Public Watchdog.org

Selection Processes Distinguish City Democracy From D-64 Oligarchy

02.24.17

If you want a simple example of just how different – how more honest, transparent and accountable – City of Park Ridge government is compared to that of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, look no farther than the way the City chose a successor to Ald. Dan Knight versus how D-64 chose a successor to Dathan Paterno.

Following the very same protocol that has been in place since, at least, the selection of Jim Allegretti as successor 4th Ward alderman to Howard Frimark when the latter was sworn in as mayor in May 2005, a committee of five community-active Fifth Ward residents – 3 women (Judy Barclay, Sue Knight and Joan Sandrik) and 2 men (Mike Reardon and Sal Raspanti) – publicly interviewed and then publicly deliberated the qualifications of 8 applicants before recommending Charles Melidosian to Acting Mayor Marty Maloney.

And Maloney’s appointment of Melidosian was publicly deliberated and debated by the entire Council – in an open session, with citizen input – on Monday, February 6, before the Council approved that appointment by a 4-2 vote.

D-64’s process?

Surprisingly, it started out okay, with public interviews of the 8 applicants for the appointment. But then, in typical Tony Borrelli-led fashion, the Board retreated into…wait for it…closed session, where the real deliberation (at D-64, that’s primarily a bunch of winks and nods) took place with no prying eyes or ears, and no pesky input from the citizenry, before the white smoke signaled the unanimous anointing of former Board member Terry Cameron as the designated chair-filler for the next 10 weeks.

Was the City’s transparent process messier than D-64’s Star Chamber? Of course!

Transparency is almost always messier than secrecy – which is why transparency is a fundamental underpinning of democracy, either direct or our representational/republican version, while secrecy is a fundamental underpinning of oligarchies and dictatorships.

Which pretty much describes the difference between the City Council and the D-64 Board.

But the messiness at City Hall was almost entirely the product of Alds. Rick Van Roeyen (3d) and Roger Shubert (4th) figuratively throwing up on their own shoes by deciding, at the 11th hour and 59th minute of the process, to object not only to the appointment of Melidosian but, also, to the entire process – after it had gone on for over two weeks with their full knowledge.

Such last-minute empty grandstanding not only was an insult to all the good-faith time and effort put in by the committee members but, also, to all the equally good-faith effort of the applicants who submitted to that process.

It was also borderline absurd, given that Van Roeyen got his current position on the Council through the same exact ward recommendation process. Either he and Shubert believed Third Ward residents were more capable of picking an interim replacement alderman than Fifth Ward residents, or their objections were of a more “political” nature. We’re going with the latter, but if they want to publicly own up to the former we’ll take their word for it.

They were initially joined by Ald. Nick Milissis (2d) before he had a welcome epiphany, if only “to show [his] intentions are not to stack the council or [make] a power grab” – and only after committee members Barclay and Sandrik personally defended the committee’s efforts, Melidosian defended his own qualifications, and Gareth Kennedy, one of the two runners-up (with Helen Fanning), spoke in favor of both the fairness of the process and the choice of Melidosian.

But no matter how bone-headed the objections to the Fifth Ward process may have been, every last second of them – in full view and hearing of the taxpayers, memorialized by video – was infinitely less insulting to the taxpayers than the D-64 Dwarfs’ secret conclave.

Unless, of course, if you’re one of those “mushrooms” who enjoys being kept in the dark and covered with manure.

You know who you are.

To read or post comments, click on title.

14 comments so far

Your point about politics possibly being involved in Van Roeyen’s and Shubert’s opposition may have hit the nail on the head. BOth of them are in contested races, and Fuksa was in the audience that night looking like he was enjoying the festivities until Milissis flipped for Melidosian.

Both RVR and RS might be dead men walking unless Fuksa has coattails they can ride on.

Did Shubert or Milissis ever raise their “concerns” when mayor Schmidt used the process? Why the change of heart now? They both have said they admired and respected mayor Schmidt way of governing. Well mayor Schmidt used this process –but now that he is gone Milissis and Shubert feel the process is flawed.

“EDITOR’S NOTE”: THey were not yet aldermen the only two times Schmidt used the process: to pick Joe Sweeney as Schmidt’s successor in the 1st Ward, and to pick Marc Mazzuca as Tom Bernick’s successor in the 2d Ward.

But they were both aldermen when the process was used to pic Van Roeyen as Bob Wilkening’s successor, and we don’t recall either ot them – or Van Roeyen – raising any issues about the process.

Now you’re busting Milissis, Van Roeyen and Shubert. They had an objection to the system. You should be praising them as standing up for something they believe in, not criticizing them for it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We would be much more open, and even supportive, if their objections were voiced BEFORE the committee was formed, applications were received, interviews held, deliberations conducted, and a recommendation made.

But for them to let all that occur and then jump in at the very last minute with some grandstanding theatrics about their concerns, and then grandly claim that four aldermen – NOT ONE OF THEM A 5TH WARD RESIDENT – would have made a better selection panel and more representative of the 5th Ward residents, is either unacceptably arrogant or unacceptably stupid.

No big shock about District 64. I didn’t even bother paying attention because we’ve seen this play out — or rather, imagined what’s played out behind closed doors — so many times it’s made me cynical.

Does it matter? Sure it does. The transparent government of the City led to a recent $1.8 million reduction in the property tax levy. The secrecy of D64 led to its share of our property tax bills going from 37% to 42% over the past few years — which means D64 has been the biggest upward-driver of your property taxes, beating out the City, Crook County, D207 and the Park District. That is the cost of secrecy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly!

But the more insidious cost of that secrecy is that while we’re paying all that money to D-64 we have yet to see OBJECTIVELY MEASURABLE EVIDENCE that the taxpayers – and the childen themselves – are getting equivalent bang for all those bucks, even as the 7 Dwarfs on the Board and the Administration keep pumping out streams of rainbow-and-unicorn propaganda about how well it’s all going.

Meanwhile, all those D-64 kids funneling into Maine South appear to have contributed to the rankings of that school plummeting to 45TH in Illinois, according to the 2016 U.S. News & World Reports rankings: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/illinois/rankings

And so it goes.

You can’t compare Maine South to those Chicago magnet schools which get to draw the best students from Chicago’s public elementary schools.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sure you can, because Park Ridge is a “magnet community” that, by its upper-middle class nature, has already refined the caliber of its schools’ student body.

It’s hard to take any of your grandstanding about transparency seriously now that your brand of ideology has risen to the White House. They wouldn’t know transparency if it but them on the behind. It’s reaching to think our local folks are any better.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome back, MWR – glad to see that YOU’RE sense of “transparency” still doesn’t extend even to merely identifying yourself. How quaint.

Since the mayoralty of Dave Schmidt commenced in 2009, the “local folks” running City government have practiced transparency at an admirable level. The folks at D-64 and D-207, on the other hand, have done the opposite. That you take shots at the City but not the School Boards – and then make retarded comparisons to the Trump Administration – confirms your own cluelessness.

02.24.17 11:02 pm: Van Roeyen was never a Mayor Schmidt guy and never will be. But Milissis and Shubert say they were, so what they did was bush league. At least Milissis thought better of it. What’s Shubert’s problem?

You are right, though, about the City’s process being better than D64’s.

Classy. And clueless. You can’t compare Maine South to selective enrollment schools because Chicago students have to test into them, along with get virtually straight As in 7th grade to get in. You can’t possibly think all PR 8th graders would get into those schools. Nice try with the alternative facts. And once again, I’m not MRW but keep up the fantasy, I guess, if it makes you happy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yeah, that must be it, genius, because Whitney Young and Northside Prep must be busting at the seams from the thousands of students able to “test in” from those Park Ridge-like Chicago ‘hoods like West Englewood, Englewood, Riverdale, Auburn Gresham, Fuller Park, Gage Park, Chicago Lawn, West Garfield Park, Grand Crossing, Chatham, New City, Woodlawn, South Shore, Burside, Washington Park, South Lawndale, West Pullman, Roseland, South Chicago, Austin and Humboldt Park – representing over 750,000 Chicago residents, or 20 Park Ridges!

And that also doesn’t explain why Maine South now trails the likes of Hersey, Evanston, Glenbrook South, Buffalo Grove, Libertyville, Rolling Meadows, St. Charles North, Glenbrook North, Grayslake, Elk Grove, York, Warren, Fremd, Lake Zurich, Cary-Grove and Wheeling. Or that its graduation rate (93%) is now 2% LESS THAN WESTINGHOUSE (95%), while its “college readiness” figure, a whopping 40.8, barely beats The House’s 39.7.

But you may be right about your not being MWR: Even she might not be as stupid and uninformed about this stuff as you seem.

I don’t know who MWR or MRW is, nor do I care. I tend to agree with PW about this whole “magnet” concept, especially when you look at all the suburban schools that have leaped over Maine South.

We have Ken Wallace managing a $150 million budget and Laurie Heinz managing a $70 million one, without one MBA or even an undergraduate degree in business between them. They’re just glorified teachers without any concept of how to manage an enterprise or hold people accountable.

For that I blame both School Boards filled with passive go-along-to-get-along members who accept everything the administrators tell them without question. That’s why we are screwed, and these declines will continue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No need to worry about that, B: MWR knows.

You’re reading it right about the incompetence of each District’s CEO, which they keep getting away with because the even more incompetent and undemanding Board members not only tolerate it but actually reward it.

Even though we’re getting rid of four of the 7 Dwarfs, they might be replaced by the husbands – Bublitz, Dziedzic and Schaab – of THREE D-64 teachers (Can you say “conflict of interest” or “appearance of impropriety”?) and one Willowbrook H.S. teacher (Tiu) who may never have seen a school expense he couldn’t get behind. So intead of addition by subtraction we could end up with stagnation. Or worse.

There seem to be more than a few “mushrooms” out there. The local Facebook pages are full of them.

I was one of the eight applicants to apply for the 5th ward alderman position and obviously I was not selected. If Marty Maloney wanted to, he could have selected the new alderman without any input from residents under state law. His decision to have a committee of residents conduct open interviews and deliberations should be applauded. This gave 5th ward residents a real voice in the process and provided those who were interested in an opportunity to attend and participate in the process. I only regret that more citizens did not take advantage of the opportunity to attend those meetings and participate in the deliberations regarding the appointment. I assume if the alderman with reservations about the process were truly interested, they could have attended the three public meetings held and voiced their concerns at that time, before a decision was made. I assume they probably feel that their time to have input was when the choice was before them for a final vote, but their input would have been much more effective if provided at the committee stage, not after the committee and the Mayor had made their selection.

So, while I was not successful in my effort to be appointed to the post, I think the process was fair, open and should be respected.

Joe Baldi

EDITOR’S NOTE: They also could have listened to the committee’s audiotaped deliberations posted on the City’s website: http://www.parkridge.us/events/video.aspx?DocumentId=120821 – which is a damned sight more than we got from the 7 Dwarfs over at D-64 re their closed-session deliberations over Cameron’s selection.

No, you are clueless about the selective enrollment schools. The city is divided into four tiers based on socioeconomic and other factors, which take into account the presumed advantages or disadvantages of one’s living situation. So a kid from Englewood has a lower threshold to meet, scoring wise, than a kid from Lincoln Park. Look up stories of fraud, where people rent apartments in lower tier neighborhoods so their kid gets a lower admittance cutoff score. And in any case, of the tens of thousands of kids who apply to those selective schools, only a couple thousand are actually admitted. That’s why they’re called, you know, selective. While all students in the MS enrollment area are admitted, regardless of socioeconomic status or other factors. There are more low income students at MS than there were years ago. But know that, it just doesn’t fit your narrative that Mane South sucks.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you, anonymous source, for more totally undocumented alternative facts. Kellyanne Conway would be proud.

We never said Maine South – or D-64 schools – suck. We’ve just said that they are overpriced under-performers because they continue to decline by inter-district comparisons even as their cost goes up. And not only is Maine South sliding further below those 11 “selective” magnet schools but it is also has now slid below 33 suburban non-magnet schools.

How do you like THAT narrative?

Allow me to disavow some of you of the assumptions you’ve made while tripping over each other to paint me and the other dissenting aldermen as subversives, plotters or imperious know-it-alls that want to replace the judgement of the 5th ward residents with ours.

The fact is that the first round of candidate interviews was scheduled at the same time as the city council meeting. So in order to attend those interviews I would have to miss council. So that avenue of getting to see the candidates and form an opinion was not an option.

Secondly, the recording of said session was not posted on the city website until the day we as the council were supposed to vote to confirm Ald. Melidosian. The staff admitted as much and said it was due to a technical issue. Ald. Melidosian was one of those interviews I could neither attend nor listen to. So I ask all of you how I could in good conscience vote on someone I know very little about and had no opportunity to listen or hear from.

The thing is that in extraordinary actions such as the appointment of an alderman to fill a two year vacancy much more attention should’ve been paid to communications, collaboration and information sharing. In reality very little if any of that happened towards the direction of the council. That is fine if the aldermen are not part of the process at all. But, for better or for worse we are and I would contend that would entitle us to better access to information and to better opportunities to attend the process and gather facts in order to make our decision. Instead, we were treated like we had to accept whatever decision was shoved in front of us and just shut up and vote yes.

I’m sorry but that’s not how we operate in other matters we vote on so I don’t see how this should be different. If I am called on to vote on someone who will have a critical vote on matters that will affect the entire City and not just the 5th ward in the next two years then I should’ve been consulted and coordinated with before during and after the process. Otherwise all I’m left with is the yes or no vote to confirm.

Which brings me to the argument I made during the confirmation. The current appointment process is and has been flawed and just because we’ve done something incorrectly in the past does not mean we should continue to repeat that error. My only mistake was that I didn’t object the first time I had to deal with it which was during the 3rd Ward vacancy. I knew it was wrong but I at least had the opportunity to attend those interviews and the person the committee picked (Ald. Van Royen) had just stood for election, participated in several Candidate forums and had made his positions known. I can not say the same about the current situation.

The bottom line is that I have a fundamental disagreement with the current process and I believe it gives too much arbitrary power to the mayor and non-elected representatives. I believe the best way to deal with it would be a combination of a committee of aldermen and citizens so as to balance all interested parties. That committee’s choice could then be confirmed by the entire council. That would account for all stakeholders and provide more legitimacy to the appointee.

I agreed to break the deadlock during this last confirmation based on the understanding that I would work with the council to change the current process and I intend to do so as soon as possible.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks for your comments, Alderman. We applaud your fortitude in making your case, and doing so in your own name. Your commments are always welcome.

Respectfully, however, if you had reservations with the selection process dating back to Ald. Van Roeyen’s appointment back in 2015, those should have been voiced at the first Council meeting after Ald. Knight’s death so that everyone was aware of them before the process even commenced.

The purpose of the Citizens Committee was to screen applicants and make a recommendation. If you couldn’t “in good conscience” vote for Mr. Melidosian when you didn’t know him and had no opportunity to listen to his interview by the Committee, does that mean you had no confidence in the recommendation of Ms. Barclay, Ms. Sandrik, Ms. Knight, Mr. Reardon and former ald. Raspanti? Does that mean you had no confidence in the judgment of Acting-Mayor Maloney who accepted their recommendation?

If so, why didn’t you demand the audiotape of that first set of interviews – including Mr. Melidosian’s – well before the day of the Council’s vote? And if you had unanswered questions for Mr. Melidosian, instead of announcing your “no” vote why didn’t you ask for an opportunity to question him right then and there, since he was present?

Hopefully you’ll bring your ideas for an alternative to the current process to the Council before it needs to be employed again. But we will leave you with our view that nobody – including the aldermen from other wards – has a superior right or interest to recommend a successor alderman than the people of that ward. This isn’t about “all stakeholders,” it’s about the residents of the affected ward.

Committee, staff, and mayoral recommendations are just that. No recommendations or selections become valid until a majority vote by the Aldermen. We should be more upset if the Aldermen simply stamped recommendations as approved. There should be the expectation of thoughtful debate on all issues presented to the city council. These people are not there to do the bidding of a select group of citizens, but to represent the best interests of all of us. When people don’t agree, a discussion must take place. It’s reasonable to be bothered by a vote not going the way you think it should go, but we should not be quick to dismiss the positions of others just because they conflict with our own. While this whole episode of city council was a surprise, it’s good that the issues were openly and transparently debated. Melidosian was accepted and everyone heard differing perspectives from the Aldermen. The thorough back and forth and a good result in the end is the sort of thing that Mayor Schmidt would have been proud of.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And the point of this post was to praise how “the issues were openly and transparently debated” by the Council, unlike the secret Star Chamber conclave Tony Borrelli and his five fellow Dwarfs empoyed to debate their selection of Cameron.



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