Will Pork Barrel Top Rain Barrel at City Hall This Coming Monday Night?


In our 04.26.2019 post we pointed out how the City Council, at its April 8 Public Works committee-of-the-whole (“COW”) meeting, decided to move forward with a $1.3 million (at least?) project to replace the Library parking lot’s “grey” asphalt surface with a “green” surface of paver stones – despite an almost total lack of data demonstrating that this is a worthwhile, cost-effective project.

The principal driving force seemed to be the a $650,000 matching grant for the “green” Library lot from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (the “MWRD”), which the Chicago Tribune called “a bastion of crony politics” with “big opportunities for corruption” as recently as in its April 22, 2019 editorial.

How did Park Ridge get that grant?

The first public mention of it was at the January 14, 2019 Public Works Committee of the Whole (“COW”) meeting, when Public Works Committee chair, Ald. John Moran (1st), announced out of the blue that he and City Staff had already obtained that $650,000 matching grant for the “green” Library lot from the MWRD.

What’s troubling about that?

Nothing at all, if you prefer your City government running on behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing like we had during the almost two decades when Ron Wietecha, Mike Marous and Howard Frimark occupied the big chair at The Horseshoe, surrounded by a bunch of rubber-stamping minions who made sweetheart deals that left the City with neglected infrastructure, depleted reserves and a falling bond rating.

But there’s plenty wrong with that if you prefer your City government conducted above-board and in the sunlight, transparent and accountable.

According to a Jan. 14, 2019 Memorandum issued by Moran (the “Moran Memo”), an opportunity for a grant from the MWRD “was brought to [his] attention a few months ago by a very engaged resident.” Who was that “very engaged resident”? Moran isn’t saying, for reasons he isn’t sharing; but we’ll accept guesses from our readers just for chips and giggles.

Moran then claims he “requested a sit down” (Yes, a “sit down” – apparently Moran channeling Tony Soprano in the back room at Satriale’s) with some un-named MWRD folks last Fall, apparently without notice to, or formal authorization by, the Council; or even any formal after-the-fact reporting to the Council about the “sit down.”

The Moran Memo goes on to state that “[o]ur staff handled the [grant] application,” also apparently without prior notice to, or formal authorization of, the Council; and apparently also without any interim status report to the Council. This is confirmed by Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim’s “Agenda Cover Memorandum” of January 14, 2019, although he puts the City’s cost for the project “in the neighborhood of $850,000-$950,000.”

The result? A $650,000 matching grant from those corrupt politicians running the MWRD.

Huzzah! Huzzah!

Except that while Moran and Zingsheim were going rogue with the MWRD on a “green” Library lot, the City reportedly was looking into MWRD grants for “green” alley paving. Will the $650,000 Library lot grant impair the City’s ability to get a “green” alleys grant? Who knows? The aldermen who green-lighted the project at the April 8 meeting don’t seem to particularly care.

But despite Moran’s and Zingsheim’s Lone Ranger and Tonto act, let’s look at what benefits the “green” Library lot could bring us.

Moran’s memo states that this project will “help us address the stormwater management challenges that our city has been wrestling with for decades.” How? By “the 200,000 gallons of water that will be absorbed and detained during a major storm event.”

Where’s Moran’s supporting documentation for such braggadocio? There isn’t any – only a nifty analogy to help sell his project: The purported 200,000 gallons of Library lot water detention is “the same as installing 4,000 rain barrels in town.”

After a quick Google search, however, we found that you can buy a 50-gallon rain barrel for $60, and a 60-gallon one for $100 (made from re-purposed olive shipping containers, for you Greenies). And that’s retail. Think Wal-Mart might give the City a deal on 4,000 of those suckers?

So if water detention is Moran’s primary goal – and if you believe that we have some Florida swampland at a bargain price – those same 200,000 gallons of rainwater could be detained with 4,000 of those 50-gallon rain barrels for a mere $240,000 instead of the City’s $650,000 contribution needed to win the matching grant from the corrupt MWRD. Or for $330,000, if we wanted to splurge on 3,330 of those 60-gallon barrels.

Or, looking at it another way: For the City’s $650,000 contribution to the “green” Library lot and a purely speculative 200,000 gallons of stormwater detention, the City could buy no less than 10,833 of those 50-gallon rain barrels, which would store…wait for it…a whopping 541,650 gallons of stormwater!

That’s why this project isn’t really about stormwater detention, or flooding. It’s about politics…which, in Crook County, means partisan Democratic politics.

Those politicians at the MWRD wouldn’t get any favorable publicity whatsoever from the City’s buying 10,833 rain barrels using its own money. And a certain local politician wouldn’t have a nice “green” paver Library lot as a prop for his next campaign.

This Library lot project is supposed to be on the agenda of this coming Monday night’s Public Works COW meeting (May 13, 2019, 7:00 p.m. at City Hall). We suspect there already may be a flurry of back-filling activity by Moran, if not Zingsheim, in advance of that meeting to prop up all the ipse dixit conclusions in the Moran Memo.

We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to hear more and/or new justifications for the City’s choosing the MWRD pork barrel over 10,000 rain barrels.

To read or post comments, click on title.

27 comments so far

According to a 1/16 Journal story the grant was approved last November, yet neither Moran nor Zingsheim didn’t report it to the Council until January 14? WTF?

Is this another one of those half-assed ideas that should have never been allowed to get started but the Council keeps alive until it becomes a done deal?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We must have missed that Journal article, but you’re right about the November approval. It also reports that Zingsheim raised concerns about the “thick blue clay” that could limit the amount of “green” lot absorption; that “there are no guarantees that water would not also travel down the ridge to the low point at the Touhy viaduct in a heavy storm”; and that Ald. Joyce (7th) “predicted the city would lose control of the project to MWRD.”

But, hey, we’re getting $650K from the corrupt MWRD. What could possibly go wrong?

Homerun PWD! The comparison to the two decades of shady deals is spot on! Looks like Johnny “let’s make a deal” Moran can’t wait to be the next PR Monty Hall and get his picture taken with the MWRD. The problem is neither can Maloney. Of greater concern should be how Moran forged an alliance with Maloney in 2017 and the two remain connected at the hip. What your post leaves out is that Maloney, not only fully supported Moran when the project was eventually brought forward on 1/14, but even snapped at Alderman Schubert for questioning (justifiably so) the lack of transparency and process for pursuing the grant and the project in general.

EDITOR’S NOTE: After watching portions of the 01.14.2019 meeting video, it appears that Moran had staff apply for the grant last summer and got the grant at the end of November. So much for transparency.

From what we say of that video, Maloney did nip at Shubert. But he also had some questions about the project that didn’t sound to us like his full support.

My guess – Moran is trying to cozy up to the Go Green folks in the hopes of winning their endorsement when he runs for Mayor.

EDITOR’S NOTE: AND the Action Ridge women. And maybe some of the Democratic money that funds those Dem MWRD board members like Cam Davis.

PW, do you know that the all-inclusive Action Ridge (“The Future is Female!” and “Pro-Choice or No Choice”) organization is co-sponsoring a program tonight with Go Green Park Ridge titled “Water: You, Park Ridge & The Planet,” and that the featured speaker is MWRD commissioner Cam Davis, the Obama Administration’s Great Lakes “Czar”?

I’ll bet Mr. Davis will have an opinion or two about the proposed green Library lot, and about how great the snow-white MWRD is to be giving Park Ridge the matching grant. I’ll also bet that Moran (or maybe a surrogate like Melissa Hulting, so it won’t look as staged) will be there as part of a Q & A in support of his Library lot project.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We did not know that, but we checked the Action Ridge website and you’re right.

We doubt Moran would pass up an opportunity to grandstand, but Hulting would be a suitable surrogate – as would Andrea Cline and Cindy Grau – all of whom showed up in support of Moran’s “green” Library lot at the January 14 COW meeting.

Corrupt partisan politics comes to Park Ridge. Now we’re conspiring with the MWRD politicians for a project that makes no sense.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Illinois politicians, whether Red or Blue, are all the same. They have run Illinois, Crook County and Chicago into the ground, and now we’ve got local ones who conceal and manipulate information with the assistance of City staff. Sad.

Many years ago, before moving to Park Ridge, I bought several lots of raw land in Barrington with the intent of building a mix of spec and custom homes on them. Because of all the blue clay out there I needed to do perk tests to determine if the land could accept septic systems, as there was no sewage system servicing that area. The clay prevented the water from dispersing into the subsoil. It cost me over $40,000 per lot to excavate enough clay, and add enough gravel and sand, to make it work (and that was in the late 1980s). The City shouldn’t spend another second or another dime on this project without doing perk tests throughout the library lot to determine how much clay there might be, because those costs could explode.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor has represented clients in some very expensive litigation over the years because of percolation/septic issues.

Ironically, at the 1:41:20 mark of the 01.14.2019 COW meeting video, Andrea Cline aggressively challenged Zinghsheim’s concerns that there may be a lot of blue clay under the Library lot. Even more ironically, even as her model for a properly-functioning “green” lot was the Morton Arboretum…which she admitted had to install 4 feet of gravel under its pavers to hold all the stormwater.

So when Moran et al. call this a “green” solution, they probably should be asked whether they mean environmentally “green” or expensively “green.”

Just a reminder that the Mayor apparently completely buys in to this “green” solution. He has pushed it just as hard only in a different place. He has demanded that this be the solution for alleys. Also, Maloney has ample opportunity to comment during all the COW meetings (bully pulpit so to speak). I do not recall any comments from him that are even close to what you all are saying. He threatened a veto on Charlies alley proposal. He did nothing of the sort here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mayor has supported a pilot program of “green” alleys, which is what he described in his 04.28.19 1:30 pm comment to our 04.26.2019 post. We don’t see how that jibes with Moran’s Library lot boondoggle.

Anybody hear how the MWRD presentation to Action Ridge and Go Green went?

First the Mayor did not just support a pilot. It was his proposal. Charlie made a proposal and the Mayor basically said “I will veto his now here is mine”. So as you all hammer this green idea it is clearly an idea that the Mayor supports. As an aside you also hammer the 650K. Well the amount budgeted for the pilot is 800K.

Second, you and those who comment go on about pork barrel and insider deals. Well the Mayor has the bully pulpit. He has been at every meeting where this was brought up. So if all these accusation that are being made have merit why has the Mayor said nothing. It is so obvious to all of you and yet the Mayor says nothing? How does that fit HITA?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original plan was for “green” paving for currently unpaved alleys. As we understand it, that was a plan discussed and approved by the Council. The “green” Library lot was not.

As to how the Mayor’s comments and conduct about the “green” Library lot comport with H.I.T.A., frankly they don’t. And the longer he let’s Moran run the show with this Library lot project, the more he demonstrates that H.I.T.A. doesn’t matter.

Dog, stop with the alibis for the mayor. You say he wants to pilot green alleys, but he has done nothing to promote that pilot and everything to excuse and support Moran’s and Zingsheim’s library lot since Moran announced in January, six months after they applied for the grant without informing the council and two months after they actually got it without informing the council.

At that January COW Maloney ripped into Shubert for saying that Zingsheim should have come to the council for approval of the grant application, arguing that the city’s policy is to let staff apply for whatever grants they want. If there is such a policy, it’s a stupid one because it’s the inmates running the asylum (one of your phrases). And what policy says that Moran, as public works chair, gets to direct staff to do his bidding?

This stinks, Dog, and that starts at the head.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are aware of no written “policy” that authorizes staff, or even individual aldermen, to run off willy nilly and apply for grants or negotiate deals with other agencies; and if there is one, it’s a stupid policy that encourages tail-wagging-the-dog government.

But hey, if they can pound a few more nails into the coffin lid, they can bury H.I.T.A. and go back to the bad old days of superficial, cult-of-personality politics and government.

Not to quibble, but I was at the meeting. Charlie is the one who bright the “original”, or first iteration of a plan to the floor. His was to re start the prior paving program for PR alleys. He in no way specified green only. It was very clear that while he was all for a green solution he was also for plain old “gray” paving. It was the Mayor who brought up his veto power and his own plan (over riding Charlies). That was what they voted on. As to the second part of your answer, I appreciate your candor. I am just sorry that it took so long and my goading for you to say it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Goad away…we can take it!

This is looking more and more like a done deal, even though the City has no credible data on exactly how much stormwater a “green” Library lot would actually detain and for how long. THAT figure should be the first order of business, and that will require soil borings and perk tests to determine clay content and permeability.

I agree they are all blabbing away with zero information. They have no idea about clay and soil information, not just for the library but the alleys as well. Beyond that, there is not credible data that would indicate that non green paving of an alley contributes to basement flooding and if so how much. The labor day storm cased flooding of basements that had never experienced it before and it had nothing to do with alley paving. Meanwhile there are still huge puddles across 5 or 6 places up and down my alley.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When the City was doing “grey” alley paving, each paved alley included a relief sewer to hold stormwater. Although some questioned whether the relief sewers should have had greater capacity, even the “grey” solution included detention.

I agree. If that is what was done in the prior plan that is what would have been done with Charlies first plan that was brought to the floor. The Mayor said no dice and he would veto alley paving unless it was the “green” solution.

EDITOR’S NOTE”: The reason for the “green” alleys was that the MWRD supposedly had grant money for them but not “grey” alleys. The concept was sound but the execution…not so much.

Your last comment confuses me. The reason for “green” was MWRD supposedly had grant money? That is not accurate based on my recollection of the meeting. Possible grant money was mentioned but it was never a foregone conclusion and almost like “we can try and get it”. The reason for green, by far the primary reason and the reason the Mayor mentioned veto, was his strong concern that grey paving would cause the water that is now standing in alleys and yards to flow into our already overtaxed system and cause more (additional) basement flooding. That is why he said he would only support green.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please provide a reference to a particular meeting’s minutes or a specific time signature on a meeting video. Otherwise, we aren’t buying it.

Read Alley paving Proposal – Mayor Maloney. It is very clear. He expresses his concern about additional water in the system twice. It is mentioned again under Charlie’s proposal. There is no mention of grants under his proposal.

There is no reason for me to make this up.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not suggesting you are, but we also don’t have the time or the inclination to chase down every lead.

But, yes, there IS a mention of “grants” under the Mayor’s proposal:

“Having two alleys fully funded in our budget would enable us to begin the process of polling residents in the impacted areas and then if there was support for the work, to pursue grant funding where available. Were grants to be obtained, we might be able to do more than two alleys in the next budget, but at a minimum we could do two.” [Emphasis added.]

Copied directly from minutes. No mention of grants.

“Mayor Maloney stated he would only support “green” alleys. My fear is a gray solution will just cause
flooding issues else wear such as residents basements”.

“The program if instituted should provide a solution that does not increase the
likelihood of basement backup by placing more water into the sewer system at a rate the system cannot
handle. Therefore I propose we ONLY pursue what will furthermore be referred to as “Green Alley

EDITOR’S NOTE: See Editor’s Note to your previous comment.

You can watch the video yourself. It is the Budget Workshop meeting 3/20. The Mayor makes his point starting at about 1:03. There were about 50 affected residents in attendance. It is clear his main reason was potential for causing new flooding. No mention of grants. I am not sure any of this even matters but I do like accuracy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So do we, which is why we just checked the video and heard the Mayor mention grants at approx. the 1:10:50 mark.

I cannot speak to whether Moran did anything “wrong”, and you cite no council rule or statute that he violated.

Likewise, while the Tribune hurled insults at the MWRD, it’s noteworthy they didn’t actually mention any cases of corruption or cronyism there. I agree there is the potential for cronyism, as there is any any large organization. But since the editorial you linked is about the MWRD getting an inspector general, seems like things are probably headed in the right direction over there.

As for the gist of your analysis, a few points:

1) it’s not either rain barrels or green parking lots. Anyone familiar with storm water issues knows we need both.

2) the lot may hold 4000 rain barrels worth of water, but your cost comparison does not. The green lot is projected to last 50 years. I don’t think rain barrels last more than 10. Probably 1/4 never get connected, and half of those that are connected function at best at 80 percent capacity.

Unless you plan on hiring rain barrel cops to patrol and make sure they are all properly connected and 100 operational, you would need to buy 7,000 rain barrels every ten years, 35,000 for the life of the parking lot, factor in inflation over 50 years, plus the added cost of proper soaker hoses and overflow hoses, you are probably talking about closer to $4 million to get the equivalent water retention.

3) Within 10 years, and probably in four, all publicly funded surface parking lots in the Chicago watershed will likely be required to be green. When that happens, neither the MWRD or anyone else will have any reason to offer grants as incentives. It’s a false choice to suggest we can either build a green Parkin g lot now or do nothing. The choice is whether to do a green lot now and have MWRD pay half, or do it later and pay the whole cost.

4) I do want to know who the supplier is for these pavers, who they have given $ to, and whether that contract was competitively bid. As you mention in another post, a lot of folks talk a good game when it comes to HITA.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not sure whether Moran did anything “wrong.” But if what he did is not “wrong” then the Council needs some new policies and procedures to keep aldermen from going off Lone Ranger style, and taking Staff with them.

The history of the MWRD has been one scandal after another. And an IG that isn’t given a proper budget and staff, or who is some politician’s idiot nephew, is worthless.

1) $650K spent on the Library lot is $650K less than can be spent on “green” alleys, or on rain barrels that will hold more stormwater than the Library lot.

2) We lost faith in self-serving government “projections” and “estimates” years ago. Unless somebody will guaranty that the “green” Library lot will hold 200,000 gallons of stormwater, we’ll rely on basic math that 10,000 50-gallon rain barrels will hold 500,000 gallons of stormwater. And even at 80% efficiency, that’s 400,000 gallons, or 200,000 more than the Library lot.

We only used the rain barrel comparison because Moran did, the $100 version of which is “projected” to last “virtually a lifetime.”

3) If you’re going to predict what will be required of publicly funded parking lots “[w]ithin 10 years, and probably in four,” we’ll predict that monkeys will fly out of your keister. Now what?

4) Until the grant, the City was talking only about “green” alleys because that was a priority – as evidenced by all the residents with unpaved alleys who came to the March budget workshop asking to restore the alley paving program. But we’re guessing alleys don’t give the politicians at MWRD, or Moran, as much p.r. value, so the City will spend $650K (or more) on the Library lot instead of the paved alleys.

And NOTHING about Moran’s and Zingsheim’s Lone Ranger and Tonto act was H.I.T.A.

Your last comment confuses me. The reason for “green” was MWRD supposedly had grant money? That is not accurate based on my recollection of the meeting. Possible grant money was mentioned but it was never a foregone conclusion and almost like “we can try and get it”. The reason for green, by far the primary reason and the reason the Mayor mentioned veto, was his strong concern that grey paving would cause the water that is now standing in alleys and yards to flow into our already overtaxed system and cause more (additional) basement flooding. That is why he said he would only support green”.

How is anything I stated in my original post wrong? Based on what you have seen are you denying that the primary concern or reason discussed at that meeting by the Mayor for him supporting only the green route was concern for new or additional housed flooding? You said the reason was the grants. I said grants were discussed but they were not the primary reason given. How is any of that wrong.

This is why I hate arguing with lawyers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We apologize for confusing you.

I don’t see this specifically on the agenda for Monday night. Maybe it’s a “discussion item”-?? Or maybe I’m missing something.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t see it either. Maybe it will be on the agenda for the May 20 special meeting.

No answer. Just what I expected.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We apologized. What more do you want…a popsicle?

Free Rain Barrel Program Offered
The City of Park Ridge, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, is pleased to offer free rain barrels to our residents. In order to qualify for a free rain barrel, you must be a resident of Park Ridge and the rain barrel must be for use in Park Ridge.

Please complete the form and Waiver, original signatures are required. Return both to the Public Works Department at City Hall. The City will be placing orders the first of each month. MWRD anticipates delivery 2-4 weeks after the City places its order. Delivery will be made by MWRD’s contractor directly to your home.

Please contact the Public Works Department at 847/318-5227 with any questions.

Click here for form and waiver. Please mail forms to: City of Park Ridge, Department of Public Works, 505 Butler Place, Park Ridge, Illinois 60068

EDITOR’S NOTE: Somebody should tell Moran.

To admit that your original statement was wrong. Of course I never expected that. It’s too chilly today for popsicles. I will take you up on the offer in a few weeks when it is warmer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As there would be no reason to apologize for being right, the admission was implied from the apology. Sorry you missed it.

You won’t take us up on our popsicle offer because that would require you to come out of the “anon” closet; and we know there’s no chance of that.

I’m just getting to this post, but my guess of who was the “very engaged resident” is Andrea Cline. What do I win?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Chips and giggles, but only if you’re right. So far neither Moran nor Cline are talking. And we haven’t received a tip from any local Shallow Esophagus.

As much as I’d like to claim to be the “very engaged resident” Anonymous, twasn’t me, even though I have been singing the praises of MWRD and the CMAP LTA program (totally separate for those of you following along) for years. And while I’d like to take the time to point out all the flaws in this post and the previous one that touched on the library lot, as the Editor often says, I’m busy with my day job.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For having the gumption to sign your name, we’ve dedicated a whole post to your comment:

Do you think Moran is waiting out Milissis who just announced his departure? Milissis spoke and voted against this project. By not placing the project on the agenda until Milissis is gone, Moran would have one less vote against his pet project. It would also fit in with the anti-HITA way he has handled this whole situation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It looks like Moran already has…SURPRISE!…Mazzuca and Melidosian in hand, so he only needs one more vote. That would likely be Joyce, but that might not be a 100% lock.

But waiting until Milissis leaves eliminates the most vocal critique of this folly, which Moran would prefer.

I, uh, own a parking lot contracting company. Who, uh, do I need to talk to, uh, bid this job? I promise I ain’t nobody nobody sent.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re sure there will be public bidding for the actual paving work, although only real contractors will be permitted to bid.

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