory group that served up this financial debacle wouldn’t have needed to foresee a recession or concern themselves with CB or anyone else had they simply asked a couple of fundamental questions before they went all-in with the City’s general fund backing:

What’s the worst thing that could happen? And do we want to allow that, no matter the chances?? Do I want my name associated with that???

Instead, like the cats in heat referred to above, they ignored these questions and they went all-in.

So you can bemoan all you want the recession that occurred and the (minuscule) delay caused by legal disputes but had those betting, yes betting, the City’s financial health and welfare been more prudent in asking those questions we would not be in the mess we’re in.

So those associated with pushing the Uptown TIF with the City’s financial backing deserve all the scorn PD and others can dish out. And I suppose that means you included.

Again, thank you very little.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sadly enough, the Uptown TIF, standing alone, was stupid and wrongheaded – but it alone didn’t screw the City and its taxpayers. It was all the extra financial and debt obligations like the City’s sale of the Reservoir Block to PRC for what is rumored to have been $2 million-plus below FMV without even getting an MAI appraisal; its becoming pseudo-“partners” with PRC on the cost of the underground parking; and its agreeing to share profits only above a threshold that was unlikely to be reached.

PRC pocketed its profit and walked away, leaving the City with the gift that keeps on giving.

I’ll take that as a friendly amendment but when I say TIF I refer to the whole kit and kaboodle. All of the agreements and arrangements, including the IGA “bribes”, that were a part of it.

The way to avoid all of it would have been not to do it. Period.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The whole thing was run like such a kangaroo court – including with then-city mgr. Tim Schuenke assuring the then-Library Board that they could get a brand new Library out of the deal – that, from time to time, we’ve wondered whether somebody(ies) got “greased” on the deal

That pretty much sums up your view of anything but the status quo: “the way to avoid all of it would have been not to do it. Period.” No need to replace a crumbling 65-year-old community pool because I can always go to the pool at the Eastbank Club. No need to replace three dead evergreens and a half-lit ’50s billboard with a beautiful, accessible outdoor mall complex that included the only safe crossing from one side of Touhy to the other, with access to the unfortunate retailers and residents on the other side of Northwest Highway. I don’t shop, therefore shopping isn’t needed. Simple!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Your gouge-the-taxpayers government uber alles routine, complete with revisionist history, is getting old, Class Warrior.

Uptown redevelopment WOULD have occurred without any TIF if only then-mayors Wietecha and Marous, city mgr. Schuenke and the then-alderdopes would have let it. Back in 2001-02, the City had a list of 60+ developers who were interested in all or parts of the area between Six Corners and Meacham – including Walter E. Smithe, which wanted to return to Park Ridge with its own free-standing store (with parking) on what was then the “Reservoir” block, and WITHOUT City financing.

But our knucklehead public officials had a “better” idea that involved $40 million of long-term public debt. So instead of W.E.S. as the prominent “anchor” retailer at Six Corners – and all the other retailers that such a prominent anchor would have drawn to the development – we got Amphora, and now Charles Schwab. And a projected $15 million LOSS!

And now we’ve got you – perhaps one of those knuckleheaded perps – making alibi after alibi to justify a stupid and irresponsible “investment.”

Class Warrior…what seems to sum up your view would be: damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
And as long as you are fueled with enough OPM nothing stops you.

That’s the attitude that has this state, Chicago and Park Ridge, Park Ridge by way of the failed TIF, in the shape they’re in collectively.

Thank god you and your ilk are not in charge or we’d have more and more vistas and fountains and the like and we’d all be poorer and poorer for it.

Thank you very little, again.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The real irony of Class Warrior’s position is his/her total disregard for all the things the City could have done, and could be doing, with all millions of dollars in debt service it has been paying on an “investment” that is now projected to lose $15 million.

Given his/her Bernie Sanders-ish view of government and society, just think of how many of those debt-service millions could have gone to fund the Center of Concern, or Meals on Wheels, or the Mental Health services, or all the other private community organizations that most class warriors want to see the City’s taxpayers fund via the City’s tax levy.

Geeze, Pubby; you and yours are all about privatizing profits while socializing costs/losses. Or do you get all riled up only when people you don’t like are doing it?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wrong again, Class Warrior.

We have never supported private businesses and businesspeople – be they PRC, Napleton, Whole Foods, personal trainers at the Community Center, or tutors at the Library – being subsidized by Park Ridge taxpayers so they can pocket larger profits.

Now you’ve gone totally over the cliff, Grover. The bigger the private business is, the more we subsidize it. Haven’t you read a newspaper in the last 40 years? You might want to look at one in the Library.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Re-read the Editor’s Note to your last comment, Class Warrior – and feel free to move your lips if necessary – and maybe you’ll realize that we were talking solely about Park Ridge business and governments. Which makes us unlike all those former alderdopes (like yourself?) who wasted tens (hundreds?) of thousands of taxpayer dollars on subsidies like the ridiculous “facade improvement” program; and who wasted millions of taxpayers dollars on the Uptown TIF.

Gee dawg, i’ve agreed with you twice in one month now. First on the waste of money for a ‘parking study’ and now on the skepticism of a pipeline from Evanston to Park Ridge when we have two perfectly good pipelines already. I understand that Chicago has significantly increasing rates but they’re doing so (allegedly) to upgrade crib intakes and improve infrastructure. Even with the increases Chicago’s rates are still (allegedly) some of the lowest in the country. If for some reason in the future large numbers of the 125 suburbs that pay for Chicago water decide to leave en masse it would probably make economic sense to do so (sort of like how in the early 1900’s chicago’s growing spree ended as suburbs like Park Ridge and Evanston began rejecting annexing), but to leave the Chicago water system because we don’t want to contribute to infrastructure, only to turn around and build our own infrastructure, seems foolish.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Another refreshing sign that ignorance can be overcome.

Making a 50-year commitment to anything is a huge risk, especially when it is a $50 million commitment. Too many currently-unforeseeable things can happen that could change the whole dynamic of the water situation, including the water shortages and related ultra-conservation/recycling that some are already predicting or warning about.

Chicago is a bigger, tougher version of Evanston, and given the global water shortages already appearing on the horizon and the terrifying juggernaut moving ever-faster to privatizing gains and socializing losses,, I’d rather have Chicago protecting my drinking water, thank you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Privatizing gains and socializing losses is how the Democrats in Chicago and Illinois have pretty much bankrupted both of them. So Chicago doesn’t strike us as any more dependable a source of water than E-Town.

Once again, you’re nuts. Kicking the pension funding can down the road to avoid dealing with the cost today is no different than Park Ridge deferring tens of millions in infrastructure repair and replacement rather than piss off the NIMBYs and NOTEs (not over there, eithers)if it meant more taxes. It’s nuts to even begin to talk about paying some mope his pension on $60 – $100K a year as privatizing gains and socializing losses. No, that is reserved by any sane economic thinker for the corporate giants who take multi-millions, even billions, in tax dollars galore from those modestly paid mopes and then pass back the cost of their misdeeds, er, collateral damage, onto those same mopes and their kids. Yes, Chicago and Illinois made some expedient decisions, not just once but over and over. But the fact remains that, even WSJ and that ilk cheefully state that profits are spectacular and that labor costs are still delightfully low thanks to the misclassification of millions of employees as contract workers or “managers.” So please, let’s not pervert the commonly understood meaning of every term of art, OK? Privatizing gains and socializing losses is not something firemen are guilty of.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Class Warrior, the more you comment the more you make the case that some blind squirrels like yourself can’t even find the occasional acorn.

Mayors Wietecha, Marous and Frimark, along with the alderdopes (you?) who aided and abetted them, lacked even the basic honesty and integrity to tell the taxpayers the truth about all those 3-5% annual tax increases they were imposing: that they were shortchanging our infrastructure even as they were throwing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars at private corporate community groups, at private property owners for stupid ideas like “façade improvements,” at the Uptown TIF developers, at the worthless Economic Development Corporation, and for automatic non-merit based raises to City employees.

And when any public-sector “mope” can pull a $45K annual pension on his/her $60K salary starting at age 55 for a whopping total of $1,350,000 through age 85 (not counting the 3% annual COLA) while his private-sector counterpart (who’s paying the public-sector mope’s salary) is lucky to draw the same $45K of Social Security benefits starting at age 66, which will total only $855,000 through age 85 – that most certainly IS “privatizing” their gains/benefits in their pockets while “socializing” the losses/costs of those gains on the taxpayers.

And when it comes to firemen, let’s not forget all the side-job money – often cash (you know what that means, right?) – they make on all those off-days they have.

“that most certainly IS “privatizing” their gains/benefits in their pockets while “socializing” the losses/costs of those gains on the taxpayers.”

I understand how someone can see government pensions that way, and I share some of the same views; but unfortunately, those pensions were collectively bargained AND are guaranteed by the constitution. There’s not much anyone can do about it and all the complaining in the world won’t change the fact that the state of IL is going to have a system where the majority of government revenue will go to pay for people who no longer work for the state, while schools go unfunded, roads crumble, and societies’ poorest and defenseless are left to fend for their own.

This is just an anecdotal story but a few years back I was up north on a lake and no joke, the guy with the biggest boat had a CFD sticker on his shiny F350. I turned to my guide at the time and mentioned the irony of the retired firefighter having the most toys and the biggest boat. The guide’s draw just dropped and he couldn’t fathom that retired firefighters earned pensions so large that they could afford to live like that. Up north firefighting was on a volunteer basis for the sake of the community not for the $8k a month pension for life starting at age 50.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There are at least two things that can be done about them:

1. The state can put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that removes that guaranty, at least on a going-forward basis; and

2. Municipalities can level the playing field by reducing the raises that effectively amount to double-dipping by raising pay AND pension benefits. The reason pensions were so generous and guaranteed in the first place was as compensation for what was intended to be lower wages. Now we’ve gone to high wages AND generous guaranteed pensions.

Would you be willing to risk agonizing injury, disfigurement, crippling disability and death for a job that would not guarantee a decent, guaranteed living? You make, what, how much? For doing what?
Leave it to you and the teachers will be back rooming in various families’ attics as they did in the good old days, the cops will have to buy their own uniforms when the bad guys shred it and…oh, never mind. To get a clue you have to want one.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What are you babbling about now, Class Warrior? Where are all these disfigured and crippled workers? And many/most(?) D-64 teachers with 10 years of experience are making close to the median Park Ridge HOUSEHOLD income – and will be able to retire by age 55 with a multi-million dollar pension guaranteed by the State of Illinois’ taxpayers.

I’m babbling about the firemen who some think don’t deserve a decent living now or later for the risks they take. Yes, there are risks; it doesn’t happen every day to every fireman. But it does happen and the results can be awful. You’re all for giving the risk-takers who are business owners all the cookies for their risks — why not a few cookies for those who risk more than money when the need arises? Like firemen? I mention teachers and police only because you’d like to go back to the olden days where all of these jobs were badly compensated. I think our focus should be on amending systems that get in the way of accurately measuring, improving and rewarding effort so the good ones stay and the and the bad ones go. You know I totally agree with you that “you can always teach” has resulted in some crummy outcomes over the years. And clearly, some other public employees could use a tune-up (no, not that kind). But instead, your focus is on how poorly you can compensate all of them. That’s a lazy solution that hurts the good ones and bad ones alike and doesn’t give us the results the public deserves and pays for.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You mean all those firemen and police who stay here their entire careers and then retire at 55 or so with guaranteed pensions that will put another $1.5 – 2.5 million in their pockets if they live to 85? And all those applicants for any vacancy that occurs? Or those teachers that get an even better deal because the only risk they face is the occasional paper cut, and who get 3-4 months’ vacation a year while the people who pay their salaries are lucky to get 1 month, if they can afford to take it?

C’mon out of the closet, Class Warrior – the people of Park Ridge would love to know who is making these kinds of quasi-socialist arguments that have kept Mike Madigan in charge of Illinois for the last 30+ years.

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