A Big Win For Yesterday’s Victors, An Even Bigger Win For H.I.T.A.


Eight years ago mayoral candidate Dave Schmidt sparked the flame of good government when he promised to bring H.I.T.A. – Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability – to a City administration that was bereft of those principles. He also pledged to put taxpayers first because there would be no City government without the taxes they provide.

Since then that flame has grown stronger and burned brighter, finally becoming a torch that illuminated the workings of City government through initiatives like televised meetings, the online posting of meeting materials in advance of meetings, and reducing closed sessions to the barest minimum.

Yesterday that torch was officially passed to a new generation of leaders with the election of Marty Maloney, a staunch Mayor Dave ally and an even stauncher proponent of H.I.T.A., as mayor of Park Ridge.

His election alone, by a margin of roughly 70% to 30%, would have been enough to keep Park Ridge on the H.I.T.A. path and moving forward in all other respects, especially because it was accompanied by the re-election of pro-H.I.T.A. aldermen Nick Milissis, Marc Mazzuca and Roger Shubert.

But that wasn’t the half of it.

The voters of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 made their voices heard with the election of vocal H.I.T.A. proponents Rick Biagi and Fred Sanchez to that Star Chamber Board which, by our unofficial tally, leads all units of Park Ridge local government in the number of closed sessions it holds, and in the obfuscation that comes with them. At the same time those voters just said “No!” to three candidates whose most notable – and controversial – qualification for office was that they all were married to D-64 teachers and shamelessly wanted to put themselves in the untenable position of voting on their wives’ raises and working conditions. Or recusing themselves, thereby effectively reducing the Board to the bare mininum of four members required to do business.

That was about as anti-H.I.T.A. as you could get, and the voters wisely rejected such shamelessness.

Over at the Park Ridge Park District, Harmony Harrington, Jim Janak, Rob Leach and Jim O’Donnell – although not espousing H.I.T.A. by name – advanced many of its principles in their successful campaigns to oust two decidedly non-H.I.T.A. incumbents and their two unofficial running mates.

The same can be said for successful Maine Twp. High School District 207 candidate Linda Coyle, who we understand was, ironically enough, a law school classmate of Mayor Dave’s.

All told, yesterday may have been the single greatest across-the-board good government day Park Ridge has had in decades – in no small measure because it was a victory, first and foremost, of principles instead of just personalities.

But make no mistake about it: Yesterday’s victories didn’t make everybody happy.

There are still residents, some of them very brazen and vocal, with special-interest axes to grind and a related lust for spending OPM (“Other People’s Money). These residents will continue to denigrate H.I.T.A. as a kind of code word for “conservative” (shudder) or “Republican” (double shudder) guys and gals.

That’s just sour grapes from folks who can’t accept the voters’ repudiation of the dishonest and failed tax, borrow and spend policies of local governments past and present.

So don’t be surprised if those naysayers try to demean yesterday’s results by decrying the “low turnout” – which was 28.29% for the mayoral race, down from the 34.87% of 2013. A similar decline in voters was also the case for the other races as well.

But it was the late Rev. Theodore Hesburgh who stated: “Voting is a civic sacrament.” So those who refused that sacrament deserve whatever damnation they may subsequently complain about as being visited on them by yesterday’s winners.

The H.I.T.A. revolution, while started by Schmidt and advanced by the aforementioned winners, hasn’t been the work of any one person, or even several people. Instead it has been the work of hundreds of Park Ridge citizens who initially believed that local government could be made better than it was, more cost-effective than it was, and more respectful of the taxpayers than it was. But where H.I.T.A. really gained traction was when those same people came to realize that making local government better in those aforementioned ways actually was an achievable goal.

Schmidt’s election in 2009 and his re-election by an even larger margin in 2013 proved that. So did the elections and re-elections of Alds. Maloney and Dan Knight in 2011 and 2015, respectively, as well as the election and/or re-election of Alds. Mazzuca, Moran, Milissis, Shubert and the other aldermen who served on the Council these past several years.

Now it’s time for Maloney and the rest of yesterday’s victors to emerge from the long H.I.T.A. shadow Schmidt created and start creating shadows of their own by walking their campaign talk.

And doing so in bright sunlight.

That will be most challenging for Biagi and Sanchez at D-64, where there is a longstanding anti-H.I.T.A. bias and culture, and where they likely will have to confront Board president (and closed-session aficionado) Tony “Who’s the Boss?” Borrelli and his puppetmaster, Supt. Laurie “I’m the Boss!” Heinz, right out of the gate. Whether Biagi and Sanchez can get any support from Board members Mark Eggemann and Tom Sotos – heretofore regular rubber-stampers of Borrelli’s closed-session motions and uber-secrecy about the PREA contract and Heinz’s contract extension – remains to be seen. So do the proclivities of newbies Larry Ryles and Eastman Tiu.

Over at D-207, Coyle will find herself surrounded by Board members afraid of their own shadows – and, therefore, possessed by a vampire-like fear of sunlight likely engendered by the desire to avoid any accountability for Maine South’s continuing and heretofore ignored decline in the rankings of Illinois high schools.

These local races, however, need to be viewed in the context of our state government which, over the past 40 years, seems to have grown as ethically bankrupt as it has grown financially bankrupt. That state of corruption won’t be reversed overnight.

But maybe, just maybe, the torch of good government passed last evening to these new Park Ridge leaders can also light the way for the officials of other communities to raise their games and adopt H.I.T.A. as the overarching principle of good government in their own communities – which can, in turn, start a grassroots turnaround statewide.

If so, it’s you voters who showed up yesterday to put your own imprints on local government – by means of the candidates you elected – who will deserve the credit.

Well done, voters!

To read or post comments, click on title.

20 comments so far

A great win for taxpayers like me and my neighbors, all of whom don’t mind taxes so long as they come with commensurate value to the community.

My kids have been out of our public schools for years, but I remain a fan of public education. What I can’t tolerate, however, is how the schools keep sucking up more and more money while ranking keep slipping.

As a taxpayer, higher taxes for lower-quality (perception is reality) education hurts all of our property values when sophisticated consumers compare Park Ridge to Northbrook, Glenview, Buffalo Grove, etc.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s where our school board members have their heads…in the sand, including enabling our school administrators to play “Look, there goes Elvis!” to distract the parents’ and taxpayers’ attention away from the inconvenient truth that our schools are not keeping up with the competition on performance even as they are outspending that competition.

Pub Dog, you are too humble to give yourself credit but it is more than fair to say that especially in the D-64 race you were instrumental in bringing about the results we saw on Tuesday. Your relentless focus and repeated postings on the current boards missteps, the blatant conflicts of interest of some of the candidates and the highlighting of what good government should look like brought to the broader voting public’s attention these issues and made the difference. Of course it helped immensely that we had stellar candidates such as Rick Biagi and Fred Sanchez but don’t shortchange yourself and the impact your work had.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you, Alderman, but without two outstanding candidates like Messrs. Biagi and Sanchez – who were willing to step up and take all those slings and arrows from what Tuesday’s election proved to be Park Ridge’s quasi-socialist political fringe – all of our posts about D-64’s anti-H.I.T.A. policies and practices might have been about as effective as shouting down a well.

And although there has been a dearth of mutual admiration between this blog and the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, the H-A’s Jennifer Johnson deserves kudos for “breaking” the 3 Hubbies story to that paper’s readership back on December 23 – which provided a “mainstream media” platform on which we could build our subsequent posts.

Finally, congratulations on your re-election. Or perhaps more accurately, congratulations on doing such a good job during your first term that nobody even challenged you for a second one.

Nice prognosticating, PW, you hit 9 out of 10.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks, but we’re not prognosticators – as our NCAA bracket would prove beyond reasonable doubt.

We were just recommending, but we’re glad somebody may have paid attention to those recommendations.

I am very happy with the outcome of the election but very disappointed in the number of voters that came out to vote. In general not even getting close to 50% of eligible voters is disheartening. I don’t know if it is because people don’t care, or don’t believe their vote really counts, or they are okay with the status quo, or what have you, but this downward participation rate has to plateau at some point, I hope!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We agree that turnout sucks!

But it has been DECADES since Park Ridge had anything close to a 50% turnout in a local election, in large part because as recently as 2001 and going back over a decade before that the incumbent mayor (Wietecha, and Butler before him) and most aldermanic candidates ran on the Homeowners Party ticket in uncontested races, so very few voters bothered to go to the polls.

In 2003, however, all but one of the 7 Homeowners Party aldermanic candidates had opposition; and 5 of the 6 Homeowners candidates in those contested races lost, which resulted in the disbanding of the Homeowners party. And even then there was nothing close to 50% turnout.

It is still a bit early to say, but the results at D64 and the Park District have the prospect of changing the whole paradigm for how those two governmental bodies will operate.

The Park District has been doing reasonably well, but it will need to do better to compete with FFC and provide even better value. On the other hand, I have to think that the D64 people are apoplectic.

H.I.T.A. rules, and it should because no sound argument can be raised against it.

Now it’s up to these new public officials to do what they said they would.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly! We’ve seen too many of them who couldn’t – or didn’t even try to – walk the walk after they talked the talk during their campaigns.

Most hope that something changes at D64. Though we’ve seen others fail (Borelli) who we thought would be taxpayer advocates.

Let’s hope this new Park Board works on adding facilities and not just offices and play rooms. Forget being “competitive” with FFC…how about new fields and courts!
What Park Ridge Park District has now is a joke. Prospect Park is a land of nothingness. Lots of money for a faulty splash pad and offices.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Indeed we have.

We understood the “competitive with FFC” comments more in the nature of “we’ve got to re-evaluate the Centennial Fitness Center in light of what FFC provides” rather than “we’ve got to undercut FFC on price” or “we’ve got to offer newer equipment than FFC.”

When you say “new fields and courts,” do you mean the renovation of the current fields and courts OR acquiring land for “new” fields and courts?

Unfortunately, careless significant spending by most recent board will handcuff the Park Board from doing anything meaningful for years to come. Biagi should have run for re-election to the Park Board and stuck around long enough to be held accountable for his actions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What exactly do you mean by “careless significant spending”?

So I read in paper that based on certain alderman complaints about not being involved in the process of choosing a replacement alderman there will be discussion to modify or do away with the method that mayor Dave endorsed which stood true to HITA. These aldermen suggesting a move away from dave’s method should be ashamed of themselves. They say that the same committee that has authority to recommend board appointments should also make alderman appointment recommendation AS OPPOSED to allowing that reccomemdation to come from VOTERS in the ward whose alderman seat needs to be filled. Outrageous. Why should an alderman from a different ward have a say so in who my replacement alderman should be? Why do they want that power anyways if not to try and stack the council in their favor? Aside from a special election where the voters of that ward get to pick the replacement –the next best alternative is to allow a committee of voters -IN THAT WARD to make the recommendation to the mayor. Dave was right in doing it that way and would be appalled at the suggestion of these shameless aldermen to try and creep their influence into another ward. Apparently they think HITA is a pick and choose application.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we wrote in our 02.24.17 post, we believe the current process for selecting replacement aldermen – managed by a committee of ward residents rather than by sitting aldermen with not connection whatsoever to the effected ward – is a good one and should be retained. And we hope that those aldermen who had a bone to pick with the process as it applied to filling Ald. Knight’s seat will re-think their concerns, because they are dead-bang wrong.

First, I am not MWR as you always insist. But have at it if you must, lol. Second, your alt right guys may have won seats on the school and park boards by following your leaders’ playbook but Mr Maloney, who may know how to play nice with you guys but remains the progressive that our country so sorely needs right now, is the real winner here, as are all of us residents. Schmidt’s stealth agenda officially ends now.

EDITOR’S NOTE: First, if you are not MWR, there’s a very easy way to prove it.

Second, “[A]lt right”? Seriously? That’s straight from the MWR playbook. And Maloney as Park Ridge’s Bernie Sanders? Yeah, right.

I hope you’re happy. Three candidates who actually understand teaching and education lost to two lawyers who know nothing about either. WHatever you did to make that possible, and all the results of it, is on you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We gladly accept full accountability for the defeat of those three candidates whose D-64 Board service may have been motivated solely by un-enlightened self interest.

A great chance to finally have some transparency at D64. Borrelli and Heinz must be conspiring with the District’s attorney to figure out ways to block Biagi and Sanchez. Good thing Rick and Fred aren’t going to be bullied.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can bet the ranch that Borelli, Heinz and the District’s attorneys are plotting away.

In response to Anon at 1:52.

First off the only true representational way to select an alderman is an election by all residents of a ward. In the situation of a vacancy we are in a less than ideal situation because someone is being appointed and not actually elected in an election open to all residents of a ward. This process is already imperfect and what we are dealing with here are the different approaches to making the best of a bad situation.

I vehemently disagree with assertions that aldermen are primarily responsible for their ward. Even though aldermen are elected by a specific ward they are part of a council charged with the well being of the entire city. I vote on all matter of issues that affect a specific ward other than my own. When I vote for a street to be resurfaced in the 5th ward I don’t look at it from a 2nd ward perspective but rather as a repair to our city’s infrastructure that needs to be carried out.

Aldermen have a representational role and responsibility to their immediate constituents when it comes to liaising with city staff on their behalf and on specific issues (challenging a water bill, an argument with a neighbor over a tree or zoning violation etc.). However, they also have a much larger and in my view more important role of legislating for the benefit of the entire city.

It is that tribalism mentality of “I know what’s best for MY ward”, and the assertion that wards have unique needs or ward specific needs that is pervasive in Park Ridge and which has led to divisions and a mentality of “not my problem” unless it’s in my backyard. That is not what a City or Municipal Corporation is meant to be.

For example, just because I might have less O’Hare noise in my ward does not mean that I do not support and vote in favor of city actions that might alleviate my Park Ridge neighbors on the south side of the city.

Comments such as those above illustrate the point that the process is flawed and that if someone is appointed (and I emphasize appointed) to make decisions that will affect the entire city, then elected aldermen should have a say.

In fact the current process already recognizes the fact that aldermen have a say. The current process (which I think is partly based on the requirements of the Illinois municipal code) states that aldermen have to confirm the selection of the mayor. No matter who the committee appointed by the mayor selects, the council still has to confirm the selection. I am not trying to take away input from residents. I am merely trying to get the aldermen involved earlier in the process where they can ask questions and participate in interviews instead of just having them vote at the tail end.

I envision a process where some aldermen are added to the interviewing committee alongside residents of the ward impacted.

So our mayor who deletes all his outgoing emails so they cannot be recovered in a FOIA request is transparent? I could just see the remarks if someone not on the suposed “HITA slate” did that. Also I know of people our mayor turned away from the 5th Ward Alderman selection committee but he claimed at a City Council meeting it was not the case. Lies are not a sign of integrity. That committee was handpicked and even admitted to asking Mayor Maloney what type of person he wanted on the council. It’s on the tape.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So we don’t know who you are, “Cat Lover,” yet we’re supposed to believe your claim that then-Acting Mayor Maloney “turned away” an equally unidentified somebody who sought appointment to the 5th Ward Ald. selection committee.

But if by “handpicked” you mean that Maloney picked them, that’s correct. And since, by law, Maloney had the right to appoint anybody he wanted, the idea that committee members might inquire as to the type of person (e.g., a H.I.T.A. adherent) Maloney might prefer is to be expected.

Finally, as for the e-mails. if the FOIA’s only concern is Maloney’s e-mails to fellow aldermen – arguably violating IOMA – the fact that his “Sent” e-mails have been deleted doesn’t prevent their capture via the “Received” files of his fellow aldermen.

So if the FOIA request had to do with communication with someone who was not an alderman how would the communication be obtained? All such communication is a matter of public record and should be maintained as such.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, “ALL such communication” is NOT “a matter of public record.”

In the case City of Champaign v. Madigan, 2013 IL App (4th) 120662, an Illinois appellate court panel established a two-part test for determining whether electronic communications of public officials, even if conducted on the officials’ personal devices, are “public records” for FOIA purposes: (1) does tbe communication relate to “public business” rather than private matters; and (2) is the communication made while the official is acting as part of a “public body, since individual officials such as aldermen cannot carry out official “public business” on their own.

The appellate court held that the electronic communication is NOT a “public record” for FOIA purposes unless it was made to a number of members of that same public body sufficient to constitute the requisite quorum for that body to actually do “public business”; or the communication was sent or received by the official during an official meeting where a presumption arises that he/she is engaged in “public business.”

Therefore, Maloney’s and every other alderman’s private-device e-mails to non-aldermen are not FOIA-ble; their private-device e-mails to less than 3 other aldermen (that would equal a quorum) are not FOIA-ble, even if they discuss City business; but their private-device e-mails during Council meetings ARE FOIA-ble, unless they clearly do not discuss matters that would implicate “public business” (e.g., “Stop for milk on your way home.”)

This is in response to Cat Lover.

I was the chairperson of the committee to interview and make a recommendation to the mayor for the fifth ward aldermanic opening. I’d like to provide some context to your comment that the committee “admitted to asking Mayor Maloney what type of person he wanted on the council.”

First, all of the candidate interviews and deliberations were held in open session according to the rules of the Illinois Open Meetings Act. Audio recordings of the proceedings were posted on the city’s website. The comments to which you are referring were made in open session and published, via the website, for everyone’s consumption. The words “admitted to” have the connotation that we were caught doing something wrong and had to confess. Quite the contrary – we are proud of the open and transparent way in which the proceedings were conducted and the result that we achieved.

Second, we held all of the interviews and deliberated for a few hours before arriving at three equally qualified candidates. Each of these people had talents and skills that distinguished him/her from the other two. There was some conversation about which of these talents/skills would serve the council best. This issue was not resolved before our meeting adjourned.

Third, prior to the next meeting, I called Acting Mayor Maloney to ask his opinion on which of these specific talents/skills would be the best fit for the current council. I did NOT ask him “what type of person he wanted on the council.” Remember, this is after we had narrowed the list to three well qualified candidates.

Fourth, in open session that was being recorded for public consumption, I stated that I had called Acting Mayor Maloney to ask his opinion on the talents/skills referenced above. (7:55 on the recording) I paraphrased his opinion, as best I could, to the other committee members. This was so that we could all have the Acting Mayor’s thoughts on which talents/skills were most needed by the council. Why should we have speculated on what we thought the council needed when we could just ask the mayor what the council needed?

I believe that this course of action led to the best decision for the city and I am proud to have been a part of it.

Alderman Milissis, respectfully, not only do I disagree with your comments above, but your comments during the cc meeting when you accused the selection committee for the 5th Ward Aldermanic seat as being “unqualified”. For the record, here are civic contributions the city of PR in addition to being a resident of the 5th Ward…BTW I would encourage you to list your contributions prior to serving as alderman to determine if you are qualified to question the qualifications of those who were on the selection committee:

1. May 2011 – Elected 4th Ward Alderman and served a two year term. While a member of the CC I was appointed by the late Mayor Schmidt with the consent of the council to Chair Public Safety, Council Liaison to the Economic Development Task Force, Council Liaison to the Police Chief’s Citizens Advisory Task Force, and last but not least as a member of the Mayor’s Advisory Board……during which time I was part of the board that interviewed and recommended you as a candidate for the Fair Housing Commission.

2. December 2009 – Interviewed with the Mayor’s Advisory Board and recommended for appointment to the P&Z Commission. Following Mayor Schmidt’s appointment and I received consent of the cc for a two year term until I was elected Alderman of the 4th Ward.

3. April 2005 – Elected to the Park Board Commissioner and served a 4 year term, during which I served as President, Vice President and Treasurer.

4. August 2003 – Applied for and was selected to serve on a Citizens Advisory Task force for the Oakton Sports Complex.

5. Coached Youth Soccer & Girls Softball, for a collective 6 years.

Lastly, when I decided to not apply for the 5th Ward Vacancy myself (due to work commitments) I offered to be part of the selection process and then acting Mayor Maloney chose to select me as a member.

I realize that sitting around the horseshoe is not easy, especially when you don’t get your way. Not trying to call you out, but encourage you to think long and hard about making statements that are not only inaccurate, but disrespectful to residents who have meaningful contributions to our community.

So ald Milissis comments make little logical sense. If his comments had merit we would elect all alderman at large rather than by specific ward boundaries. The ward voters should have the say in their aldermanic replacement and the next best alternative to a special election is input from Wars residents. Ald Sal is right the 5th ward committe was very qualified and all wards have fantastic and informed volunteers that have given years of service to our city. They should decide not an official never elected by the city voters at large. Common sense and in line with HITA.

Alderman M stated:

I vehemently disagree with assertions that aldermen are primarily responsible for their ward. Even though aldermen are elected by a specific ward they are part of a council charged with the well being of the entire city. I vote on all matter of issues that affect a specific ward other than my own. When I vote for a street to be resurfaced in the 5th ward I don’t look at it from a 2nd ward perspective but rather as a repair to our city’s infrastructure that needs to be carried out.

On Alderman M’s fb page he criticized an opponent for focusing on a development “not within the 2d ward”:

The silliness continues on local blogs where “anonymous” posters continue to sling mud at an increased pace these past few days.

Let’s do some more fact checks.

For the record, I am against future large-scale condo unit/apartment developments in our city and would vote them down if elected. They are a strain to our already taxed infrastructure and schools. My opponent has made one particular proposed development on Northwest Highway and Greenwood Avenue his top priority. The development got voted down by the Planning and Zoning Commission, as I had predicted. The developer will now appeal it to the City Council. As I have stated previously I can guarantee you that if I am elected I will vote against it because of my above stated position. My opponent simply did not like it when I pointed out at a candidate’s forum the fact that the proposed development he keeps touting as his top priority is not in the 2nd Ward. That does not mean I am for it being built or that I don’t care about it.

Let’s talk about attendance. I have attended pretty much every single council meeting and committee of the whole meeting in the past ten months. My opponent hasn’t attended a single meeting. How is he going to draft and introduce legislation? How will he perform with Roberts Rules of Order, procedures, regulations etc.? What does his persistent lack of attendance of council meetings at City Hall say about commitment or willingness to put the time and effort to learn how the City works? It’s easy to have complaints and pet projects but it is a whole other thing to know what to do about them and how to do it. Reading minutes of the meetings online is not an acceptable alternative for somebody who wants the responsibility of representing the 2nd Ward residents as their alderman during this critical time in our city’s history.

Alderman M also wrote several “we second ward citizens should not be treated as second class” pitting second ward residents against others.

Just as US congressman vote on matters impacting the entire country -they still were elected only by voters in their district and represent their district.
Is alderman M doing a trump 180 on his prior criticisms of his opponent for being concerned over a non second ward development? Maybe being alderman is “more complex than he originally thought”? Like healthcare reform? NATO? Foreign policy? Lol

Each ward has dedicated, qualified, passionate, smart and wise volunteers who are best suited to provide recommendations to the mayor to fill a vacancy in their ward. It is editing aldermen looking to insert themselves in the recommendation process is likely just a potential power play / attempted power grab and should not be allowed. Mayor Dave would be greatly dissapointed in alderman M.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “The silliness continues on local blogs where ‘anonymous’ posters continue to sling mud at an increased pace these past few days.”

So why do you post anonymously?

Although the posters and commenters on both the Citizens Online and Concerned Homeowners FB pages are identified, some of them (e.g., “JC Carlos”) appear to be aliases; and others post even goofier things in their own names (e.g., Kathy Meade) than some of our anonymous posters do here.

The “silliness” comment was a quote from alderman M’s fb page. Hard to go back and insert quotes on a mobile device. I should have waited until I got to my desk top. Sorry.

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