Public Watchdog.org

Hello, 2017 – A Critical Local Election Year (Updated)

01.06.17

As we sail into 2017 with some people predicting Armageddon and others hoping for Greatness, we’ll assume – as history has tended to prove – that both will be equally wrong.

Meanwhile, back here is sleepy ol’ Park Ridge (or “Pleasantville” if you prefer) 2017 is shaping up to be an interesting year, primarily because of local elections that are already producing enough sparks to suggest that some real fireworks aren’t far behind.

The main event is the mayoral race, where Acting Mayor and 7th Ward Ald. Marty Maloney is seeking to retain the seat his fellow alderman voted him upon the death of Mayor Dave Schmidt in March 2015. His challenger is political rookie Lucas Fuksa, grabbing for the brass ring on his very first carousel ride.

Although only three aldermanic seats were scheduled for races in 2017, a fourth became so with the death of 3d Ward Ald. Bob Wilkening in August 2015, just four months into his first term of office. Of those four races, only 2d Ward Ald. Nick Milissis lacks an opponent. Milissis has indicated, however, that he will be an active participant on the campaign trail, something to which we look forward.

Amazingly enough, the 3d Ward – Park Ridge’s political land that time forgot which, in 2011, elected the first aldermanic write-in candidate in decades when no other ballot-worthy candidate stepped forward – has FOUR candidates trying to finish the last two years of Wilkening’s term: current Ald. Rick Van Roeyen, who lost to Wilkening in 2015 but was appointed by the Council to fill his seat; Wilkening’s widow, Gail, who served two terms (1997-2005) on the Park Ridge Park District Board; Vicki Lee, who spent the past four years on the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board; and Pasquale Laudando, rumored to be running as part of an unofficial Fuksa “ticket.”

Incumbent 4th Ward Ald. Roger Shubert faces Jack Barnette, seeking to return to the Council after a 30-year absence.

And in the 6th Ward, Incumbent Ald. Marc Mazzuca is being challenged – at least for the time being – by Patrick DeStefano, another rumored member of the Fuksa “ticket.” Mazzuca is challenging 22 of DeStefano’s bare-minimum 67 nominating petition signatures, however, so the disqualification of just one signature will sack DeStefano’s candidacy.

The signatures need to be verified by the Cook County Clerk’s office as belonging to duly qualified, registered and legal voters of the 6th ward, with the results of that verification scheduled to be heard by the City’s electoral board – comprised of Acting Mayor Maloney, City Clerk Betty Henneman and 4th Ward Ald. Roger Shubert – on January 9.

Meanwhile, the race for the four available Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 board seats has received the most attention to date, if only because three of the eight candidates – Gregory Bublitz, Norman Dziedzic and Michael Schaab – are married to D-64 teachers and, therefore, have potential conflicts of interest on a number of issues that could greatly limit the votes they can lawfully and/or ethically cast if elected. Other candidates include current two-term Park Ridge Park District Board member Rick Biagi; Biagi’s fellow Park Ridge Holiday Lights Committee member Alfred Sanchez; 2013 mayoral candidate Larry Ryles; Willowbrook H.S. teacher Eastman Tiu; and Monica Wojnicki.

This race has long-term importance because the successful candidates this year will be members of the Board when the next teachers contract is up for negotiation in 2020 – a fact apparently not lost on the Park Ridge Education Association, a/k/a the teachers union, who reportedly are backing (quietly, of course) the three teacher spouses and at least one other candidate (we’re betting on Tiu, or maybe Ryles) in the hope of locking-down the necessary four-seat majority of accommodating ankle-grabbers for those 2020 negotiations.

At Maine Township School District 207, incumbents Carla Owen and Jin Lee are vying with former Park Ridge Planning & Zoning Board member Aurora Austriaco, current P&Z member Linda Coyle, and recent state representative candidate Dan Gott, for the four available board seats.

And at the Park Ridge Park District, there’s a virtual jail break with incumbents Joan Bende and Jim Philips being challenged by Jennifer Barcal, Carol E. Becker, Harmony Harrington, Jim Janak, H. Robert Leach, Laurie (Pegler) Mallin and 2012 state senate candidate Jim O’Donnell for the four available seats on that seven-member board.

Meanwhile, another task confronting the City Council within the next several weeks is filling the seat of 5th Ward Ald. Dan Knight until the 2019 election. Acting Mayor Maloney has indicated that he will follow the recent practice for filling aldermanic vacancies by forming a committee of 5th Ward residents to interview prospective appointees and then recommend Knight’s successor to Maloney and the Council.

While there’s a lot more going on in local government, expect these races to (as the pundits on “Morning Joe” are fond of saying) “suck up all the oxygen in the room” for the next three months. And if that ends up being the case, it’s up to all of us taxpaying voters to pay attention and make darn sure the winners truly EARN their seats.

So here’s hoping for three months of spirited, issue-oriented campaigning.

UPDATE (01.09.17):  This morning the City of Park Ridge Electoral Board – Acting Mayor Marty Maloney, City Clerk Betty Henneman and 4th Ward Ald. Roger Shubert – ruled in favor of the challenge by 6th Ward Ald. Marc Mazzuca to candidate petition signatures of challenger Patrick DeStefano, who filed the bare minimum 67 signatures.

Mazzuca challenged a number of the petition signatures as being inconsistent with those on file with the County Clerk’s office, or of people not registered at the addresses placed on the petitions.

With this successful challenge, it appears that the only alternative for DeStefano is a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County. But because DeStefano would have to pitch a perfect game in any court case in order to stay on the ballot, it’s hard to imagine him or his backer(s) spending the money on that kind of windmill tilt.

The lesson, campers, is: If you want to run for something higher than homeroom rep to the student council, get a whole lot more nominating petition signatures than the bare minimum.

Because if you don’t, your petitions likely will be challenged and you will be thrown off the ballot.

And you’ll also end up looking like someone who wasn’t really a serious candidate. Or a mope.

To read or post comments, click on title.

21 comments so far

Could you please clarify if Mr. Biagi’s seat for the Park District is up for grabs? I can’t tell if he is running for D64 and vacating his PRPD seat; or if he is still able to serve the PRPD if he doesn’t win in the D64 race.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Biagi’s Park Board term expires in May 2017.

Beware the PREA’s seizing control of the D64 board and giving the teachers an even better situation than they have had. This is where the money is, the second biggest expense on our tax bill.

At the City level, I have heard that Fuksa is making promises to developers. That is never a good sign.

“Fuksa ticket”?

Is it true that a certain developer pulled the mayoral packet for Mr Fuksa? Is it also true that MR Fuksa does business with various developers including the one that picked up his packet to run for mayor? Is this the old drum beating of “park ridge is not friendly to business” –translation I’m a developer and I’m steaming mad because for the sake of maintaining the residential character of this city you won’t let me build a bigger than allowed by code multi unit so that I can make a greater profit? Oh boy. Why did “they” target certain wards and leave other wards alone?

Let’s hope we don’t backslide to the old back rooms deal days. People educate yourselves and vote properly!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We understand that Mr. Fuksa’s packet was pulled by Hubert Cioromski of Troy Realty, who is listed as the chairman of “Friends for Lucas Fuksa,” https://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/CDPdfViewer.aspx?FiledDocID=RbhrgFdc4ztadRfSRHWwAg%3d%3d&DocType=%2fwY5Q6gLz9EZSXGO4xdasQ%3d%3d

Cioromski reportedly is unhappy about the City’s annexation of the old VFW property purchased by one of his business entities: see, e.g., http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/park-ridge/news/ct-prh-higgins-annex-tl-0519-20160517-story.html

As to why any Fuksa “ticket” may have “target[ed] certain wards, we don’t know. Yet.

Lucas Fuksa (on the Park Ridge Homeowners FB page) says that he “never met or even spoken to Mr. DeStefano in my life but facts aren’t important.” What do you say to that?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have any reason to believe – or to disbelieve – anything Mr. Fuksa says, although his comment did cause us to slightly re-word our post language (“reported” to “rumored”).

But now that it looks like Mr. DeStefano may be knocked off the ballot because several of his petition signatures reportedly are of unregistered voters – and, let’s be frank here, what serious candidate would only collect and submit the absolute bare minimum of the required number of signatures? – there is no reason for Fuksa to admit any association with that kind of buffoonery.

Correcting the comment made above: District 64 is THE biggest line item on your property tax bills, not the second biggest. It’s not even close.

Look at your property tax bill statements over the years and see how D64’s percentage has grown. On mine they went for mid-30% range up to 42% last year.

For those of you who think math is hard: This means D64’s tax increases have been bigger than those levied by D207, the City, the Township, the County, the mosquito abatement district, etc.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Steve, without checking the 2016-17 budgets for both, it is our understanding that while D-64’s budget has grown much faster than the City’s the total operating expenses for D-64’s roughly 4,500 students was slightly less than the City’s operating expenses for its 37,000+ residents.

Destefano and fuksa wives know each other. Guess they don’t associate with their husbands when they do? But to say “never heard of him?” Seems to be a stretch -or attempt to cover something up? Hmmmm. Needs more investigating. Also appears while destefano seems to have made a rookie mistake of collecting the bare minimum signatures –he may be getting some election lawyering help–maybe following the money/lawyer trail will lead to Troy realty and/orfuksa
Troubling Chicago style politics.

My comment wasn’t about the operating budgets, it was about what taxpayers pay. Take a look, everyone, at your previous Property Tax Bills; the annual Second Installment details every taxing body. On mine:

District 64 was 41.43% of my total bill, meaning I paid them $7,073.22.

District 207 was 25.10% of my total tax bill, meaning I paid them $4,285.59.

City of Park Ridge was 11.45% of my total tax bill, meaning I paid them $1,954.44. There’s a separate line item for the Library Fund, 3.28% or $559.89, but that still doesn’t bring “the City” any closer to the school districts.

Hence my statement above, “District 64 is THE biggest line item on your property tax bills, not the second biggest. It’s not even close.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: By that measure you are correct.

And after looking at their respective budgets for 2016-17, D-64 appears to be spending $77,5 million to teach 4,500+ elementary school students while the City is spending $69.1 million to provide municipal services to 37,000+ residents.

This was suppose to be a non- partisan election for the board of education for D64. We are now making it a partisan election. Unreal.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Technically, it is still “non-partisan” because no candidate is running as a “Democrat” or “Republican” – even though it’s likely that all of those candidates are one or the other.

I hope these candidates start talking about what they stand for and what agendas they have for the offices they are seeking. These races should not be simple popularity contests, like too many have been.

District 207 budget is larger for 7,000 plus students but draws from other suburbs too since 207 includes Maine west and east A’s well as south. D64 pulls primarily park ridge some or Norwood township and small portion of niles. D64 has 6 schools in separate buildings and to effect its purpose needs 1 teacher per 20 some students plus other support staff other courses teachers etc. last time I checked the city doesn’t have such a necessity of municipal employees per resident or even per child so it is not an apples to apples conparison.

What is the Fuksa tickets’ stance on taxes? Our city portion is going down right? “We can do better” means what? They will lower it more? Kinda sounds like a “make America great again” slogan type of snake oil salesman promise.

I suppose the argument is to let developers put in higher densities at vfw property and elsewhere and it will bring our tax bill lower? These are same arguments that saddled us with uptown TIF problem and almost gave away the farm to Whole Foods –which decided to locate here despite not getting the tax break it threatened it needed to build in park ridge.

I hope people see through the bull –and also shine light on the incumbent politicians that are silently backing this ticket.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If D-64 actually “needs 1 teacher per 20 some students,” that’s around 225 teachers. And even at the ridiculous average (for 8 months of work per year) of $100,000/teacher, that’s only $22.5 million – not the $70+ million D-64 spends. And it’s more than many other districts whose academic performance is better than D-64’s.

As for “incumbent politicians…silently backing” the Fuksa “ticket,” who do you contend those are?

The District employs approximately 700 people, including teachers, support staff, administrators, and other school and department resource personnel. These employees provide a variety of instructional and support services to over 4,000 students.

Couldn’t find the number of employees that the city of park ridge employs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Then the “variety of instructional and support services” appears to be overpriced, given how poorly D-64 academic achievement compares to other upper echelon suburbs.

D64 board condidate Monica Wojnicki is posting FB comments that Rauner’s people are targeting her. Do you know what that’s about?

I have heard that Maine Twp. Republican committee woman Charlene Foss Eggemann is using MTR money to support candidates, but I don’t knoww if that’s what Wojnicki is talking about. She is a teacher at Harper College, so maybe she is a PREA recruit just spreading misinformation to deflect attention from her PREA connections?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have no idea if, or why, “Rauner’s people are targeting her.”

And we don’t know if she’s “a PREA recruit.”

You may be interested to know that just las week mr. Cioromski had yet another proposed developement shot down. This one in edison park. It was met with great resistance from……wait for it….residents. As a “friend of fuksa” with 3 known unsuccessful developement offerings, will more than likely put out hhis candidate as tne pro developement savior of park ridge that will yes, bring the well needed mullti family mixed use developement tnat will shower us with oodles of…..wait for it again…..generated tax revenue, both property and sales. Yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah yawn.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Developers, like any other business people, are looking to make the most money from the smallest investment. Nothing wrong with that. To the extent that goal conflicts with the interests of the community, however, then it’s up to City government to step in and protect the community – at least as far as the Zoning Code or other City codes permit.

The City failed, miserably, on that count with the Uptown TIF and that development. It succeeded with Whole Foods, with the adjacent Trammel Crow residential project, and with several other developments.

It isn’t a non-partisan race when candidates for both districts (64 and 207) are being to taking to hearing by Republican lawyers.

Read the article. NOT non-partisan by any means.
http://m.journal-topics.com/news/article_0194148c-d377-11e6-a5fc-8bd0f713fa09.html?mode=jqm

EDITOR’S NOTE: Under Illinois election laws a “partisan” candidate is one who has been formally nominated by a poltical party through that party’s primary election process and is running as that party’s endorsed candidate.

Local races such as these school board races, however, are “nonpartisan” and, therefore, the candidates have not formally been selected or endorsed by a party – even if they are well known Ds or Rs in all other respects; e.g., Aurora Austriaco (D), Dan Got (R) and even Journal editor/publisher Todd Wessell (D).

This is Monica Wojnicki here and yes, I was a former teacher at Harper College. I am NOT a member of the PREA; just a normal, community member who is a mom of 3 kids and wants to get involved with the board. I AM an advocate for education and have insight on educational standards. THAT IS ALL. No other motive here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The D-64 Board is already loaded with “advocate[s] for education” – instead of advocates for the taxpayers who make public education in Park Ridge possible – and look at the overpriced, under-performing school system that’s given us.

Any candidate the obtains the bare minimum amount of signatures will give you just that. The bare minimum.

When is Wojnokis hearing? I think she also had the minimum required amount of signatures.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No idea.

I think you may have discovered another PREA planted candidate in Monica Wojnicki, a self-proclaimed “mom of 3 kids” who just “wants to get involved with the board” as an “advocate for education.”

Translation: I want a seat on the board to make sure the taxpayers get milked for everything I want for my kids.

I, too, am an “advocate for education.” I want better education for our school kids than they seem to be getting. And if they don’t get that better education then I want to hold the school board, the administrators and the teachers accountable for it, not give them more money in the hopes they will do better next year, or the year after, or the year after that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you care about this community and are making a long-term commitment (i.e., a commitment to keep paying Park Ridge RE taxes long after your last kid is out of the school system) to it, you SHOULD be an “advocate for education” – while holding those responsible for providing it accountable for every single penny of our tax dollars they are spending.

But that’s not happening, and the community is suffering as people who finally become net payers intead of net users/receivers pack up and move because the taxes for education keep going up but the product is either stagnant or slipping.

How can I be part of the PREA?? I am not a teacher in park ridge!! PLUS, as the articles state, I am not teaching right now. I am home with my children.

Besides that, I care about education but I also care about where my tax money is going as well! Why wouldn’t I care?? I pay taxes as well. I believe in communicating with the community about the whereabouts of our tax money in regards to education. I want to know! Like I said, I pay taxes too!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have not said that you are, although some commentators have suggested it.

That being said, one doesn’t have to “be part of the PREA” to be a bobble-headed tool of the PREA – as the current Board members, and their predecessors, have demonstrated time and again, as recently as the latest contract negotiations.

And every Park Ridge property owner or renter pays property taxes, so that doesn’t earn you any bonus points. But as we’ve said many times before: those paying $3-4-5,000 in taxes to D-64 and getting $15,000 per child of “free” education don’t seem to care quite as much about those taxes as do those paying that same $3-4-5,000 but not receiving $15,000 per kid in return.

Assuming that you get past the ballot challenge reported in yesterday’s Herald-Advocate article, we look forward to hearing your ideas for how D-64 can improve its academic performance and competitive rankings/ratings so that it starts providing more taxpayer value for the tax dollars it already gets.

I heard Wojnicki’s off the d64 ballot. True?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We understand that Ms. Wojnicki’s petitions were challenged on 37 of the 52 signatures she filed; that she failed to attend the signature review by the Cook County authorities; and that 32 of 37 objections were upheld, leaving her with only 22 valid signatures. So that suggests her name will not be on the ballot.

Hey Gary, stop hiding behind your computer and come forward. If you had concerns about “Mrs.” Wojnicki running, maybe you should have talked to her rather than serving her.
It is clear; you know too much detail about her hearing for it not to be you.



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