Is It Time For A Parking Deck In Uptown?


Today we’re going to give that clown car more commonly known as the Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 an undeserved break from the barbecuing they’ve earned with: (a) their deceitful and secretive closed-session deliberations about raises for D-64 administrators; and, (b)worse yet, their deceitful and brazen refusal to post the new teachers’ contract well in advance of its being voted on.

We’ll get back to them soon enough.

Today’s topic is why the City of Park Ridge needs, or at least should have, a parking deck in Uptown that can hold in excess of 100 vehicles. And why it should be built on the land currently serving as a City parking lot on Summit at Euclid.

Is parking a terrible problem in Uptown?

Not really, except for those folks who believe they are entitled to a spot within 20 feet of their destination and then whine about how bad the parking is when they don’t get one.

Nevertheless, being proactive in this situation is better than being reactive, especially where the success of our newest and older restaurants, as well as the other businesses in that area, will increasingly depend on building a larger and larger customer base by luring non-residents who will want reasonably convenient parking.

Is a parking deck optimal? No. Many people will drive around for 5 or 10 minutes looking for surface parking rather than park in a deck, much less in an underground garage.

But it’s not too difficult to conceive of a time when we really won’t have enough surface spaces to satisfy what we hope will be a growing demand. So a deck that can park at least 100 cars would be a welcome addition.

And what better place to put it than on property already off the tax rolls because it’s already owned by the City? A four-story deck at the corner of Summit and Ridge – with a three story building sitting to the west and a 5/6-story building across Euclid to the east – would not be an overwhelming presence.

How to do it?

We would prefer to see a private developer purchase the land from the City so that it goes back on the tax rolls like it was before the City acquired it about a decade ago. Let it resume generating property taxes, at the higher commercial rate, so long as a covenant is imposed on the land that requires it to be a parking deck – at least until some future City Council decides to remove that covenant in pursuit of a higher and better use.

If that doesn’t work, the City might consider incentivizing a developer to front the design and construction costs by offering a multi-year ground lease where the developer pays some nominal “rent” and perhaps shares parking revenues with the City.

The third alternative is for the City to fund, build and operate the deck. But we’ve often said that if the private sector doesn’t think something is worth investing in, it probably isn’t worth the taxpayers’ investment, either.

If there truly is a “need” for more parking in Uptown, a private developer is far more capable of determining that need and its value than a bunch of government bureaucrats. Or a bunch of elected officials who know nothing about the parking business. Or some hired-gun consultant who will produce whatever kind of analysis the bureaucrats or politicians who hired him want.

Whether this is an idea whose time has come, or not, remains to be seen.

But the best way to find out is to put that City lot on the market and see what kind of interest it draws.

Tick tock, City.

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“Boss” Borrelli And D-64 Board Says “[Blank] You” To Taxpayers On New Teachers’ Contract


Some day we hope to be able to write something positive about the Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.

Today is not that day.

For those of you who haven’t paid attention to the clown car masquerading as representative government at D-64, this past Monday night the members of the Board of Education marched out of another of their regular and customary closed-session meetings behind president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and collectively gave a giant middle finger to the District’s taxpayers.

First, the Board unanimously voted to give raises to all the administrators for whom Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz requested them. While 1% raises based on little more than an increase in the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”) are stupid and irresponsible, the reported $48,763 cost is barely a rounding error to the District’s $70 million-plus budget. By D-64’s profligate standards, that’s almost frugal.

And according to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article about that meeting (“Raises approved for 19 District 64 administrators,” August 23), it came with a refreshingly honest admission from Ms. Heinz:

“Our [administrators] don’t have a union; they don’t have tenure. They have me to advocate for them. So that is what I’m here to do today.”

We’re sure glad she cleared that up because, for those of you keeping score, we now know that the administrators have Heinz advocating for them; and the teachers have their union, the Park Ridge Education Association (“PREA”), advocating for them. Those advocates have done quite well for their constituents, judging by the high-pay-without-performance they enjoy.

We taxpayers, however, are left with the likes of “Boss” Borrelli, vice-president Scott Zimmerman, Dathan Paterno, Vicki Lee, Bob Johnson, Tom Sotos and Mark Eggemann as our “advocates.”

With apologies to both President Obama and ISIS, these school board members are the real “junior varsity.”

The H-A reports that Heinz initially wanted a 1.9% pay boost for her administrators, plus something called a “market adjustment performance bonus.” That 1.9%, however, was just for optics – a wink-and-nod number contrived in one of those weekly closed-session meetings to give the Board some faux bragging rights about how tough it was in beating that 1.9% down to 1% that might fool the rubes.

The set-up for that Kabuki occurred back on August 8 when “Who’s The Boss?” and Zimm first called for CPI-based raises – even though the national CPI had risen only 0.8% over last year and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged the Chicago area’s CPI as having actually fallen by 0.1% over the past 12 months.

If “Who’s The Boss” and Zimm were on the legit, that would have meant no CPI-based raises.

But of course they weren’t.

So when residents Steve Schildwachter and Mike Reardon challenged the Board on such raises without clearly documented performance justifications, the Board spent almost 15 minutes ripping them with a variety of self-serving, undocumented ipse dixit remarks about the Board’s and Administration’s many accomplishments – all of which you can watch on the meeting video, starting at the 1:57:00 mark and running through the 2:15:00 mark.

We might blow some holes in those Board remarks in a future post, but for now we’ll stop and shift our focus from the undercard to Monday night’s main event: Borrelli’s announcement that there’s a new 4-year contract with the PREA.

Don’t expect to hear about its terms or actually read its text anytime soon, when it might actually matter – like before the Board approves it.

According to another August 23 H-A article (“’Tentative’ contract reached for District 64 teachers, board president says”) “Who’s The Boss?” stated that the contract will not be released to the public (a/k/a, the taxpayers) until after it is approved by both the PREA and the School Board, which is expected to occur next month.

According to Borrelli, the reason for that isn’t any legal requirement but merely the District’s longstanding practice of not informing the taxpayers about teacher contracts before each such contract becomes a fait accompli.

“Who’s The Boss?” thinks the taxpayers he claims to represent can’t fully appreciate the new contract, negotiated over a seven-month period in secretive closed sessions, without first having an understanding of “all the issues involved,” “the full background of it,” and “the full gist of it” – all the insights which he, his Board and the PREA prevented the taxpayers from acquiring by holding all those negotiations in closed session.

If pressed, Borrelli will insist that those closed sessions aren’t his fault, that the requirement was put into the last contract that he voted against.

But the way to tell whether Borrelli is full of Bolognese on this point – and trying to hide the new contract’s terms so that the taxpayers can’t see what a bad deal it is before it’s approved – is whether there’s a similar closed-session negotiation requirement in this new contract that will bind and gag the future board that negotiates the next contract in 2020.

By then, Borrelli will likely have left the Board and disclaimed any ownership of the high-priced mediocrity (relative to comparable districts, not to the state average and schools in Franklin Park, Calumet City or Effingham) that he and his clown-car passengers have foisted on the District’s taxpayers and students. And by then we expect Heinz to have leveraged her entry-level superintendent position here into a better gig elsewhere, presumably closer to her Vernon Hills home.

That’s why we’re willing to bet the “Boss” one crisp new $1 bill that this latest contract contains another cone-of-silence negotiations provision, along with the same old, same old automatic annual step and lane raises that reward teachers merely for continuing to show up and take some grad courses that may or may not have any measurable effect on their job performance.

Of course, that’s just speculation because the “Boss” and his Oui-Street Board don’t even try to conceal their contempt for the intelligence and public spiritedness of their constituents – especially the more than two-thirds of Park Ridge households who pay more than two-thirds of D-64s taxes but don’t even have a kid in D-64 schools – by doing something as simple and honest as publishing the new contract NOW.

Which is why they so brazenly give us a Rahm Emanuel salute:

Rahm Emanuel's finger

Except with a full complement of middle-finger joints.

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Irresponsible Administrator Raises At D-64 Set The Table For More Teacher Raises


An article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate illustrates most of what is wrong with Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, as run by School Board president Tony “Who’s the Boss?” Borrelli, his sycophantic board members, and Supt. Laurie Heinz.

The article (“Raises for District 64 superintendent, 21 administrators to go before school board,” August 16) reports that Heinz and 21 other administrators will be given raises, including “market adjustments” for those earning less than “what competitive districts pay” – “competitive districts” allegedly being what Heinz calls the “North Cook 40” (“NC40”) and claims to consist of 40 elementary and high school districts in the north/northwest suburbs of Chicago.

We say “allegedly” because the H-A article identified only Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Kenilworth, Northbrook and Wilmette as NC40 districts.  We couldn’t find any reference to the NC40 on the D-64 website, nor could we find it through a Google search. So for all we know, the NC40 is just a figment of Heinz’s imagination.

Not surprisingly, thosse raises and “market adjustments” weren’t earned by measurably better performance either from those administrators or from the schools/students they administer. After all, this is District 64 – where they keep telling us individual performance can’t even be measured, much less rewarded.

According to the H-A article, “Boss” Borrelli justified the “market adjustments” by claiming they are “critical to keep [sic] us on par with our competitors” – without providing one iota of data about how many administrators D-64 has lost to “competitors” because of salaries over the past 5-10 years.  And that’s coming from the same guy who seems unconcerned about getting student performance and rankings “on par with our competitors.”

Board member Scott Zimmerman – who has played “Robin” to Boss Borrelli’s “Batman” every bit as eagerly as he did for John Heyde during Heyde’s “Batman” years – chipped in with the observation that tying raises to the Consumer Price Index is “fair” because, that way, “people are keeping pace with the economy.”

When The Zimmer says “people,” however, he doesn’t mean the taxpayers. He can’t be bothered to think about the many taxpayers who don’t get raises unrelated to their performance or designed to protect them from inflation. In all their years on the Board, neither Zimm nor the Boss have given a rat’s derriere about whether the taxpayers’ incomes are “fair,” or keeping pace with inflation, or leaving them able to pay the raises Heinz and finance czarina Luann Kolstad decide upon, and that the Boss and Zimm keep rubber-stamping.

The Boss’ and Zimm’s only concern is keeping D-64 employment as lucrative, unaccountable and risk-free as possible. Which is why Heinz can shamelessly get away with spouting such nonsense as: “If money were no object, the sky would be the limit in terms of what I would want to offer this group of hard-working professionals” – despite no meaningful performance results, of course.

Chalk that up to Heinz’s being able to spend Other People’s Money (“OPM”) while pawning off activity as achievement, especially her own for which she is paid substantially more than the $205,020 “base salary” which  Kolstad disingenuously slipped past a naïve reporter.

But highlighting yet more fiscal irresponsibility by D-64 management isn’t the real point of this post.

Instead we want to point out the School Board’s latest affront to transparency and accountability, as described in that H-A article. In that regard we direct your attention to the fourth paragraph of that article, which states that these raises “will first be discussed with the school board during a closed meeting” – is there any other kind that matters at D-64? – “on August 22 before a public discussion takes place.” The former clandestine event is scheduled to kick off at 6:00 p.m. with the Kabuki for public consumption starting at 7:30 p.m. after a 7:00 p.m. tour of Washington School, presumably to display the prototype of the not-really-secured vestibule that will almost certainly be added to all the other District schools in the not-too-distant future for several million dollars.

Which means the most predictable scenario is Boss Borrelli leading his lemmings out of their Star Chamber to the sound of “Hallelujahs!” for Heinz and those 21 other administrators as the prelude to the 7:30 p.m. presentment of the two resolutions first published in the Board packet for the August 8 meeting, but presumably with the blanks filled in.

That will leave any taxpayers showing up to bear witness to such folly with no practical ability to analyze the resolutions’ ink-still-wet numbers or formulate meaningful questions and complaints about them before the Board engages in that passes for “debate” and then votes to approve those resolutions. At least that’s what Monday night’s agenda is suggesting.

Ignorant and unprepared is exactly the way Borrelli and Heinz prefer their constituents, especially those constituents who might actually pose a threat to Borrelli’s and Heinz’s hegemony.

Once this administrator salary scam is signed, sealed and delivered it will be time to trot out the next scam: the brand new teachers’ contract.

Just keep an eye on the chimney of 164 South Prospect for the first sign of white smoke.

To read or post comments, click on title

“Freeloaders” Help Make D-64 Education Unsustainable For Other Taxpayers


A common adage from a bygone era – before anyone could make themselves a “victim” just by claiming to be one – was: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

How quaint.

Nowadays, however, while truth remains a legal defense to defamation (libel and slander), truth has no similar power to defend against accusations of political incorrectness – or of being “judgmental” and saying things that are “disrespectful” and “hurtful” – no matter how unreasonable the accusation, and no matter how gossamer-thin and  fragile the accuser’s professed sensibilities.

Hence the whining and faux-outrage about our referring to certain Park Ridge residents as “freeloaders” and certain non-residents as “parasites.”

For readers not up on that vernacular, we use “freeloaders” as shorthand for a description that would otherwise require the 16 words the Merriam-Webster online uses to describe such people: “a person who is supported by or seeks support from another without making an adequate return.” Merriam-Webster lists the arguably more pejorative “bloodsucker,” “leech,“ “moocher” and “sponger” as synonyms. And although it also lists “parasite” as a synonym, we reserve that for non-resident freeloaders who can’t even claim to be paying Park Ridge RE taxes to justify their freeloading.

Not surprisingly, those descriptions offend the freeloaders and the parasites – much bright light offends cockroaches.

Like the fabled emperor who didn’t take kindly to being ridiculed by an honest young lad for walking around buck nekkid after coming to expect his subjects’ foolish awe at his glorious, albeit imaginary, raimant, freeloaders don’t take kindly to being identified as serial appropriators and abusers of Other People’s Money (“OPM”), especially when it’s coming not from far-off Washington but from their neighbors.

But our calling out freeloaders and parasites is not just a gratuitous slap at them and their ilk, or a quest for economy of verbiage. Identifying them and the problems they cause goes to the sustainability and future of Park Ridge as we know it.

How can Park Ridge remain a stable and desirable upper-middle/lower-upper class community when a significant number of residents actually seem to pride themselves on consistently taking out far more in services than they put in via taxes…and then brazenly insist on even more, especially from the schools?

They want free Chromebooks. They want no fees for anything. They want low-cost hot lunches. They want free full-day kindergarten. And that’s just for starters.

As every non-comatose resident should know, Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 spends roughly $14,000 (and rising, naturally) per pupil per year, all in. As best as we can tell from available data, however, the median Park Ridge residence is worth around $365,000 and annually pays less than $9,000 in RE taxes, of which less than $3,000 goes to D-64.

Do the math.

A young family in a median-value home putting just one child through D-64 schools for a typical 9 years (K-8) will receive $126,000 – not factoring in unknown variables like increased school costs, tax increases, inflation, etc. – of “free” education during that same 9-year period. Meanwhile, during those same 9 years that family will pay a mere $27,000 in taxes to D-64.

That’s leaves a $99,000 shortfall that will take an additional 33 years of taxpaying – in addition to those 9 educational years – for that family to equalize.

Add a second kid to the mix and that family is now taking out $252,000 of “free” education while still paying only that same $27,000 in RE taxes to D-64 – pushing the shortfall up to $225,000 and pushing the payback period out to 75 years!

Which means those Park Ridge freeloaders who like to brag on Facebook and elsewhere about how they’ll be moving out of Park Ridge the moment their kids graduate – like locusts moving on after they’ve stripped the fields and consumed everything worth consuming – will NEVER come remotely close to making up any significant part of their kids’ educational cost deficit.

And, worse yet, when that family which still “owes” $99,000 or $252,000 is excess education debt sells its Park Ridge home, it likely will be to another young family that will run up its own comparable deficits before similarly moving on. Leaving those massive debts to be covered entirely by OPM.

Which will drive up the cost for everyone NOT receiving $14,000 – or $28,000 or $42,000 – of “free” education for their $3-4-5,000 of RE taxes paid to D-64. And that will make Park Ridge economically undesirable, if not outright hostile, to all those folks providing the OPM.

Anticipating the carping this post will inspire, we wish to make clear that we share the view of author John Green that the benefit of paying taxes for public schools without actually having kids in them is that it reduces the likelihood of living with a bunch of stupid people. That doesn’t require or justify, however, paying top-shelf prices for a second-shelf product.

Keep that in mind as our overmatched D-64 School Board continues to scheme, in secretive closed session “negotiations,” with the PREA about how to put more tax money in the teachers’ pockets while demanding no more (and no better quality) work that raises the educational rankings to the levels of the Glenviews, Northbrooks and similar higher-end communities who are able to offer better-ranked schools and greater educational value at a similar cost to Park Ridge.

And then ask yourself, your friends and your neighbors this simple question:

How can this madcap tax, borrow and spend carousel that is almost totally dependent on OPM be sustainable?

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Is Teaching In D-64 Schools The Best Job In Park Ridge?


As we await the white smoke from the chimney of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 HQ signaling a new contract between the District and the teachers’ union known as the Park Ridge Education Association (“PREA”), we’ve been trying to keep our finger on the pulse of any public discussions about teachers’ pay and benefits since the contract negotiations are being conducted in secret.

So when we heard that the “Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group” Facebook page had a July 19 post about the same Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article we wrote about in our July 26 post, we had to check it out. And what we found was a plea of “Please don’t screw over our teachers. Please don’t screw over our teachers.”

We printed off the entire discussion as of July 30 at 5:20 p.m., all 18 pages of it, which you can read by clicking here. We encourage you to do so, if only to better understand the entitlement mentality that encourages soaring school costs and property taxes while ignoring stagnant-to-sliding performance.

The author of that FB post is someone who, judging from her many posts and comments, views moving to Park Ridge (in her case, from Chicago where her husband reportedly is a CPS teacher) and paying property taxes (reportedly among the lowest in Park Ridge) as entitling her and her family to every conceivable government service and facility…at no additional charge, of course.

Think of it as a kind of Willy Wonka golden ticket, or an all-inclusive Caribbean cruise (“Keep that cracked crab and champagne coming!”)

Despite authoring that FB post and contributing 30 or so comments to its string, however, she never articulates what exactly she means to not “screw over” the teachers. So we did some research and made a discovery that rivals the little boy’s observation about the emperor’s new clothes: were the D-64 Board to suddenly grow a collective spine and draw the line on sweetening the teachers’ employment terms by keeping in place the exact same terms of the current contract for another four years, teaching in D-64 schools would still be one of the best – if not THE best – jobs in all of Park Ridge.

How can that be? Let us count the ways.

1. This past school year D-64 teachers were required to work just 185 days out of a possible 260 work days (52 weeks x 5 days). That’s only 37 work weeks, leaving those teachers with 15 weeks of holidays and vacation. In almost every other occupation, that would be considered “part-time.”

2. Those work days can be cut back even further by paid sick and personal days: 10 sick and 3 personal per year for teachers with 1-2 years seniority; 12 sick and 3 personal during years 3-4; and 15 sick and 3 personal thereafter. So a fifth year teacher could get away with working only 167 days, giving them a whopping 18.5 weeks of holidays/vacation. Now that’s really “part time.”

3. According to the 2015-16 salary schedule for that 185 day/37-week maximum work year, salaries started at $48,582 for a rookie with only a BA degree. A 5th-year teacher with just a BA received $55,844. And a teacher with 20 years of service and just a BA got $81,526. For employees in the real world who are lucky enough to get 4 weeks off, those numbers would annualize out to $63,025, $72,443 and $105,759, respectively.

4. And how about those constitutionally-guaranteed TRS pensions? Start with a minimum of 75% of the average of the teacher’s four highest consecutive annual salaries during their last 10 years of teaching. And let’s not forget the current contract’s two annual 6%/year pre-retirement “salary spikes” that can artificially jack up those pensions even higher. So retiring even at that lowly $81,526 salary after 35 years – which can occur as early as age 57 – would yield a $61,000/year pension, which is almost $20,000/year more than the maximum Social Security benefit private sector employees get only if they hold off collecting until age 70.

5. Teachers also get better health care benefits than most of their private sector counterparts, even those who don’t have to rely on Obamacare.

Those are just a few of the simple metrics that neither the PREA nor the D-64 Board want the taxpayers to focus on, or even know about. Which is why you’ve never read them in D-64 meeting minutes or in quotes by School Board president Tony “Who’s the Boss?” Borrelli, or by any other Board members, or by the D-64 administrators, in our local newspapers.

Besides those metrics, however, are a number of intangibles that contribute substantially to making D-64 teaching jobs perhaps the best jobs in town, including:

  • not having to scramble to arrange child care for all those days off school because teacher/parents have those same days off;
  • not having to worry about being fired for incompetence or lack of results, because getting fired for those reasons (“cause” in private-sector parlance) is only slightly more likely than being struck by lightning…in the bathtub while eating jalapeno poppers and drinking Diet Dr. Pepper;
  • the non-existent chance of the job being outsourced to Mexico or Malaysia, or even to Iowa or Indiana; and
  • working in a clean, well-lighted place where the most serious job-related injury may well be a paper cut that even OSHA isn’t worried about.

Assuming one wants to teach – and even if one doesn’t – how much better a deal can one get?

Of course there are PREA teachers and their apologists who whine about how tough and stressful teaching K-8 Park Ridge kids can be. But with between 15 and 18.5 weeks of holiday/vacation time each year (not including weekends), there’s plenty of time to de-stress. Heck, our Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan get less time off than that, and they’re being bombed and shot at!

Not surprisingly, those same teachers and apologists turn apoplectic when confronted with these facts – especially when they are demanding (through their PREA negotiators) even more money, benefit enhancements, and better working conditions at the taxpayers’ expense.

Who is supposed to be looking out for the taxpayers? Why, the D-64 School Board, of course. Our elected representatives who are so proud of the job they’re doing that they do as much of it as possible – including negotiating with the PREA – in those secretive closed sessions sheltered from public scrutiny.

But if you want some insight into that Board’s taxpayer-last group-think, look no further than the colloquies of Board Member Tom Sotos in that “please don’t screw over our teachers” FB string.

Sotos starts out as Mr. Politician, trying to play both sides against the middle by claiming that “whatever happens…will be in the best interest of both the teachers…and the tax payers” while giving his assurance that the outcome will be “[a] contract that shows our appreciation to our teachers, yet respects the taxpayers who pay the bills.” He even goes all Donald J. Trump on us: “I assure you that in the end we will come out of this GREAT.”

We suspect he meant “YUGE.”

But then, under some pointed questioning, he shows his true (dark blue?) colors.

When it comes to the teachers’ part-time schedule, Sotos doesn’t want to hear about it: “I don’t think it is fair to bring in months worked as an argument in teachers [sic] salaries”; and “[t]hose teachers should never be questioned about hours worked or Summer’s offer [sic]. Ever.”


According to Sotos: “Most Teachers [sic] put in their time and do their job and in the end it comes out to the equivalent of a full day/full years [sic] worth of work.”

If you believe that, Tommy Boy has some swampland in Florida you might be interested in.

And when it comes to measuring performance and demanding accountability from teachers for the results of their work, Sotos is their lap dog: “[M]erit based pay is altogether different from what I implied in my statement”; and “It’s not fair to teachers to compare them to another profession.”

There you have it, folks, from a Board member who insists he’s looking out for the taxpayers but who sought and accepted the support of the PREA after one of its preferred candidates was thrown off the April 2015 ballot.

Part-time work with full-time pay, spring break and summers off, a gold-plated pension, and no risk or accountability whatsoever.

Sleep soundly tonight, D-64 taxpayers – Sotos is standing guard outside your henhouse.

So you can’t see your chickens getting plucked inside.

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