Time To Prioritize City Projects


In our never-ending quest to keep our finger on the pulse of this community we regularly check out our local social media sites. And over the weekend a February 27 post on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page caught our eye.

Kicked off by Josh Chapman’s complaint about the deplorable condition of his unpaved alley that was ignored even as the City spent wasted “$15K fighting a developer in court when 2 law firms told them they wouldn’t win” over the density of the 400 Talcott residential development, the comment string took a few twists and turns while touching on other City projects that somebody wants done.

Without much knowledge or concern about their costs, and how the City – a/k/a, the taxpayers – will be able to pay for them.

Acting Mayor Marty Maloney provided some very good information and insight into the paving issue, to which Chapman provided one trenchant comment (“[I]t might be a good exercise to do an ROI on the cost of continued maintenance on the unpaved alleys vs. investing to pave them.”). Doing such ROI analyses – and having them prominently posted on the City’s website for all the special interests to see – would be a big step in reducing the ignorance that fuels too many of these special-interest discussions.

On the other hand, like many of the folks up in Mayfield Estates who knew or should have known of that area’s lack of storm sewers and propensity for flooding when they bought their bargain-priced property and built their McMansions, the complainers about the unpaved alleys didn’t wake up one morning to find their paved alleys torn out and replaced with gravel. Nor, as best as we can tell, were they ever unequivocally promised that their alleys would be paved at City expense by any specific date, if at all.

So while perhaps the City could do a better job of maintaining the alleys, the high dudgeon and semi-hysteria about their disrepair must be taken with a couple of heaping scoops of Kosher salt.

But perhaps the best contribution to that comment string came from Ald. Nick Milissis (2nd), which we are reprinting in its entirety except for inserting paragraph breaks that the alderman must have overlooked in what appears to have been his homage to William Faulkner:

Sure, let’s add paved alleyways with sewer drains to: a new police station, major flood resolution projects, paying down the uptown TIF, providing salary increases every year for police, fire and the rest of city staff, buying new ambulances and fire trucks, the list goes on and on and the reality is each and every one of us has something in their radar that they believe is of the outmost importance and a need.

At the same time everyone agrees we pay a lot in taxes and can not tolerate any increases. Of course many ignore the inconvenient fact that a majority of our taxes go to the school districts and not the city. Yet from that small slice of tax revenue the city gets everyone wants everything yesterday.

Sorry but that’s not how it works folks. We try to prioritize as best we can but we can’t do everything for everyone.

Not diminishing the asks that are on this posting but I choose to prioritize a bumpy alleyway that might look unattractive as a lower priority to flooded homes and destroyed properties that lower the value of everyone’s property value around town. New lockers in the police station can wait in line behind residents losing cars and basements during major storms.

I am all for addressing actual health issues in the police station such as mold remediation and air quality. The problem is that some use the air quality issues as leverage for is to build a Nile’s style station with Sally ports and other unnecessary luxuries. We have to be realistic for the sake of our residents. Police just received brand new equipment, squad cars, a nice salary bump so let’s not pretend we’re mistreating our officers and tone down the rhetoric on these forums.

And kudos to Milissis for also pointing out in a subsequent comment that “too many infrastructure fixes and improvements were swept under the rug for decades” while “outright negligent decision making stuck us with the crushing debt of the uptown TIF” that the fiscally-responsible city councils since 2011 have had to address with many “unpleasant decisions” – including project prioritization and larger annual tax increases.

Of course, all those former City officials responsible for the decades of neglect are long removed from the days of their irresponsible public office-holding, and their disappearance from public life suggests a kind of terror at the thought of stepping into any of these debates – either on social media or, like big boys and girls, by showing up at Council meetings – and taking ownership of their FUBARs. Not surprisingly, many of them, including all three living former mayors and twenty-five former aldermen or other City officials, endorsed our late Mayor Dave Schmidt’s opponent in the 2013 election, an unprecedented exercise in futility that we wrote about in our 04.12.13 post and that actually may have contributed to the increase in Mayor Dave’s vote total and margin over 2009. 

But with all these projects vying for attention, the City needs to make a list that explains each project and attaches the best-available cost figure to each, then let this Council prioritize that list and publish it prominently on the City’s website so that everybody can see what those priorities are – and can challenge them if so inclined. Or accept them and shut up.

Take the unpaved alleys, for example.

We understand that a reasonable guestimate of the cost of alley paving is $400,000 per block, which includes relief sewers for the run-off. But that’s without any debt service that would be incurred if it were to be funded by bonded debt. Additionally, under previous alley-paving programs there was a split of the costs between the City and the homeowners on the affected bloc, with the split being either 50/50 or 75(City)/25(homeowner). But given the rise of the freeloader mentality, we wonder how many complainers would be willing to pick up 50%, or even 25%, of the cost of paving their blocks.

We suspect the City spends less than $400,000 per decade on the maintenance of each unpaved alley, even if they are graded – and gravel added – a couple/few times a year.

On the other hand, an argument has been made by City staff that paved alleys contribute to sewer flooding, even though the relief sewers have restrictors that limit the speed at which alley water enters the main combined-sewer system. We have yet to read or hear, however, how much water the unpaved alleys absorb versus their paved counterparts, which also raises the hot-button issue of “green” v. “grey” infrastructure.

Installing an estimated 50 blocks of “grey” at an estimated $400K/alley is $20 million, not counting debt service. And as best as we can guestimate, Milissis’s whole list represents close to $300 MILLION of wishes, many of which are special-interest ones. Those need to be more accurately valued and prioritized if they are to be managed in a way that reduces the one-off “Where’s ours?” influence of the special interests and focuses on what the entire community’s needs and  wants.

And, most importantly, to demonstrate their willingness to pay for it by measurable referendum votes.

Because, to paraphrase the old English proverb: If wishes were horses, freeloaders would ride.

To read or post comments, click on title.

New Buildings To Rise On Greenwood…Storm Water, Too?


Should the City of Park Ridge approve any significant new land development that might contribute to the flooding problem the City already is experiencing?

That’s a question that sure seems to be on the mind of some of our residents in response not only to the 400 W. Talcott development but also to Lexington Homes’ proposed townhouse plan for the old public works site at Greenwood and Elm; and to a proposed assisted living facility by DK Acquisitions for the old car dealership site on Greenwood between Busse and Northwest Highway.

According to an article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Townhouses planned for old Park Ridge public works land,” Feb. 10), the old public works project will hold as many as 25 townhouses in 5 separate buildings, with an average price of $425,000 per unit. Nevertheless, the H-A article reports that “a civil engineer associated with the development” said the site “will include stormwater detention…[for] more than 80 percent of the water that falls on the property.”

Does anybody actually believe that 80% figure?

And if so, under what kinds of rains? Ten-year storms? One hundred year storms? Or just your average April shower?

We can’t find anything in the voluminous printed materials for this project on the City’s website that answers those questions, or even confirms that 80-percent figure. Which is troubling, given how water retention would appear to be the single most important question for that low-elevation area where flooding is such a chronic problem. Frankly, in that area we have to question why 100% detention isn’t required.

Meanwhile, just across the tracks and also on Greenwood, the planned four-story assisted-living facility and separate retail building has been approved by P&Z even though the residential building is 12 feet taller than the City’s Zoning Code permits. That height troubled Commissioner Linda Coyle, who wondered whether the developer could lop off the top floor. But according to architect Andrew Koglin – whose firm designed the Residences & Shops of Uptown – that would reduce the number of beds to the point where the project would not be “economically viable.”

If the Code’s height requirement makes any sense at all, what justifies a 12 foot departure – more than 25% – from the reported 40-foot limit? According to the H-A article (“Plan for new assisted living facility heads to City Council,” Feb. 11), P&Z chairman Joe Baldi indicated that the location could accommodate “a building that’s a little bit tall.”

That’s the kind of subjective one-off thinking that makes development in Park Ridge an unpredictable crap-shoot. And it also makes the City more susceptible to the kind of lawsuit filed by the developer of 400 Talcott, where P&Z and the City Council over-reached the Zoning Code to achieve a popular (with the neighbors) but legally-unjustified result.

Interestingly enough, the H-A article on that assisted-living facility project mentions nothing about the project’s plans for water retention and/or run-off, so we have to wonder whether the 25%+ height departure is P&Z’s only concession.

We’re not anti-development. We also believe that a property owner has the right to use his/her property in any way the law allows – even if we would prefer more retail and commercial, or green space, over more multi-family residential and the increase in population density.

But as we’ve said before, there are good reasons why we have a Zoning Code, and one of them is predictability – for the benefit of developers, the property’s neighbors and the City’s elected, appointed and employed officials who administer it.

Arbitrary departures from Code requirements are bad policy and set bad precedent.

And in these two cases, they also may make flooding worse.

To read or post comments, click on title.

More IOMA Mockery From D-64


It’s been awhile – December 2015 – since we last looked at that bastion of non-transparency and un-accountability: the School Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.

But one of our “stringers” tipped us to the latest anti-transparency move by the D-64 leadership team of Board president Anthony Borrelli and Supt. Laurie Heinz, both of whom seem to revel in the District’s opacity even as they proclaim it crystal clear – and credit themselves as the Keepers of the Windex.

That move? The creation of two new D-64 Board committees: a “Finance Committee” and a “Building & Sites Committee.”

Both of these new committees appear to be the brain-children of Luann Kolstad, who must have been given the title of “Chief School Business Official” when she was hired to replace Rebecca Allard, whose $200,000+ salary was paid while she held the more mundane “Business Manager” title.

The creation of two new Board committees normally wouldn’t be noteworthy if not for Kolstad’s –and the Board’s – expressed intention that they operate in a decidedly non-transparent and non-accountable manner.

Need proof? Check out Kolstad’s 02.08.16 memo.

You’ll see that the purpose of these new committees is ostensibly “[t]o facilitate more streamlined Board meetings.” Translation: shorter meetings with even more pre-chewed and pre-determined decisions than usual, rendering the mandatory “public” discussion and vote more of a charade to fool the rubes.

And if you listen to Kolstad’s explanation of this concept on the 02.08.16 meeting video (from 1:08:30 to 1:45:30) you’ll hear her claim that she doesn’t want to burden all seven Board members with reviewing the District’s annual $70 million-plus budget “line by line” but, instead, would prefer committees of only two Board members so that she could “kind of walk them through it” – presumably in that stereotypical “Move along, folks, there’s nothing to see here” kind of way.

But the darkest side of Kolstad’s proposal is the reason why she wants to limit each of these committees to only two Board members: so that each of those committee’s meetings will “not [be] subject to the Open Meetings Act so we do not need to post notification of the meetings ahead of time.”

Nor, presumably, will they need to keep “public” meeting minutes and make video recordings of those meetings.

Whether Kolstad’s actions reflect outright contempt for the taxpayers’ rights to see and hear what the District is doing with all their money, or whether she is just tone-deaf to those rights, is unclear. But the fact that she brazenly put this stuff in a memo suggests that she cares not one whit about transparency and the accountability it produces.

So how did our seven elected School Board representatives react to such blatant anti-transparency and anti-accountability? Pretty much like a tiny herd of clueless sheep. And with pretty much the level of comprehension Kolstad appears to be seeking in the folks who will populate her new committees: “individuals with little experience in either [finance or facilities] are ideal candidates” – presumably because they are so much easier for Kolstad and her accomplices to bamboozle.

Paging Vickie Lee…paging Vickie Lee. Ms. Lee, please report to the Finance Committee sign-in desk for your credentials and goodie bag.

Sadly, the most intelligent questions raised about these two new committees – actually the only intelligent questions raised about these committees – came not from any Board member but from resident Joan Sandrik, starting at the 1:38:25 mark of the video.

Sandrik rightly questioned how Kolstad could claim these two-Board member committees aren’t covered by IOMA when an Illinois Attorney General opinion from 1982 clearly states that IOMA covers meetings not only of school boards but also of “any subsidiary bodies…including but not limited to committees and subcommittees” of those boards. In fact, the last page of that A.G.’s opinion expressly addresses the status of a two member committee of a seven-member board:

[T]he creation of two member committees by a seven member public body does not operate to circumvent the provisions of the Open Meetings Act since the Act applies separately to the committees.

Although A.G. opinions are not binding on Illinois courts, the Illinois Supreme Court has long held that “a well-reasoned opinion of the Attorney General is entitled to considerable weight in resolving a question of first impression in this State regarding the construction of an Illinois statute” like IOMA. City of Springfield v. Allphin, 74 Ill.2d 117 (1979).

And we’re pretty darn sure a court would give that A.G. opinion a whole lot more weight than it would give the totally-wrong-but-never-in-doubt opinion of Borrelli: “Two Board members together does not constitute a majority of a quorum…it’s quite clear that you have to have a majority of persons, a majority of a quorum of the Board…a majority of a majority” (video,, 1:39:06 to 1:39:30), an opinion on which Kolstad and Heinz happily sang back-up

To Sandrik’s credit, she wasn’t deterred by the dismissiveness of Borrelli, Kolstad and Heinz.

“I also don’t know why something as important as finance, why you wouldn’t do a committee of the whole…isn’t that important to every one of you to know where the dollars are being spent? Why would you limit the specifics to two [Board members]?”


IOMA exists to ensure transparency and accountability from public officials who prefer to hide their activities from the taxpayers, especially the boards and administrations of our two school districts who, combined, spend approximately 70% of all our property taxes. Public bodies like the D-64 Board should be embracing IOMA, not trying to run away from it or find ways around it. But transparency and accountability have never been D-64’s strong suit, despite Borrelli’s repeated insistence to the contrary.

Example: Has anybody seen the minutes of all those closed-session meetings Borrelli presided over last spring and summer, or those “outstanding” performance evaluations that purportedly justified a one-year extension of his BFF Heinz’s contract and a raise? Anybody? Bueller?

If this Borrelli-led D-64 Board truly believed in transparency and accountability, they would have told Kolstad – immediately, definitively and unanimously – “No!” as soon as she suggested that this misbegotten committee structure was intended to avoid IOMA compliance and public oversight.

But this Board doesn’t believe.

So, instead, Borrelli pontificates either cluelessly or dishonestly about IOMA’s requirements, backed up by an equally clueless or dishonest Kolstad and Heinz. And the rest of the Board provides blank looks and slack jaws.

Thankfully, some comic relief was provided by Tom Sotos, twisting like Gumby to get himself to where he can praise the new committee structure in as earnest a voice as he can muster: “In reality it’s a little more transparency.”

Sure it is, Tom.

And the Easter Bunny will be visiting you soon.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Midgets Now Stumble Where Giants Formerly Strode


It’s “Presidents’ Day,” a relatively modern (1971) holiday that merged a celebration of the birthdays of George Washington (Feb. 22) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) for the purpose of giving workers and school children more three-day weekends.

Although this day ostensibly honors all U.S. presidents, we’re traditionalists who prefer to consider it a celebration of just the two aforementioned POTUSes.

The patrician Washington is believed to have been our wealthiest president: he owned over 8,000 acres of prime Virginia farmland tended by more than 300 slaves, with an estimated net worth in today’s dollars of $525 million.

Despite his personal wealth and popularity, he did more than any of his successors to honor the Constitutional role of the office of president as he believed the drafters and ratifiers of that document intended, refusing to stretch or contract its powers to suit his personal or political purposes: “The Constitution is the guide which I will never abandon.”

Washington wisely and humbly recognized that he “walk[ed] on untrodden ground” and that “[t]here [was] scarcely any part of [his] conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent.” Accordingly, while he could have been president for life, he chose to relinquish the office after two terms – a precedent that stood until Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1940, believed his leadership to be indispensable in this country’s run-up to World War II.

Only a leader as exceptional and well-respected as Washington could have chosen for his Cabinet, and then struck the necessary balance between, two of the greatest intellects – and their competing philosophies of government – this country ever has known: Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. The result has been an enduring Constitutional republic in which Hamilton’s central government has shown itself to be strong enough to unify and protect the various states, but not so strong as to unconstitutionally infringe on the rights of each sovereign state and its people that Jefferson championed.

In contrast to the patrician Washington, Lincoln was the rough-hewn rustic whose background and appearance belied his uncommon sense and practical genius – embodied perhaps most notably in his taking of Washington’s Jefferson/Hamilton precedent one step farther and selecting some of his own political opponents as Cabinet members, a strategy that served as the focus of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s magnificent book, Team of Rivals.

Unlike Washington, Lincoln rose from some of the humblest of beginnings, moving with his family from Kentucky to Indiana and finally to Illinois as his father sought to scratch out a living for his family. That father taught him to split rails while his stepmother taught him to read, the latter skill helping him to pretty much teach himself enough law that, when combined with his well-honed intellect and home-spun folksiness, made him a formidable trial lawyer…reportedly, however, only in those cases where he believed in the righteousness of his client and his cause.

Although considered the prototypical Republican, for most of his political life Lincoln was a member of the Whig Party, one primary goal of which was to promote economic development and the upward mobility of individuals like himself. Only when the Whig Party began breaking apart following passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act that repealed the Missouri Compromise did Lincoln follow the lead of several prominent Illinois Whigs and join the new and rabidly anti-slavery Republican Party

His leadership kept the country from splitting in two, albeit at the cost of more than 600,000 American lives. His Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves. And his Whig-based support of the railroads as vital to the nation’s economic development set in motion their expansion westward.

He held to the belief that “[i]mportant principles may, and must, be inflexible.” Despite his economic-development philosophy, however, he famously stated that “Republicans are for both the man and the dollar, but in case of conflict the man before the dollar.”

So on this Presidents’ Day, contemplate the virtues and the leadership of these two giants who were, perhaps, our two greatest presidents.

Then consider the midgets currently vying for the Democrat and Republican nominations for that office, and remember Benjamin Franklin’s warning in response to a question about the form of our new government:

“A republic, if you can keep it.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

City Council Finally Says “No” To Politics Of Appeasement


It wasn’t a pretty process, and it took too darn long.

But the Park Ridge City Council finally made the right decision last Monday (Feb. 1) night in dropping the City’s appeal of Judge Kathleen Pantle’s November 2015 decision in favor of owner/developer John O’Flaherty and his 400 W. Talcott LLC’s plan to develop the eponymous parcel.

Judge Pantle’s reversed the decision of the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission to deny the developer’s site plan review application because of the size and scale of the four-story, 22-residential unit structure – even though it met the City’s then-existing Zoning Code standards for B-1 “business” property, which lacked the same kind of residential density restrictions contained in the Code’s “R” (for “Residential”) zoning classifications.

Pantle ruled that P&Z abused its discretion in denying the Code-compliant site plan.

That always sounded like the right decision to us. As we wrote in our 12.22.15 post:

“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.”

And way back on 10.22.14, our post noted how “O’Flaherty and his attorney rightly pointed out that developers buy property only after analyzing the zoning parameters, with the purchase price based on what they should be able to build there” – a “determination…based on what increasingly appears to be a vague, ambiguous and unacceptably inadequate Zoning Code” that makes development unpredictable, and therefore “unfriendly,” to business and residents alike.

But what appears to have happened here is that both the folks on P&Z and, subsequently, a four-alderman majority of the Council, let themselves get stampeded into wrong decisions in order to appease a roomful of vocal, specially-interested residents – commonly known as NIMBYs for “Not In My Back Yard” – who really didn’t seem to care one whit about the provisions of the Zoning Code or the developer’s compliance with those provisions.

That’s their right as NIMBYs. And we’re big fans of NIMBYs because they tend to shine a spotlight on issues that non-NIMBYs often overlook – as in this case, where the Talcott NIMBYs helped the City identify loopholes in the Zoning Code, at least one or two of which have since been closed.

Unfortunately, both P&Z and the Council majority seem to have let their good judgment fall prey to the desires of the NIMBYs’ special-interests.

We’ve often called that “political pandering” but perhaps a more accurate term is the “political appeasement.”  It’s an inherent danger when elected or appointed officials try to be politicians instead of statesmen, and look for the most politically expedient solution instead of figuring out what the right course of action is and then taking it – special interests, no matter how vocal, be damned.

Compounding that wrong decision by Acting Mayor Maloney and Alds. Moran, Milissis and Shubert was Milissis’ comment in December that an appeal was part of “a strategy to drag this out longer and fight it” notwithstanding that “the likelihood of us winning is slim to none” based on advice of counsel.

That invited a January 14, 2016 letter from the developer’s attorney to the City, charging that the City’s decision to appeal appeared to be “an effort to appease disgruntled residents who would like to make this process as difficult, lengthy and expensive…as possible” for the developer. That arguably opened the City up to potential liability for tens of thousands of dollars of the developer’s attorneys’ fees as a judicial sanction for bad-faith prosecution of the appeal, as well as money damages for any extraordinary costs resulting from delay caused by the appeal.

Ald. Milissis, an attorney, certainly knew better than that. So we have to assume that his vote and his comments were mistakes; and that they were the product of a misguided intention to appease those vocal opponents of this development rather than the product of any over-arching public policy tone-deafness.

Two of those vocal opponents reportedly have threatened their own legal action against the developer, but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. The likelihood of individuals spending their own money on attorneys and lawsuits tends to be inversely proportional to the frequency, intensity and volume of their beefs that “government” should do that heavy lifting for them.

Notwithstanding the mis-steps, however, the Council wised up and did what it should have done from the start: listened to the beefers, realized that the developer’s compliance with the Zoning Code made everything legal, and told the beefers “No.”

Public officials should never be human windsocks, moving reflexively in response to the winds of public sentiment – especially when that sentiment is expressed by a small-but-vocal special-interest minority. And extra-especially when that small-but-vocal minority loudly proclaims that it represents a “majority” – but doesn’t have the signed and notarized proxies to back up such grandiose proclamations.

Non-windsock public officials were basically what Madison was advocating when he explained the function of the ideal people’s representative in Federalist No. 10:

[T]o refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose.

That “public voice” was finally pronounced – correctly and by the entire Council – last Monday night. For that all Park Ridge taxpayers should be grateful.

Yes, it shouldn’t have taken that long.

Yes, it shouldn’t have taken a closed-session meeting – especially in light of the fact that the advice of both the City’s former counsel and its current counsel against prosecuting the appeal was already public knowledge.

But at least it was done before the Council wasted $5-10,000 of the taxpayers’ money on a losing appeal. And it was done before the Council risked saddling those same taxpayers with tens of thousands of additional dollars for the developer’s attorneys’ fees and delay damages the appellate court could have awarded as sanctions.

We trust this latest Council vote demonstrates that the errant majority, and the minority aldermen as well, have learned an important lesson about the dangers inherent in playing the politics of appeasement.

As Churchill once said: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last.”

No matter how noisy it might get and how sharp it says its teeth are, however, a special interest is not a crocodile.

So why treat it like one?

To read or post comments, click on title.

“A Lie Told Often Enough Becomes The Truth”


The title of today’s post is a quote from Lenin, and it seems particularly applicable to much of the rhetoric being generated about Park Ridge Library’s new “business” policy.

Actually, that policy is more a “tutor” policy than a “business” one, primarily because tutors seem to be the only people regularly fattening their wallets using the no-overhead tutoring “offices” at the Library. And now that a policy has been put in place that requires them to register and pay a $10/hour user fee, they are trying to exact revenge on the Library Board for adopting such a policy.

How? By spreading misinformation and outright lies on social media.

If information truly is “the currency of democracy” (as Jefferson stated), then misinformation and lies are the counterfeit currency.

So we’re devoting today’s post to calling out some of the folks who have lied through their teeth about the Library’s new policy, or about the Library Board, or about the owner of one particular tutoring business who appeared at two Library Board meetings to question the fairness of his competitors getting taxpayer-subsidized office space that he effectively was paying for through the RE tax portion of his office rent.

And, in the process, we’ll also rebut a few lies being told about this blog and its editor.

But first we want to explain once again our use of the word “freeloader” because more than a few delicate souls out there are suggesting they’ve been victimized, traumatized and even “bullied” by our use of that word as shorthand for people who view local government as their personal ATM, funded by OPM (“Other People’s Money”).

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “freeloader” as:

“a person [like a tutor) who is supported by or seeks support from another [like the Library, a/k/a the taxpayers] without making an adequate return [like paying a $10/hour fee].”

Merriam-Webster’s synonyms for freeloader include “bloodsucker,” “leech,” “moocher” and “sponger.” So while we chose “freeloader” as the most benign of those alternatives, we’re willing to consider one of the others – especially “leech” – if enough freeloaders request it. It should also be noted that Merriam-Webster lists “parasite” as another synonym, but we’ve reserved that for non-resident freeloaders who can’t even claim to be paying Park Ridge RE taxes to justify their freeloading.

With that out of the way we now return to our featured topic: lies and the liars who tell them.

Let’s start with Caroline Vengazo, the teacher/tutor whose claim to fame is creating the deceptive Change.Org. petition that demanded “Keep the Park Ridge Public Library a FREE Public Space for Everyone” – when what she really meant was: “Keep the Park Ridge Public Library an OVERHEAD-FREE Public OFFICE Space” for herself and her fellow tutors.

In addition to that deceptive petition issue, Vengazo also provided a write up that included the following lies:

LIE: “The single complaint that started this debate was a local businessperson who employs tutors….”

FACT: This debate was started by this editor’s questioning the for-profit tutors’ monopolizing of Library tables for hours on end – and conversing in a manner that disturbed other patrons – more than a month before Jim Giovannini of Academic Tutoring Centers first appeared before the Board.

LIE: “[Giovannini] has a buddy on the…Library Board” who pushed a tutor policy “in an act of political cronyism….”

FACT: Since Vengazo didn’t have the nerve to identify that “buddy,” we can’t say for sure whom she meant by that comment. But if she meant this editor, he has never – even to this day – communicated with Giovannini other than during the latter’s two appearances before the Library Board at its August 18, 2015 and September 8, 2015 meetings.

LIE: “[I]nformation provided by the Board lacks transparency regarding their plans as to how the funds will be utilized….”

FACT: The Board made it clear that the funds from tutor fees would go into the Library’s General Fund.

LIE: “The library will now need additional staff to police all library patrons who use this public space….”

FACT: The Library’s Director has consistently told the Board that no additional personnel will be needed to enforce the policy.

Not to be outdone when it comes to outright lying – or, in her case, maybe it’s just aggravated cluelessness with an intent to mope? – about local government matters is Kathy Panattoni Meade, headmistress of the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page and a regular on the “closed group” (i.e., members only) Park Ridge Virtual Chatterbox and the “closed group” (ditto) Park Ridge Citizens Online FB pages.

KPM’s comments demonstrate not only her embrace of Vengazo’s lie about Giovannini’s being some Board member’s “buddy” but she actually inflated that lie by branding Giovannini “a good friend of several library board members” who enacted the new policy for the purpose of “squelching [Giovannini’s] competition.”

Among the many other KPM Lies are:

* LIE: that both the City’s and Library’s legal counsel “advised against this tutoring policy”;

FACT: counsel’s advice merely suggested a need to expand the policy to all one-on-one business activities at the    Library, which the Library Board promptly did;

* LIE: that the Board “won’t even let the library buy new chairs for the meeting room”;

FACT: the new chair purchase was deferred because the Director didn’t follow the LIbrary’s procurement policy; and

* LIE: that the current Board wants “people to stop using the library so they can stop wasting ‘their tax dollars’ on a socialist institution”;

FACT: the current Board initiated a new focus on improving the Library to attract more patrons and reverse the several-year decline in customer visits, circulation and program attendance – which decline has continued notwithstanding the seeming increase in tutor use of the Library.

Those jumping on the baseless “blame Giovannini” bandwagon include Jenny Ftacek Sanderson (“everybody knows it was Academic Tutors who started this”); and Carol Simner (the Board “obviously wanted to fix things for their friend.”)

Deserving of special “lying fearmonger” recognition, however, are those who insist that this Library Board wants to actually shut-down and/or demolish the Library, including: Nichole Flynn (“this [board] seems intent on dismantling the library” because it “hates the library and it’s [sic] patrons”); Dena Lucy (“Trizna would love to see it bulldozed and a Barnes & Noble in its place”); Park Board member Cindy Grau (“This is what they want – to close the Library” because “[m]any of them aren’t patrons” or “fans”); and Joshua Nichols (Board members who voted for the policy “appear to want everyone to stop using the library so they can close it down”).

These last four fibbers apparently were so hell-bent on lying about this Board that they didn’t even care how incredible those lies sounded in the light of things like Joe Egan’s, Char Foss-Eggemann’s, Pat Lamb’s, Dean Parisi’s and this editor’s vote – in July 2014 – to repeal the prior board’s decision to close the Library on summer Sundays, a closure about which not one of the aforementioned fibbing fearmongers publicly complained.

Nor do they try to explain how shutting down the Library jibes with Egan’s, Foss-Eggemann’s and this editor’s push for the November 2014 referendum that gave the Library an extra $1 million a year for four years – while their fellow Board members at that time preferred to sit around and berate the City Council for not giving the Library that extra $1 million a year from the City’s tax levy.

Shutting down the Library also flies in the face of the current Board’s hiring of architects to come up with renovation ideas and other ways of making the Library more functional and attractive to the entire community rather than to just one or two special interests. That’s the point Trustee Mike Reardon was making when he stated, during the January 19, 2016 meeting:

“I have sworn an oath to act on the behalf of all the citizens of Park Ridge, not only the ones sitting in this room.”

That’s the same oath ALL Library Trustees have taken.

Meanwhile, the Library Board’s tutor critics have pledged their troth to their own pocketbooks, even if it means freeloading off their fellow taxpayers and telling lies to deflect attention away from their self-interest and greed.

But leave it to that self-serving socialist, Mary Wynn Ryan, to question this Board’s motives by lying about how this editor “successfully thwarted a referendum a decade ago to renovate and enlarge the library.” Were Ryan capable of telling the truth, or capable of reciting non-revisionist history, she would have admitted that the November 2002 referendum had nothing to do with any renovation or enlargement of the Library. Instead, it consisted of three questions, the principal one asking the voters whether the Library should be demolished and replaced with a $20 million-plus (not counting additional millions in debt service) new library double the size of the current one.

And to the extent that new-library plan was “thwarted,” it was not by this editor but by the VOTERS, 8,948 (60.73%) to 5,786 (39.27%). Ryan respects the voters only when they vote the way she wants them to, which might explain her revisionist history of the 2002 referendum.

Ryan was voted off the the Park Board last April, but her self-serving socialist seat has been filled by her fellow class warrior, the aforementioned Ms. Grau, who unequivocally claims this editor “was reappointed [to the Library Board in July 2014] after the commnuity asked that he not be.” That lie is disproved by the official minutes of the Mayor’s Advisory Board’s June 16, 2014 meeting, which reflect this editor’s unanimous recommendation for reappointment by then-mayor Schmidt; and by the minutes of the full City Council’s July 7, 2014 meeting reflecting the unanimous approval of that recommendation – without even ONE “community” objection.

Perhaps Ms. Grau is suffering from the same aversion to the truth that plagues Ms. Ryan. Or maybe she’s just “Feeling the Bern” from advocating for the replacement of all City officials with candidates holding “different values” who can “form an alternate vision for our community.”

From what we’ve seen and heard from Ms. Grau so far, that “alternate vision” will mean a lot more “free” stuff for the shameless freeloader contingent – which means it will need to be sold to gullible residents by even more lies.

And paid for with more OPM from that government ATM.

Robert J. Trizna


Park Ridge Public Library Trustee

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the Editor in that capacity, and not in his capacity as Library Trustee. None of these opinions should be viewed as representing those of the Library, its Board, its staff, or any other Trustees.

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