Public Watchdog.org

The 10th Anniversary Of A New Age Of Park Ridge Government

05.04.19

Ten years ago today David Faulkner Schmidt was sworn in as Park Ridge mayor.

A month earlier he had pulled not only an upset victory over incumbent mayor Howard Frimark, but also a landslide one, 4,885 (56.44%) to 3,770 (43.56%).

How did an unmarried guy who had lived in Park Ridge only about six years, had no family members living in town, coached no kids’ sports teams, belonged to none of the local social organizations, owned no local business, and served a mere two years as 1st Ward alderman after running unopposed with Frimark’s support, win such a victory?

Unlike Frimark and the members of the Homeowners Party that had dominated City government for decades based on a cult of personality – family, friendships, memberships, business and social contacts – Schmidt based his campaign and his mayoralty on actual public policy positions, and on the principles of H.I.T.A.: Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability.

He inherited a City in terrible financial straits thanks to irresponsible borrowing and spending by Frimark and his fellow social butterflies – a bunch of “nice” guys and gals who regularly passed deficit budgets, consistently neglected infrastructure, charged residents less for water than it was costing the City to buy from Chicago, and gave hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to favored private organizations who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) raise funds on their own. Meanwhile, fund reserves had been spent down to dangerous levels and the City’s bond rating had sunk.

Yet the reality of those situations was being lost on most residents because some aldermen were clueless, others were happy to lie about such things, and the local press was adept at both.

That’s where Schmidt’s H.I.T.A. came in.

He told people the truth about the City’s situation, the bad as well as the good, because he respected us taxpayers enough to tell us the truth. And unlike your typical politicians, Schmidt admitted when he was wrong while promising not to do it again, as he did in his first – and what is believed to be the City’s very first – “State of the City” address: “I personally voted for two unbalanced budgets [as 1st Ward alderman],” Schmidt acknowledged, before promising that “I will not make the same mistake again” and vowing to veto any unbalanced budget passed by the Council.

And H.I.T.A. was the hallmark of Schmidt’s mayoralty through his re-election in April 2013, 5,614 (62.06%) to 3,432 (37.94%), until his sudden, untimely death on March 4, 2015. As we wrote in our March 10, 2015 tribute:

Can you imagine any “politician” running on such a platform?  They’d be laughed right out of the politicians’ union. But Candidate Dave was no “politician” because he didn’t suffer fools gladly, and he wouldn’t compromise principles just to make some half-baked, short-term deal that would make some special interest happy.

Since Mayor Dave’s death several local officials have invoked H.I.T.A. when it has suited their purpose, even though less than a handful of them actually have been willing to walk their H.I.T.A. talk. Ironically, the real “politicians” – an epithet to the editor of this blog – among them tend to shamelessly talk about H.I.T.A. while saying and doing the most un-H.I.T.A. things.

Which is one of the many reasons we despise “politicians.”

Whether Mayor Dave’s H.I.T.A. legacy survives remains an open question. We are seeing an increase in the number of politicians who are creatures of, and embrace, the cult of personality. They’ve already shown themselves to prefer shameless glad-handing to the hard work of grinding out solid public policy based on principle instead of expediency.

Only time will tell.

But 13.3% turnouts in hotly-contested elections – as we saw with the recent D-64 School Board election – and the number of uncontested races at D-207 and the Park Ridge Park District are not encouraging signs.

A ray of sunshine broke through the clouds ten years ago today and continued to light up the community over the next six years. Whether we stay in sunshine or slide back into darkness depends on whether the people of this community prefer day to night – and are willing to fight the darkness for the light.

To read or post comments, click on title.

3 comments so far

I was at City Hall that night. Great guy, gone too soon.

He started out strong but once he got Knight and Maloney on the council he really found his stride. Too bad Maloney’s the only one left.

Nice post. It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since Mayor Dave was sworn in.

Mayor Maloney is literally and figuratively the keeper of Mayor Dave’s HITA flame at City Hall. If he doesn’t keep that flame burning, nobody else on the Council will.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks.

Sadly, Bnonymous, we think you’re right.

ANONYMOUS ON 05.05.19 3:17 PM

And it’s looking like Maloney may be on an island, unless he just rolls over for the new majority.



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