New Year’s 2016: One Door Closes, Another Opens (Maybe)


This is our last post for 2015, so we’re looking back at the year that’s ending and forward to the year ahead – the former with profound sadness, the latter with perhaps unjustified hope.

The sadness of 2015 relates to the sudden death of Mayor Dave Schmidt on March 4.

Mayor Dave was a larger-than-life figure with an almost ferocious joie de vivre. He truly loved Park Ridge and being its mayor, whether it meant poring over draft ordinances at 1:00 a.m., attending his third or fourth charitable event of the week, cutting the ribbon for a new business, teaching a little City civics to 4th graders, or laughing at a giant inflatable rat with a “Time To Veto Dave Schmidt” sign in front of City Hall.

He was a man-child in the best sense of that term, able to throw a curled-lip glower or to crack an impish smile with equal ease. And he seemed as “at home” in a bare-knuckle political brawl as in his regular seat at Orchestra Hall listening to his beloved CSO.

More importantly, in his almost six years in the big chair at The Horseshoe he changed business-as-usual at City Hall – most definitely for the better, and hopefully for the long-term.

He won the office by articulating his philosophy of Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability (“HITA”); and by actually doing what his three predecessors (and so many other local elected officials) merely talked about: putting the taxpayers first..

That made him some enduring enemies – including those three predecessors and the few handfuls of former aldermen who also endorsed his last opponent, for whom “business as usual” pretty much maxed out both their interest level and abilities. But it made Mayor Dave even more friends and supporters – the proof of that being the increase in both his vote total (from 4,897 to 5,601) and his winning percentage (from 56.3% to 62.06%) from his 2009 election to his 2013 re-election, while at the same time generating a larger voter turnout.

Mayor Dave’s principled way of doing the City’s business also attracted a group of aldermen who shared his principles and his priorities. Consequently, his passing did not spark the petty partisan politicking, horse-trading and jockeying for position that followed Wietecha’s dark-of-night resignation in September 2003 and led to acting mayor Marous and his Uptown TIF boondoggle. Instead, these aldermen checked their egos at the door and unanimously chose Ald. Marty Maloney as acting mayor, an office Maloney accepted with the pledge to treat the next two years as “the rest of Mayor Dave’s term.”

And that’s the way it has been, a City government directed by principles and pragmatism instead of preening and profligacy.

So as the clock ticks down on 2015 we offer one last “ave atque vale” to Mayor Dave.

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Looking ahead to 2016, the one thing we hope to see more of is HITA.

And nowhere is that more needed than from those two Star Chambers masquerading as Park Ridge-Niles Elementary School District 64 and Maine Township High School District 207.

That’s because while the City will continue to struggle valiantly to overcome the weight of the Uptown TIF debt and the difficulties of coming up with a cost-effective solution to the flooding problem, the last thing we need is for what passes as “leadership” at D-64 and D-207 to continue to fiddle while their schools’ objectively-measurable performance and rankings continue to slide in comparison to those other affluent suburbs competing with Park Ridge for long-term home-owning residents.

Superintendents Laurie Heinz and Ken Wallace, respectively, know that controlling the flow of information to the public is the single best way to: (a) end-run HITA; (b) dominate their feckless school boards; (c) manipulate the parents of their students; and (d) bamboozle the taxpayers while avoiding any accountability for their own highly-paid-but-mediocre performances. And if Heinz’s and Wallace’s own instincts in that regard aren’t quite up to the obfuscation tasks at hand, they both have taxpayer-paid propaganda ministers to assist them in Bernadette Tramm (D-64) and Dave Beery (D-207).

So GFL getting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth out of those spinmeisters.

Too bad truth will be even more important, and less likely, in 2016 when it comes to D-64’s expected closed-session “negotiation” of a new contract with the Park Ridge Education Association (“PREA”), a/k/a, the teachers union.

Four years ago, then-board members John Heyde and Pat Fioretto hid in secretive closed sessions while giving the PREA a sweetheart deal that included “step” (longevity) and “lane” (continuing education) increases unrelated to either individual teacher performance or student performance. That put the taxpayers on the hook for starting salaries that increased over the contract’s four-year term from $45,780 to $48,582 for total out-of-the-box newbies, and from $101,374 to $107,579 for the most experienced. You can see the 2015 salaries for teachers, by name, by clicking here.

And remember: that’s just for 8-9 months of work, with no chance of D-64 packing up and relocating to Indiana, Wisconsin, or Mexico.

And also remember that it comes with those constitutionally-guaranteed pensions that can kick in as early as age 55, with annual COLA increases that carry the possibility of generating more income for teachers in retirement than they made while actually teaching.

See how your Social Security and 401(k) compare to that!

Unfortunately, the current D-64 Board is only marginally better than the one that gave away that sweetheart deal four years ago: Hang a bell around Heinz’s neck and president Tony Borrelli, vice-president Scott Zimmerman, Secretary Vickie Lee, and Bob Johnson would follow her anywhere, with little more than an occasional “moo.”

Even among “veteran” Dathan Paterno and newcomers Mark Eggemann and Tom Sotos, only Eggemann has regularly displayed any measurable HITA – voting against most of the unnecessary closed sessions and being the only vote against the recently-increased tax levy that will enable D-64 to continue to spend about as much to educate 4,500 kids as the City of Park Ridge spends to run the whole city of 37,000+ people: approximately $70 million.

With creatures of the dark Borrelli and Zimmerman reportedly heading the D-64 negotiating team, you should bet the “over” for what kind of contract the PREA will be able to wheedle out of them in the…wait for it…closed-session negotiations. After all, it was in closed sessions that Borrelli and Zimmerman hashed out the one-year, $250,000 contract extension and raise for Heinz – based on allegedly outstanding mid-year and year-end “reviews” that not only weren’t published to the taxpayers before the deal was cooked, but which we understand weren’t even given to Eggemann or Sotos before they were asked to approve the deal.

And which still can’t be found anywhere in the public domain as best as we can tell.

With D-64 and D-207 grabbing almost 70% of our property tax bills, versus the City’s roughly 10%, we’re hoping taxpayers in 2016 finally will start figuring out where more of their limited attention should be paid, and where the most basic HITA is so sorely lacking.

Here’s hoping that situation can be substantially corrected in the coming year.

To read or post comments, click on title.

A Brief Discussion Of Holiday “Charity”


As regular readers of this blog well know, we have actively and consistently opposed what had been a common practice of some of our local governmental bodies: taxing their residents and then using those tax revenues to make donations to certain private charities favored by those public officials with control over that money.

Last year the Park Ridge Library Board voted to discontinue what was known as the Food For Fines program (“FFF”). FFF was a longstanding program under which the Library staff waived overdue book and materials fines – money owed to the Library and, therefore, indirectly to its taxpayers – in return for non-perishable food donations to the Park Ridge Kiwanis Clubs that they forwarded to the Maine Township Food Pantry.

In other words, FFF caused the “donation” of public money belonging to the Library (a/k/a Park Ridge taxpayers) to a private organization (the Kiwanis) for the benefit of a different taxing body (Maine Twp.) that serves a much broader “community” than just Park Ridge.

In arguing against the discontinuance of FFF, certain Kiwanis members contended that FFF demonstrated the community’s commitment to taking care of the less-fortunate.

But according to an article in the current Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Park Ridge Kiwanians help families in need buy food for the holidays,” Dec. 20), in the first year that the FFF program was discontinued (2014) the food collection drums at the Library produced a mere 25 food boxes instead of the customary 200 boxes. And although Library staff never bothered to keep track of how many dollars of fines were being waived in return for how many food items, rough estimates based on average monthly fine revenues suggest that it was in the thousands of dollars each year.

So, apparently, many of those FFF participants were motivated more by the personal gain from trading a can of creamed corn for a few dollars of fines than by their commitment to the less fortunate in their community.

Or maybe they just preferred a different way of demonstrating their commitment to the less fortunate, such as donations to the many church food drives, or to various other charitable organizations.

But as the H-A article reports, this year the Kiwanis reinvented its food donation program to rely on its own fundraisers and individual contributions, rather than taxpayer money, to provide $100 gift cards and hams to 35 families whose children qualify for the free lunch program due to their families’ low income.

That’s what true “charity” is: privately chosen, not publicly mandated.

Which brings us to another true “charity”: the Park Ridge Holiday Lights Fund

In 2009, the City Council – under the leadership of then-mayor Dave Schmidt – cut from the City budget the approximately $40,000 annual holiday decorating expense in order to direct those dollars to essential City expenses. Some residents beefed and whined about that and other cuts, insisting that “a majority” of residents happily paid taxes for such amenities. But we supported Mayor Dave’s cuts because essential expenses should always take priority over amenities. And among those essential expenses were million-dollar increases in the debt service expense of the Uptown TIF, compliments of former mayors Wietecha, Marous and Frimark, and their complicit aldermen who buried the City in long-term bonded debt in order to sweeten the financial pot for the Uptown TIF’s private developers.

In response to the cut of those expenses, volunteers – many of whom were children in the Indian Scouts and Princesses program and their parents, with some assistance from the Park Ridge Public Works Department – took up the decorating. But as time went on, the extent of the decorating declined until many trees were barely decorated and many others not at all.

That prompted this blog to publish a July 22, 2015 post suggesting that a holiday lighting project for the Uptown and South Park business district was something a business organization like the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce should take the lead on, because holiday lights in those two areas make them much more attractive for shoppers. And shortly afterwards, Chamber members Rick Biagi (also a Park Ridge Park District Board member) and John Moran (also a Park Ridge alderman) pitched the Chamber on letting them form and run a holiday lights committee under the Chamber’s auspices, using the Chamber’s not-for-profit status.

The Chamber, however, wanted no part of Biagi’s and Moran’s idea and told them so in no uncertain terms.

Undeterred, Biagi and Moran – with the help of a few other like-minded volunteers – formed the Park Ridge Holiday Lights Fund as an independent 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation with the motto “Lights For The People, By The People” and fully-transparent “open-book” finances. And in less than four months more than 400 of those “People” (and businesses and organizations) came through, helping the Lights Fund raise almost $45,000 in donations toward the $85,000+ 3-year light purchase commitment while creating the most “Bedford Falls”-like Uptown in memory.

Despite all that community support, however, it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of Park Ridge residents did not donate to either the Kiwanis food fund or the Holiday Lights Fund.

But that’s okay, because voluntary individualized charitable donations – not mandatory collectively-taxed contributions – are the kinds of acts that tend to ennoble the givers while inspiring (hopefully) gratitude in the recipients/beneficiaries, as de Tocqueville observed 180 years ago in his “Memoir on Pauperism,” even without having the Kiwanis or the Holiday Lights Fund in mind.

And they’ll have another chance to do so – voluntarily, as their spirits move them, not as government demands of them – next year and the year after that.

To read or post comments, click on title.

‘Tis The Season For Schizophrenia (Or Hypocrisy?) About RE Taxes


It’s that time of the year again, folks, and we don’t mean Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Or Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, or Festivus, either.

We mean Cook County property tax time. Or, more specifically, the second installment of the 2014 property taxes. And judging by a post on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group Facebook page, that’s got a lot of you griping up a storm about the continually-rising costs of living in the City of Park Ridge.

We suggest you read the Concerned Homeowners’ string started by Phil Poole on December 18 to get yourself up to speed on the comments that we’ll be riffing on in this post. Otherwise, you may find yourself scratching your head out of confusion rather than from befuddlement at some of those comments that pass for insights and fiscal thinking.

What we find most interesting about those comments is that their primary focus seems to be on the City of Park Ridge’s property tax increase – even though the City spends pretty much the same amount of money serving, protecting and maintaining a community of 37,000+ people that Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 spends on educating a mere 4,500 kids.

Education is important, to be sure. But how exactly does one justify spending $70 million a year to educate 4,500 kids (an average of $15,555 per kid) at the same time we’re spending $70 million to provide 37,000+ residents (at an average of $1,892 per resident, including most of those same 4,500 kids) with essential City services (police, fire, sewer, water, streets, sidewalks), a Library, and those huge-ticket capital improvements such as flood remediation?

For residents with kids in our public schools, the justification for more and more indiscriminate school spending is pretty much just plain math.

Even if the size of your home and land puts you among Park Ridge’s Top 25% residential property taxpayers and your annual property tax bill is $21,000, only around $2,100 of that goes to the City – while approximately $7,000 goes to D-64 and another $7,000 goes to D-207. So if you’ve got just one kid in D-64 schools, you’re getting over $14,000 of education for your $7,000. In investment vernacular, that’s a 100% ROI. Annually.

Add a second kid to D-64 and that gives you $28,000 of education for your $7,000, raising your ROI to a whopping 300%. Also annually. What’s not to like about that, especially if one of your principal life’s goals is to suck more money out of the system than you pay in?

Do you think that might explain the dead silence about D-64 (and D-207) taxes and tax increases from many of those commentators on the Concerned Homeowners page – you know, those with kids in D-64 (and D-207) schools – who happily barbecue the City for its taxing/spending increases while at the same time spouting mindless socialist rimshots like: “[A] city should act like a big family” and “People will not work harder because they get payed more.”


Which brings us, albeit indirectly, to the recent decision by the City Council to appeal a Cook County Circuit Court decision over-ruling the Park Ridge Planning & Zoning Commission’s withholding approval necessary for a developer to construct a four-story, 22-unit residential building at 400 Talcott, even though the development met the requirements of the City’s Zoning Code.

We’re no fans of increased residential density for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the likelihood such increased density brings more flooding and more school-aged kids adding to our school-tax deficits. But when a developer satisfies our Zoning Code requirements, that should be the end of it – especially when both the City’s former and current law firms agree that the likelihood of the City’s prevailing on appeal is low.

If you want a place to lay the blame for this fiasco, it should be the Zoning Code. And if that’s not enough for you, blame the 17 residents who comprised the Ad Hoc Zoning Ordinance Rewrite Committee that, with the assistance of an outside consultant, produced the current Zoning Ordinance 10 years ago. But don’t blame the developer just because you think he’s a jerk, or a bully, or because you dislike his project.

And whatever you do, don’t say and do things which stupidly suggest that the City is now just trying to make life miserable and unduly expensive for the developer in the hope that he’ll give up and go away. That’s bad in principle, it’s bad policy, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that causes naysayers to brand Park Ridge as “unfriendly to business.”

With that kind of reputation, how can Park Ridge expect to get any of those businesses that some of our more clueless residents claim are just waiting for the City’s elevator pitch – like a centrally-located Jimmy Johns?

To read or post comments, click on title.

PARCC Test Results Suggest Concerns About D-64 And D-207 Education Well-Founded


If you give a rat’s derriere about the quality of the public education that consumes close to 70% of our property tax dollars, take a few minutes to read Jennifer Johnson’s recent articles in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate about the reactions of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s and Maine Township High School District 207’s superintendents to their schools’ performance on the first round of the Partnership for Assessment of Reading for College and Careers (“PARCC”) testing.

You can find them at: “District 64 school chief says PARCC results a ‘snapshot in time’ “ (Dec. 15, 2015) and “District 207 superintendent: Test results create ‘false narrative’ of student performance” (Dec. 14, 2015).

D-64 superintendent Laurie Heinz attempts to defend what sounds like her district’s unimpressive performance with the following italicized quotes from the first article:

“From a formatting perspective, [the PARCC test] went well. We had no technical issues.”

In other words, D-64 didn’t screw up the administration of the test. Huzzah!

“I have not looked at how our results are compared to other schools.”

The very first thing Ms. Heinz should be doing is comparing D-64’s results to other districts – because whatever D-64 schools add to our property values is relative to how they match up with other demographically-comparable districts. Perhaps Heinz might be more motivated to prioritize that kind of comparative analysis if our School Board told her that the continuation of her employment and $250,000+ salary depends upon how D-64 rates against other comparable districts? Oh, wait…never mind: that feckless Board would never impose a performance standard on her after.

“My letter to parents explained the belief we have that this [PARCC test] is a snapshot in time….”

EVERY test – including a math final, the SAT, the ACT, etc. – is “a snapshot in time.” So her point is?

“We surpassed the state of Illinois average in both language arts and math.”

Seriously? As best as we can tell, D-64 is in the top 10-15% in per-pupil expenditures among ALL Illinois elementary school districts, yet Heinz is bragging about merely “surpassing the state of Illinois average.” Seriously?

“We had over 50 percent of our students within those two [“thorough understanding” and “exceeds”] levels in reading and…math.”

Merely “over 50 percent”?  See previous comment, but add one more “seriously?”

Interestingly enough, D-207 superintendent Ken Wallace echoed some of Heinz’s themes – which causes us to wonder if they were generic sound-bites and “talking points” from some special PARCC public relations template ginned up by the propaganda department of the Illinois Association of School Administrators that self-congratulatory fluff-and-stroke/networking organization for superintendents and

But Wallace takes it up a notch by ripping on the tests themselves and with statements like:

“Right now, the results [of the PARCC test] are next to meaningless to us” because he doesn’t think “they truly and accurately reflect the success of [D-207] students.”

Not surprisingly Wallace, like Heinz, avoids matching up D-207’s PARCC results with those of other demographically-comparable districts. Why make such comparisons when you can blow smoke up your own kilt and befuddle the taxpayers by insisting that D-207 is doing great – just ask ‘em!

“Any one test is not going to be a better predictor of student success in college than achievement across a rigorous set of courses.”

That very well may be true. But tell that to the admissions department of your kid’s dream college when he/she pulls a 1500 on the SAT, or a 17 on the ACT.  Or see how many advanced placement credits can be earned  with “1”s on those AP exams.

And when asked what plans D-207 has for next year’s testing, Wallace sounded totally dismissive of the test and/or of what level of achievement is expected:

“We will meet the minimum guidelines, testing in algebra and language arts.”

Yes, by all means let’s be satisfied with “the minimum” because that’s been working so well for the District over the last decade as its ranking has steadily declined even as its cost per pupil to our taxpayers has steadily increased.

Once again, we see that both of our school districts keep whistling past the graveyards of standardized test-based achievement and of comparing that achievement to other demographically-similar districts with which Park Ridge competes for new residents.

And while it seeems almost unfathomable that a school board could be any less demanding of student achievement and of teacher/administrator accountability than the D-64 Board, the D-207 Board may have met and exceeded that level of irresponsibility and general cluelessness.  At the very least they are 1 and 1A.

Which brings to mind, again, Mark Twain’s famous quote:

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

Council Shows It Won’t Be Fooled Again On Cop Shop Requests


A few years ago, in 2010 to be exact, Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski persuaded then mayor Dave Schmidt and the then-city council to create a Police Chief’s Advisory Task Force (the “PCATF”), ostensibly for the purpose of improving the relationship between the Police Department and the citizens it serves in the wake of the Ekl Report.

But mission creep being what it is in government, the PCATF almost immediately became a de facto lobbying group for Chief K and his department. And it soon had a 3-phase plan for improving the physical plant (a/k/a, the Police Station) to the tune of around $1.1 million.

Chief K and the PCATF were able to steamroll through “Phase One” – which was the construction of that ugly, stand-alone, 2,100 square foot building on Courtland just south of City Hall that now serves as an evidence room and corral for stolen bicycles, along with 18 parking slots.  Price: $360,000+ing.  Meanwhile, things like a new locker room for female officers, improving ventilation and remediating the mold problem, and otherwise upgrading the existing police station space was ignored.

So it came as no surprise to us that when the City Council recently voted, at its November 23, 2015 meeting, to remove $100,000 from the 2016-17 budget that had been earmarked for engineering and design services for the main-building improvements and upgrades that could/should have been done a couple of years ago.  Nor did it come as any surprise that Chief K was more than willing to say how “disappointed” he was about the Council’s action.

He worried about the “bad message” being sent to Department employees, and the “employee safety and security” that he claims was being sacrificed.

“These are all basic concerns,” he said. “We need to take care of our employees.”

If they are such “basic concerns,” why did the Chief and his sycophantic PCATF push for a new evidence room and bike corral when that same money could have been used “to take care of employees” in the ways you now claim are vital?

We’re betting they figured that after enough time passed so that people forgot about the Courtland building, they could scare people with stories about the health hazards of black mold that has been neglected for years, and with warnings about how a third-rate women’s locker room that has been neglected for year is now a civil rights violation waiting to happen, and with all the old anecdotes of how a sally port that the cop shop has lacked forever without any adverse effects is now essential.

Fortunately, Chief K’s renewed cry of “Wolf!” – or “Public Safety!” and “Health Hazard!” – is unlikely to stamped this City Council the way that shtick stampeded former councils.

This is a problem of the Chief’s own making. This is what happens when he surrounds himself with a bunch of lemmings who will thoughtlessly jump on command and mouth whatever platitudes are required of them.

They won’t dare tell him that he’s screwing up when he puts the building of a new evidence room and a bike corral ahead of the safety of the employees about whom he now claims to be oh-so-concerned.

Chief K may be the most natural politician in City government, and the most experienced – even though he hasn’t held elective office.  He knows how to leverage that uniform for maximum effect.

But as Abraham Lincoln once noted: “You can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Even with a blue suit and a shiny gold star.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Secretive D-64 Residency Enforcement Comes With Some Hope For Transparency


Last week’s edition of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate published a story (“Out-of-district family ordered to pay $12,731 to District 64,” Dec. 3) about the Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 voting, at its November 30, 2015 special meeting, to charge a family $12,731 because it enrolled two children in D-64 schools despite the fact that the children lived in Des Plaines.

That violates the District’s policy that only children physically residing in the District may attend District schools.

The $12,731 represents a $78.59 per diem for each child’s days of attendance.

The H-A story, however, does not explain how exactly the District will go about actually collecting that money, or what the costs of collection might be if the scofflaws refuse to pay. It did report, however, that the District paid $5,522.50 for a private investigator to gather evidence of the non-residency; and $900 for a hearing officer conduct the hearing at which the violation was found.

So if the offenders make the payment with no further cost to the District, the net recovery to the District’s taxpayers will be $6,308.50 – or roughly half what the offenders unlawfully sucked out of the District. That’s better than a sharp stick in the eye, although somebody at D-64 should be looking into how these parasites also can be charged for those investigation and hearing costs.

In case you’re not familiar with the shorthand terminology of this blog, “parasites” are non-resident, non-taxpayers who intentionally feed off those goods and/or services paid for by our resident taxpayers.

Parasites are to be distinguished from “freeloaders,” which is our shorthand term for resident taxpayers who make sure they get far more in tax-funded benefits than they actually pay in taxes.

Supt. Laurie Heinz indicated that this is the first family to be charged for unlawful attendance since the District implemented its new residency re-verification process at the beginning of this 2015-16 school year, although we thought that dubious distinction fell to the kids of the D-64 teacher living in Chicago who nevertheless claimed to be residing in the District.

Heinz also said that several other investigations are ongoing. Hopefully the District will dilligently pursue them and they will yield similar or even better returns.

Not surprisingly, however, the H-A article reports that the Tony Borrelli-led School Board (like the John Heyde-led board before it) conducted all its discussions of this matter in its typical Star Chamber closed-sessions – before staging its required open-session public vote. Also not surprisingly, the parasites were not identified.

Why not? The H-A article doesn’t say. And, frankly, we can’t think of any good reason.

Folks merely charged – not convicted, just charged – with DUI, or marijuana possession, or the theft of a $200 cell phone, are likely to get their names and a brief account of the charges against them published in the H-A and/or the Park Ridge Journal, albeit with the disclaimer that: “An arrest does not constitute a finding of guilt.”

So why the special treatment for adults who were administratively adjudicated, after an evidentiary hearing, of ripping off D-64 taxpayers for almost $13,000 worth of education for their kids – and who likely would have continued ripping us off for tens of thousands of dollars more had they not been caught?  What privacy rights, or privacy expectations, do the parasitic parents/guardians have, especially after they’ve been found guilty?

The D-64 Board and Adminstration isn’t saying.

That’s the problem with the secrecy of the Star Chamber proceedings regularly run by Borrelli and rubber-stamped by most of the Board.

But as you can see and hear from the video of that special Board meeting – most of which was conducted in…wait for it…closed session – there may be a faint breeze of transparency in the air.

Starting at the 4:55 mark (of what is only a 12-minute video), Borrelli seems to off-load responsibility for closed sessions onto the D-64 Administration and/or its attorneys by suggesting he’s in the dark about what topics and information actually excuse all those closed sessions he’s been calling.  Nevertheless, he goes on to describe a new procedure by which the Board can evaluate in advance of the closed-session votes the appropriateness of proposed closed sessions.

That sounds like an improvement over the current procedure that has Borrelli quoting the numerical designations for various exceptions to open meetings under the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) right before taking the closed-session votes – even if it doesn’t sound like the memos he’ll be sharing with fellow Board members will show up in the meeting Board packets available to the public.

Moving from darkness to light tends to be a slow process, especially for those who prefer the dark.

We’d like to think that our consistently calling out Borrelli for his Heyde-like secretive ways contributed to this new initiative.  But since Borrelli is unlikely to ever admit something like that, we won’t make that claim.  But we’re pretty sure that Board member Mark Eggemann’s votes against many/most closed sessions (sometimes/often joined by Board member Tom Sotos) was a factor.

Irrespective of what may have motivated it, however, it’s still a step in the right direction, albeit a baby step.

Now let’s see how long it takes for Borrelli and the Board to show us they can walk

To read or post comments, click on title.

November 2016 Stormwater Utility Referendum The Right Idea


Back in the bad old days of Park Ridge City government – under mayor Ron “All SOC all the time” Wietecha, acting-mayor Mike “All PRC all the time” Marous and mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark – most “big” decisions (e.g., long-term, multi-million dollar projects like the Uptown TIF and Uptown Redevelopment) were made by city council fiat, without public/taxpayer opinion via advisory referendum.

That was when all the chairs around The Horseshoe were occupied by people who arrogantly insisted that THEY were elected to make those decisions, without even consulting the taxpayers.

Not surprisingly, that’s primarily why we’re stuck with the TIF that never should have been, and the Uptown project that is projected to cost the City in the $17-$20 million range instead of producing the $20+ million of “profit” Wietecha, Marous, Frimark and their sycophants were promising back in 2000-2006. Worse yet, that boodoggle handcuffed the late mayor Dave Schmidt and the “adult” Councils stuck with cleaning up their predecessors’ messes.

Perhaps the worst of those messes is a long-neglected infrastructure that has contributed to the flooding – exacerbated by the McMansions and multi-family housing enabled by our flawed Zoning Code that effectively encourages the covering of green space with gray space, thereby jacking up the density beyond what the neglected infrastructure was originally designed to accommodate.

Unlike prior councils who were content to kick the can down the road, the Schmidt councils and the current Council have responsibly studied, analyzed and vetted the options for trying to solve the City’s flooding problems on a City-wide basis.

To that end, they have come up with what appears to be a reasonable solution: the creation of a stormwater utility to generate the mega-revenues needed to fight flooding by imposing progressive fees on those properties that contribute most to the flooding problem.

All property owners would be charged a stormwater utility fee, but it would be based on several factors, including the amount of the property’s water-impervious surface area (e.g., gray space): the larger the gray space that can’t absorb water, the higher the fee. The fee will also likely depend on how much money the City needs to raise for a comprehensive flood remediation plan, with estimates already exceeding $100 million and climbing, albeit speculatively toward the $200 million mark.

Not surprisingly, the idea of a gray space-based fee has caused howls from some of those folks to whom we refer, in shorthand fashion, as “freeloaders” because we don’t want to have to repeatedly describe them as “those residents who are always looking to leverage maximum benefits for themselves, their families and their friends by shifting the costs of those benefits onto the backs of their fellow taxpayers”

A number of them are afraid that they will be charged extra because of all the water-impermeable gray area created by their oversized homes, driveways, patios, gazebos, etc. which creates the run-off that contributes to overland flooding.

If the science behind the gray versus green distinction is sound, and it seems to be, those extra charges appear to be acceptable collateral damage in the war on flooding.

Unlike the hubristic mayors and councils of old who claimed to “know better” than their constituents what was best for the City, however, Acting Mayor Marty Maloney and this current Council sound ready, willing and able to ask the taxpayers/voters to weigh in on any stormwater utility plan via an advisory referendum. And that’s exactly the way any major decision like this should be made.

That referendum, however, probably won’t be held until next November’s (2016) election.


Because the Council is still waiting for final plans and numbers for such a massive undertaking from the City’s flood consultant, Christopher B. Burke Engineering. Those plans and data probably will not be forthcoming until January – well after the legal deadline for the Council’s putting a referendum on the March 2016 primary ballot.

That’s also the right way to do something this significant. Better to measure twice – or three and even four times – and cut once, than to keep cutting without measuring. And better to hold such a referendum during a November general election, when voter turnout is always highest, in order to get the broadest possible response.

But that has many of the chronic flooding whiners – yes, Barb Gaffke, we mean you – whining even more than usual about how this is just further delay and just another way in which they’re being screwed over by this Council.

Many of them beef about water in the streets. But even Burke has indicated that water in the streets can be a preferred alternative to water in the basements. And that makes sense, despite the inconvenience that the former can cause.

Also joining the whiner chorus are many folks up in the Second Ward who bought cheap properties at a discount befitting a chronic flood zone, then built their McMansions with the expectation that they could browbeat a spineless Council into borrowing and spending multi-millions of dollars of other people’s tax dollars to provide the flooding remediation that will magically jack the value of their properties.

One local realtor we talked to confidentially opined that solving the flooding problem in Mayfair Estates could raise the value of those properties by from $50K to $100K overnight – at a cost of only several hundred dollars, at most, of extra taxes for each of those property owners. If you’re one of those property owners, that’s what is called a “no-brainer.”

So it’s no wonder they would prefer to browbeat the Council into enacting their flood relief program instead of risking a referendum vote on it, even if that vote were to be merely “advisory.”

That’s the beauty of freeloaders: they’re very predictable.

Hopefully the Council will see them for what they are, see through their predictable tactics, and move forward with a sane and fiscally-responsible, long-term flood control program for the entire City.

That sounds to us a lot like a well-conceived stormwater utility endorsed by a majority vote of the taxpayers via a November 2016 referendum.

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