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No-Bid Body Cam Contract: Typical Illinois Bad Gov’t, Park Ridge Style (Part 2)

01.14.19

It took us awhile, but we finally finished Part II about how the Park Ridge City Council helped Police Chief Frank Kaminski (1) make a mockery of the City’s procurement requirements by (2) authorizing a no-bid, sole-source 5-year, $282,000 purchase of Axon body cameras for our police officers.

Back in April 2018, Kaminski told the Council he was going to test only Axon body cameras despite his failure (refusal?) to follow the City’s procurement rules. And he did it in the face of a warning by Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) that “nobody said that we’re going to waive our procurement rules to do this.”

Unfortunately, Mazzuca, et al. didn’t have to say they were waiving anything, because Chief K recognizes empty warnings from toothless wannabe-politicians when he hears them.

So when this body cam issue finally came up for a Council vote at the November 26, 2018 Finance & Budget COW meeting, the discussion that evening – running from the 2:57:34 through the 4:04:50 mark of that COW meeting video (including a 45-minute sales pitch from 3:05:15 to 3:50:35 from Axon’s Vince Valentine) – bounced between stupid, ridiculous and infuriating.

You can watch the entire video if you want, but we don’t advise it: We already have and it’s not worth the time. But if you want a few of the lowlights, try these:

  Ald. Marty Joyce (7th) endorsing Axon body cams (starting at 3:35:22) because Crook County and the City of Chicago both use them. Apparently the pervasive incompetence, wastefulness and corruption of those two cesspools of government is lost on Joyce: Otherwise, the fact that Axon was the body cam of choice for Toni Taxwinkle and The Rahmfather should have been reason enough to put the brakes on this sole-source deal.

  Ald. Charlie Melidosian (5th) claiming (from 3:50:40 to 3:54:36) that “[his] world is H.I.T.A.” (the acronym, originated by the late Mayor Dave Schmidt, for “Honesty,” “Integrity,” “Transparency” and “Accountability”) before endorsing Chief K’s choice of Axon body cams as “defendable” (How’s that for a ringing endorsement!) despite a procurement process that was anything but “H.I.T.A.”

*   Ald. John Moran (1st), who may have suffered whiplash (starting at 3:59:20) from voting against the sole-source procurement (while mumbling about needing “more information”) and then almost immediately flipping his vote in favor of Axon because he didn’t want to be seen as being against body cams.

But that night’s poster child for bad government was Mazzuca, who was able to fuse tediousness, whininess and spinelessness into a seamless ball of fecklessness.

It was in our 05.08.2013 post that we first described Mazzuca as “the kind of guy who, armed with an MBA from the University of Chicago, can spend an hour drilling down into a potato chip.” While that can sometimes be useful in obtaining information, all too often Mazzuca’s chip drilling has produced little but a worthless pile of crumbs, as it did back in 2013 when he drilled himself silly before (Surprise!) rolling over for Chief K’s cop shop renovations.

The past was prologue on November 26, as Mazzuca badgered both Axon’s spinmeister and Chief K with more observations, comments and questions than the rest of the Council combined – which he followed with a litany of time-wasting gripes (starting at 3:54:40) about the history and inadequacies of Chief K’s procurement process.

But when it came down to actually having to vote on the Chief’s body cam sole-sourcing, Mazzuca grabbed his ankles and announced that he would vote “reluctantly…and I cannot emphasize ‘reluctantly’ enough” to approve the sole-source deal, before finishing with gratuitous shots at the Chief for “sloppy execution,” “foot dragging” and “excuses.”

That’s what’s called (borrowing a famous headline from the Boston Globe about a Jimmy Carter speech): “Mush from the wimp.”

Interestingly, even such mush was enough to provoke the ire of Chief K, who seems unwilling and/or incapable of tolerating anything but praise of himself and his department. So the Chief went after Mazzuca in a high-dudgeon defense of his integrity (starting at 3:57:59) before daring the Council to “fire [him] today!”

Dramatic, yes, but about as meaningless as the mush that provoked it: Only City Manager Joe Gilmore can fire the Chief. And for reasons known only to Joe Gilmore, he consistently provided alibis for the Chief’s eight-month trampling of the procurement rules.

Once the Council cast its unanimous 7-0 vote on November 26, the second vote required for final approval of the Axon contract, scheduled for the December 3, 2018 Council meeting, appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

On December 3rd, however, Mazzuca sprung a motion to defer the vote until the Council could review the Axon contract that the Chief failed (refused?) to deliver to the aldermen until minutes before that night’s meeting. Moran seconded that motion but, not surprisingly, it lost by a 3 (Yes: Mazzuca, Moran and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie. And despite some additional mealy-mouthed complaints from Mazzuca and Moran, they dutifully grabbed their ankles and voted to pass the unread Axon sole-source contract by 6-0.

Fortunately, this episode of bad government lasted only ½ hour, from the 1:17:59 to the 1:49:35 mark of the December 3 meeting video.

But the no-bid, sole-source procurement charade turned into a cynical political travesty at the December 17 Council meeting (from 13:20 to 36:50 of that meeting video) when Moran made a half-hearted motion (“I don’t even expect it to [pass].”) for reconsideration of the Council’s December 3rd unanimous approval of the Axon contract.

Why did he make a motion that he did not expect would pass?

Moran claimed that he had done “some research” since the December 3rd vote (Nothing like an elected official waiting until after the deal is fully cooked before finally doing his job.). And in response to what seemed like an orchestrated “tell me more, tell me more” inquiry from Mazzuca (at 18:48), Moran noted that Kaminski never produced what he described as a “Department of Justice report” about the Elgin body cam vetting process and the wonders of Axon that he supposedly relied on in deciding to sole-source from Axon.

Moran also suggested that the information provided by Axon about purportedly unique features like 12-hour “battery life” and unique “interfacing” ability may not have been totally accurate, thorough and/or complete – notwithstanding its wholehearted endorsement by Chief K and CM Gilmore, and its previously unquestioned support by Moran and the rest of the Council.

All of those points could have, and should have, been raised during the seven months (between April 11 and November 26) that the aldermen sat on their thumbs, as could Melidosian’s abandonment (starting at the 30:05 mark of the video) of his previous support of Chief K’s “defendable” sole-source decision and his proposal for a full-blown competitive bidding process.

Predictably, this eleventh-hour gambit proved to be too little, too late – failing by another 3 (Yes: Moran, Mazzuca and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie.

As best as we can tell, Moran’s do-over motion failed because he, Mazzuca and Melidosian did absolutely no lobbying of Wilkening, Shubert, Joyce and/or Milissis to change their own misguided sole-source votes.

So why no lobbying?

We suspect it’s because the Triple Ms were more concerned about creating some plausible CYA for themselves, and not about how badly they had botched the body cam procurement. So they pulled the kind of crass political stunt we’ve come to expect from the Madiganocrats and RINOs down in Springfield, and on the Crook County Board: Having let Kaminski ignore the procurement requirements and than having grabbed their ankles on two successive Axon votes, even a failed do-over let’s them argue that they tried to correct their mistake but didn’t get the support of any of their colleagues in the Council majority.

You might want to remember this the next time any of these three invoke the name, reputation or record of Mayor Schmidt, or claim to be proponents of H.I.T.A.

Because in passing this hinky deal those three didn’t have a thimble-full of H.I.T.A., or one calcified spine, to share among themselves.

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No-Bid Body Cam Contract: Typical Illinois Bad Gov’t, Park Ridge Style (Part 1)

12.27.18

Over the past 30-40 years Illinois has gone from being one of the most prosperous states in the Union to such a socio-economic failed state that Googling “Illinois failed state” will yield pages of articles explaining just how bad off our state is, and how seemingly hopeless is its future.

Illinois did not get that way by one catastrophic event. Instead, it got there because of thousands upon thousands of individual acts of incompetence, stupidity, dishonesty and/or waste by those people – at all levels of government – whom we have elected to represent us; and by those we employ with our tax dollars to conduct those various governmental units’ day-to-day operations.

Today’s post discusses one of those individual acts of incompetent, stupid and dishonest government that recently was committed here in Park Ridge: Our own City Council’s award of a no-bid, sole-source, 5-year, $282,000 contract for police body cameras that made a mockery of both the City’s procurement ordinance, City Code Section 2-9-9, and its Council Policy Statement No. 18.

That body cam procurement process – totally dominated by Police Chief Frank Kaminski – was so screwed up that, were it an episode of “Friends,” it would be titled: “The one where the Council lets Chief K ignore the City’s procurement rules and give a no-bid, sole-source contract to his favorite vendor.”

And, yes, “Joey” and “Phoebe” would have featured roles.

The express purposes of Policy Statement No. 18 include: to “[p]rovide public confidence in City procurement processes” and to “[e]nsure that procurement activity is more accessible and visible to the public.” That Policy also contains a statement of “Procurement Ethics” emphasizing that any interaction between City officials and suppliers be “fair and transparent” so that suppliers are selected “on the basis of meeting appropriate and fair criteria.”

The principle behind such a procurement process is simple: An honest and transparent process means that taxpayers don’t have to rely on the honesty, integrity and judgement (or worry about the lack thereof) of the public official(s) doing the procurement. They can trust the process because they can see how it’s operating every step of the way.

That’s why Policy No. 18 prohibits sole source procurement for non-emergency purchases – like body cams – except under the four limited circumstances listed on page 5 of the Policy, and at subparagraph (C)(5)(c) of Code Section 2-9-9. Both of those require that “[p]rior to presenting the [sole source] request to the Finance Committee, the Department requesting the sole source procurement shall prepare a fact-based, written justification for the Finance Committee to review that addresses each applicable criteria set forth above.” In this case, that would have required the Park Ridge Police Department to identify all of the Department’s “business needs” for body cams, and then produce a “fact-based, written justification” for why only one particular source satisfies those needs.

But try as we might, we can’t find a shred of evidence that Chief K presented the Council with any list of his Department’s “business needs” for body cams, or with any “fact-based, written justification” that only his vendor of choice (Axon Enterprise, Inc.) met those needs, before the Council’s April 11, 2018 budget workshop – at which Chief K did not ask the Council’s permission to sole source with Axon but, instead, brazenly decreed the fait accompli that “we’re going with Axon” on a no-bid, sole-source basis; and that he would be “piloting” only Axon’s cameras.

Despite the significant concerns about announcing the Axon sole-sourcing expressed by Mayor Marty Maloney and Ald. John Moran (1st) at that workshop, none of the aldermen – including Moran and finance committee chair Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) – had the temerity (a/k/a, the spine) to demand that Chief K produce his list of the department’s “business needs” for body cams, or his “fact-based, written request” to do the Axon deal as a no-bid, sole-source one.

But don’t take our word for it: Watch the relevant nine minutes of the April 11, 2018 meeting video (from the 32 minute mark to 41:10) and you will see and hear Kaminski admit that he was solicited by Axon and that he was going to do a 4-month pilot program involving only Axon cameras. You’ll also see and hear City Mgr. Joe Gilmore cover Chief K’s derriere by citing their “research of multiple vendors” – without either Gilmore or Chief K identifying even one of those other vendors, or providing even one page of documentation that such “research” actually was done.

And not one of the aldermen challenged either the Chief’s decision or Gilmore’s apparently non-existent research.

That’s because, as we’ve noted in the past, Kaminski is the most formidable “politician” (a term we consider an epithet rather than a compliment) in City government, if not in all of Park Ridge local government. And he’s not one bit shy about using those superior political skills and his badge to manipulate and even intimidate our aldermen in ways that no self-respecting elected official – especially one who claims to be committed to honestly and competently representing his/her constituents – should ever stand for.

But stand for it the aldermen did, notwithstanding Mazzuca’s toothless “warning” to Chief K at the end of that segment of the budget workshop that “nobody said that we’re going to waive our procurement rules to do this.”

They didn’t have to say it, however, because the Chief knew he already owned the Council on sole-sourcing the body cams from Axon. Which is why, despite no formal vote having been taken at that April 11 workshop, the Axon body cam purchase became a “done deal” that very day– even if some of the folks around The Horseshoe were too clueless to figure that out; and the few who did lacked the spine to do anything more than kick the can down the road, as reflected by Mazucca’s insipid “we’ll take this up at a different COW…and make sure that everything is crystal clear about how to move forward with body cameras.”

The Chief’s no-bid, sole-source Axon deal appears to have remained unofficially done until seven months later when, at the November 26, 2018 COW, the Council unanimously passed the first reading of the resolution approving the contract. In what appears to be Chief K’s first “written justification” of the no-bid, sole-source purchase from Axon, his November 26 “Agenda Cover Memorandum” reads like an advertisement for Axon body cams – presumably because it substantially relies on Axon’s standard-form “Sole Source Letter” attached to it.

We’ll go into the details of the charade by which the April 11 unofficial “done deal” became official in our next post.

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Park District Once Again Gives Taxpayers A Break – And “Freeloaders” A Fit (Updated)

12.04.18

Back when this blog’s editor began his eight years (1997-2005) as a member of the Park Ridge Park District board, the District ran every program, activity and facility like a 6 year-old ran a sidewalk lemonade stand

So he attempted to do something considered “revolutionary” at that time: Despite having four sons in all sorts of Park District activities and programs, he lobbied for a fee structure that would actually cover their costs instead of having the taxpayers subsidize him, his family members, and other users of the programs, activities and facilities. And by 2005 the District’s staff had learned the meaning of the term “fully-loaded costs” and actually had started to consider them in its pricing structure.

Since then, subsequent boards and administrations have continued the trend of pricing user fees to more closely reflect the actual costs of the District’s amenities. The result: According to a recent Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“Park Ridge Park District budget proposes fee increases…”, November 5), user fees now account for around 50% of the District’s $20 million annual budget, with property taxes contributing only 42.5%.

We think that’s great!

That growth in user fees appears to have enabled a majority of the current Park Board – Commissioners Harmony Harrington, Jim Janak, Rob Leach and Mel Thillens – to reject the administration’s proposed 2.1% increase in the property tax levy while accepting a variety of user fee increases the administration also proposed for the 2019 budget year.

What could be wrong with that?

Plenty, if you’re Kathy (Panattoni) Meade, the poster child for Park Ridge’s freeloader community.

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SIDEBAR: We adopted the term “freeloader” 3 years ago – in our 10.21.2015 post – as convenient shorthand for what otherwise would take us 31 words to describe: “Those residents who are always looking to leverage maximum benefits for themselves, their families and their friends by shifting the costs of those benefits onto the backs of their fellow taxpayers.” Ironically, that post highlighted the freeloader mentality of the aforementioned Ms. Meade, who back then was complaining about that year’s increase in Park District user fees. Go figure!

*               *               *

Based on Ms. Meade’s many public comments (made primarily on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page where she is one of the admins), she and her family are heavy users of Park District programs and activities. That’s likely why she ripped into the Park Board around this time last year for…wait for it…proposing user fee increases, introducing her beef by asking: “ARE YOU F-ING KIDDING ME!?!?!” That prompted us to publish two posts on the topic, on 11.07.2017 and 0n 11.14.2017.

Not surprisingly, therefore, her post in response to the H-A article and critical of the Park District for raising user fees instead of “raising taxes by $11 per household” – an increase she claims she would “gladly pay” to keep her out-of-pocket user fees from going up – is like deja vu all over again. For people whose goal is to suck more out of government (and fellow taxpayers) than they pay into it, paying an extra $11 of RE taxes to save $20.00 (or $200.00) in user fees is a no-brainer, Freeloading 101.

But replacing user fees with property tax increases appears to work even better for Meade than her comments let on.

That extra $11 of taxes is what the Park District claims the owner of a $458,000 home would pay. But according to Zillow, the median Park Ridge home value is $390,000. And because Zillow values Meade’s house at $339,000 while RE/MAX pegs it at $322,000 – that $11/year of extra taxes would end up being only $8 for her.

Frankly, we don’t begrudge even freeloaders trying to get a bargain so long as they don’t do it on the backs of their fellow taxpayers. But what really torques us is when they try to do so while wrapping themselves in the mantle of faux-altruism – as in “I’d gladly pay $11” more in property taxes – while concealing their unenlightened self-interest in saving 10 or 20 times that amount.

We’ve never been fans of automatic annual tax increases like the ones Illinois Democrats have been running up during the 30-plus years that Speaker Madigan and his stooges have run Illinois into the ground, so we appreciate the Park Board majority’s desire not to raise taxes – so long as they are being responsible stewards of the District’s assets and not compromising the timely maintenance, repair and replacement (“MRR”) of the District’s buildings and grounds merely to pander to certain taxpayers.

That’s why we confess to being a tad uncomfortable with the H-A article’s report of  Commissioner Jim O’Brien concern “based on current projections of excess revenue – that [the District is] not going to have enough money to maintain the stuff we have.” O’Brien didn’t provide the kind of back-up information that might objectively justify such a concern, as you can see from the November 1, 2018 Board meeting video, starting at the 1:51:00 mark. It should also be noted that O’Brien’s concern was immediately challenged by Commissioner Rob Leach at the 1:52:20 of the video.

And we became a tad more uncomfortable upon hearing Commissioner Jim O’Donnell complain (starting at the 1:59:08 mark of the video) that the District was borrowing money “to do the maintenance-type stuff that we have to do” – even though he, too, failed to provide data that would support his argument.

Being penny wise with the levy can be pound foolish if it results in MRR being neglected – as we recently learned from Supt. Ken Wallace’s and his rubber-stamp school boards’ 9 years of irresponsible (and intentional?) neglect of MRR for all 3 Maine Township High School District 207’s school buildings, which will now end up costing taxpayers $345 million, $100 million of which will be wasteful, non-deductible interest payments.

We surely don’t need that kind of irresponsibility and mismanagement at the Park District.

But assuming the Park Board majority is doing its job, we applaud increases in user fees that allocate the fully-loaded operating costs of activities, programs and facility usage to the people whose use causes those operating costs. And if those programs, activities and facilities provide sufficient value (and the market permits it), we wouldn’t mind seeing user fees set at levels where they might even generate a PROFIT to the District that could be used to cover unrelated costs.

If that gets rid of the freeloaders who view Park District programs, activities and facilities as a kind of discount all-you-can-eat buffet, so much the better.

UPDATE 12.06.2018. We are saddened to hear of the sudden death of Park District Commissioner Jim Janak on Tuesday, December 4. Jim was a fine man who was just embarking on his public life and service to our community, having been elected to the Park Ridge Park District Board of Commissioners in April 2017 and having recently joined the  committee of the Park Ridge Holiday Lights Fund.

During his 1-1/2 years on the Park Board he was a dependable voice and vote for honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability. Although we disagree with Mr. Joel that “only the good die young,” we mourn the loss to our community of not only the person Jim was at the time of his death but, also, the person he undoubtedly would have become had he been given more than 38 years.

Our condolences go out to his wife, Stacie, and his children Finnegan and Addison. A fundraiser has been established for the Janak Family, with online contributions being accepted at: https://www.facebook.com/donate/1873636402735337/

Hail and farewell, Jim.

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A Two-Fer Tuesday: City Water & Choosing The New Tiu

11.20.18

Today we’re giving you a two-fer: A regular-sized discussion of the City of Park Ridge’s water increase and a BONUS discussion of the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board’s replacement of recently-resigned Board member Eastman Tiu.

City Water And Sewer Rate Increase. Last week the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reported on the Park Ridge City Council’s November 7 vote to raise its water and sewer rates effective January 1, 2019. Not surprisingly, some people are already beefing about the increase of 14 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used, as well as a smaller increase based on the size of the user’s water meter.

This post is directed at the group of beefers who are trying to resurrect that three year old brain cramp: The City buying its water from Evanston instead of Chicago, which we last wrote about in our 04.21.2015 post, our 07.13.2015 post and our 10.12.2015 post, all of which pointed out the many risks, and no guaranteed commensurate benefits, of what we called the Evanston Water Option (“EWO”).

To say that buying water from Evanston is a dumb idea is an understatement, in the first instance because just the estimated 30-year cost to the City’s taxpayers of building the Evanston water delivery infrastructure was $90 million – and that was when the City was exploring a joint EWO with Niles and Morton Grove and would only be paying a fraction of the cost. If the City were to go it alone, the cost presumably would double or even triple. And that would be for only one water transmission line, not the current redundancy of two lines that we have with Chicago.

No wonder one of the promoters of that EWO boondoggle three years ago was Kathy (Panattoni) Meade, the unofficial queen of Park Ridge freeloaders – and one of the ringmasters of the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page – whose principal life goal appears to be finding ways to stick all City/Park District/D-64 taxpayers with the lion’s share of the costs for whatever services and amenities she wants for herself and her kids.  

Fortunately, the City balked at the EWO until Niles and Morton Grove decided to do a cheaper (for them) deal with Skokie for Evanston water, in which Park Ridge could not join because the water capacity of the Evanston/Skokie/Morton Grove/Niles venture could not support a fifth participant, especially with water demands like ours.

But the cost of the infrastructure needed for a switch to Evanston water is not the entire story. Another important consideration was, and is (as we understand the deal), that the City’s per-gallon rate for Chicago water is exactly the same as what Chicago residents pay, not counting the different additional fees that both Chicago and Park Ridge charge their respective residents in connection with water and sewer service. So, at least in theory, Chicago can’t gouge Park Ridge on water costs in order to subsidize the cost of Chicago residents’ water.

That’s significantly different from the situation being played out in both the federal and state courts between Evanston and its long-time water customer, Skokie, after their latest water contract expired on December 31, 2016, and Evanston tried to double the 1,000 gallon rate. The Circuit Court lawsuit by E-Town was filed in September 2017, while the federal court lawsuit by Skokie was filed in June of this year.

As anybody who has read this blog knows, we’re all about user fees: To the extent a user fee can reasonably be calculated and allocated to individual users for the cost of any government-supplied necessity or amenity, it should be done and the result charged to those users instead of hanging more taxes on all taxpayers.

Ideally, the user fees for water and sewer provide not only an appropriate way to cover the costs to the City of providing those services to its residents but, also, a way to cover at least part of the related costs of maintaining the water and sewer infrastructure. But increased costs presumably also generate a very desirable collateral benefit: More intelligent, disciplined (and, therefore, reduced) water usage by our residents.

So we would have expected those Go Green Park Ridge folks – Amy Bartucci, Cindy Grau, Andrea Cline, et al. – to be all over Arpad Glomski’s November 14 post about the water rate increase on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page, supporting those fees with their commentary. But guess what?

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Unless you count a brief colloquy between Cindy Grau and Meade, in which they both appear to lament user fees for water and sewer, while Meade lets her freeloader flag fly by her outright mocking of the concept of people paying “their fair share.”

Apparently “green” means something more to the Go Greenies that just what is found in nature, at least when it comes to keeping the “green” in their own pockets.

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Choosing The New Tiu. Last week D-64 Board member Eastman Tiu tendered his resignation from the D-64 School Board, which has stirred quite a commotion on the Parents of D-64 Students FB page, a “closed group” FB site administered by Helen Gossel Pasley and Carol Sales. “Closed group” means that non-members can’t see the posts and comments, unlike with other community FB pages such as the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners FB page and the Park Ridge Illinois Online FB page, or with this blog.

The main event so far has been an unscheduled 10-round bout between activist Alice Dobrinsky (in the dark blue corner) and D-64 Board member Tom “Tilted Kilt” Sotos (in the plaid-with-cleavage corner) about how transparently the D-64 Board will conduct the whole selection process for Tiu’s replacement.

As tends to be the rule rather than the exception whenever Sotos engages in these bouts, he tends to be over-matched; see, e.g., his  09.19.2016 bout with resident Jayne Reardon over the Board’s refusal to disclose the secret terms of the closed-session negotiated 2016 PREA contract, in which Reardon left him so bloodied and incoherent that his corner man, Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli, stopped it after only 9 minutes – starting at the 1:03:20 mark of the meeting video and finishing with the TKO of Sotos at the 1:12:21 mark.

Without wasting valuable time describing another TKO of Sotos, this time administered by Dobrinsky, we’ll cut to the chase: The whole process of replacing Tiu should be conducted exactly the way the estimable Joan Sandrik, another resident who has previously used Sotos as a punching bag, suggested in her comment on D-64 Students:

“Post the vacancy, accept applications, schedule interviews (in an open forum), deliberate (in an open forum), make the selection (in an open forum), swear in the new board member, ba-bam. Done. There. Now what’s so difficult about that?”

Not a damned thing, unless you’re a secretive demagogue like Borrelli, or a Borrelli lackey and apologist like Sotos. Or any other Board members who reflexively run and hide in closed session whenever its arguably legal – and who can’t spell H.I.T.A. even if you spotted them both consonants and let them buy both vowels.

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Has The Train That Never Should Have Left The Station Finally Been Stopped?

11.14.18

It has been more than a year since we first heard about Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s plan to put very part-time – a total of 8 hours per week, 4 hours per each of 2 days – school resource officers (“SRO”s) in Emerson and Lincoln Middle Schools.

That SRO program was dreamed up by Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski and Niles Police Cmdr. Robert Tornabene, with the assistance of D-64 Supt. Laurie Heinz. Despite Heinz’s presentation of the program to the D-64 Board a week after a gun-related “threat” to Maine South High School was posted on social media by a Lincoln student and a Maine South student, Heinz and other D-64 officials incredibly insisted that the SRO proposal was not related to that threat.

That program was immediately embraced by Board president Tony Borrelli and Board members Larry Ryles, Tom Sotos and Mark Eggemann, and supported (albeit less enthusiastically) by vice-president Rick Biagi and members Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu.

We criticized that SRO program as a wrongheaded faux-solution looking for a non-existent problem in our posts of 08.31.2017, 12.29.2017 , 02.02.2018, 02.21.2018, 04.30.2018, 05.21.2018 and 06.22.2018.

But even after Biagi, Sanchez and Tiu broke ranks with their colleagues in February 2018 in response to the well-researched, well-written SRO report by the law firm of Ekl, Williams & Provenzale (under a contract with the District) that recommended against such a program in our schools, Borrelli, Sotos, Ryles and Eggemann doubled down on the program, with Heinz’s support. They, along with Kaminski and Tornabene, kept blurring the purpose of the SRO program.

Was it for security? Not really. Discipline? Not really. Counseling? Not really. Anti-bullying? Not really. Anti-vaping? Not really. Anti-sexting by minors? Not really.

Ultimately, it became clear that the program was primarily intended as a public relations initiative by Kaminski and Tornabene in the nature of the old “Officer Friendly” program, but with D-64 picking up the costs of what would start out as a “pilot” but likely grow – via pre-planned mission creep – into a more substantial and permanent presence.

So we were delighted to hear that this past Monday night one of the SRO program’s initial drivers, Board member Ryles, corrected his course and branded the SRO program a “train [that] has run off the track,” the implementation of which “has taken way more time than it’s worth”; and that he was in favor of scrapping it.

Actually, it was a boneheaded idea from the start, well before it ran off the track into quicksand. But the right decision, even for the wrong reason(s), is still the right decision. And after staking out a strong position in favor of the SROs, it took some gumption for Ryles to reverse engines. Kudos to him.

Not surprisingly, Borrelli continued to argue for the SRO program, and Eggemann joined him in voting to keep the program moving forward.

According to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“ ‘This train has run off the track’: District 64 board to scrap middle school resource program,” November 13), Chief Kaminski had not returned calls seeking comment as of press time.

But we wouldn’t be surprised if Chief K, the consummate local politician, isn’t burning up the phone lines to Ryles (who was a dependable Chief K vote when he was a member of the incredible expanding Chief’s Task Force from 2010 to 2013) and to Sotos, who agreed to put a keep/kill vote at the D-64 Board’s December 10 meeting but who reportedly still favors “some sort of police presence in District 64 schools.”

How about a life-sized cutout of McGruff, the Crime Dog ?

Kaminski’s biggest challenge will be re-packaging the ridiculous 8-hour/week SRO program to make it more marketable to the many Park Ridge parents who regularly showed up at Board meetings and spoke in opposition to it, such as: Miki Tesija, Ginger Pennington, Carol Sales and Alice Dobrinsky.

Fortunately, Biagi seems locked and loaded on this issue and appears to have gained the support he needs to nuke it. Hopefully, Ryles, Sanchez and Tiu can hold their ground in the face of whatever new kandy-kolored tangerine-flake streamline baby version of the SRO program Kaminski comes up with; and, hopefully, Sotos doesn’t get mesmerized by its shininess.

But even if they succeed in putting an end to the SRO discussion, it still won’t make up for the waste of more than a year of time, effort and attention that District personnel and the D-64 Board put into it. Nor will it make up for the ill-will caused by Borrelli’s and the Board’s ham-fisted way of dealing with legitimate concerns voiced by parents and community members who understood from the start what a half-baked idea the SRO program was.

This Board got stampeded into approving multi-millions of dollars of not-really-secured vestibules by the shameless panic peddling of Heinz and the paid shills for the school security industry. And it almost got stampeded into this SRO fiasco, albeit at only a tiny fraction of the price of the vestibules. Hopefully the Board members have learned that a bovine mindset is no way to run a school district.

Now let’s see if a Board majority can, once and for all, scrap that train that never should have left the station when it meets on December 10.

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Veterans Day 2018

11.11.18

As Americans – and as regularly demonstrated here in Park Ridge – we seem to have a hard time distinguishing between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The former is for remembering those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. The latter is for those who served and survived.

In other words: Today and tomorrow – and not Memorial Day – is the time to thank living veterans for their service. But we owe veterans more than just our thanks one day a year.

The Thousand Oaks, CA shooting last week is just one illustration of that point. The shooter, a 28 year-old former Marine who saw 7 months of combat in Afghanistan, reportedly had difficulty re-adapting to civilian life, as do many veterans.

Whether manifesting itself as PTSD, unemployment, homelessness, addiction and even suicide, the problems of too many veterans have not been treated with the dignity, the respect and the effectiveness they deserve. The services provided by the Veterans Administration (the “VA”) too often have been inconsistent and too variable among the VA’s 1,243 facilities.

Lengthy wait times for treatment have become the rule rather than the exception at many facilities. A 2014 audit found that more than 57,000 veterans had been waiting more than 90 days just for an appointment, while an additional 64,000 who requested medical care but were not added to a VA waiting list.

Although President Trump signed the largest budget ever for the Department of Veterans Affairs, that still does not appear to be money enough to address the high costs of their devastating injuries and related health issues. But those veterans who have fought for our freedom and our democracy deserve the best care we can offer.

So besides thanking our veterans for their service, let’s contact our senators and congressmen to demand the kind of care they deserve.

That’s a debt of honor all of us owe them.

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Election Recap

11.08.18

With the election results now settled, the following congratulations are in order:

To Snow-Job and the 7 Dwarfs on your landslide (61%-39%) referendum victory: You proved that grossly neglecting the District’s school buildings for the past 9 years of Snow-Jobs reign – while at the same time amassing over $130 Million of reserves and also making the District’s teachers and administrators among the highest-paid in Illinois while the schools’ rankings sunk – could be a winning referendum strategy, at least if you spend $115,000 of the taxpayers’ money on a propaganda campaign. We look forward to a dramatic surge in both the academic performance of D-207’s students AND the District’s rankings from the spending of that $235 Million.

To those 49,669 voters who actually cast ballots in the D-207 referendum: You did one of your most important civic duties, unlike the other 46,941 slugs who failed to show up. While that means only 29.3% of the District’s registered voters authorized the referendum borrowing, it doesn’t change the outcome or diminish the mandate.

To the Illinois Stupid Party (f/k/a the Illinois Republican Party), state chmn. Tim Schneider and Crook County chmn. Sean Morrison: This was an even more insipid and boneheaded performance than we could have imagined – although Schneider’s loss of his County Board seat provided some justice. “Insipid-to-boneheaded” also describes the performance of the “rogue” faction of the Stupid Party – represented by Dan Proft, Richard Uihlein, Liberty Principles PAC and the Illinois Opportunity Project – that appears to have backed not one winner. So much for your more-flat-tire-than-inspired “Save Your Home Now” campaign and slate.

And how can we not acknowledge the absolute political mastery of Speaker Madigan, the Darkest Lord of the Sith, who now is the undisputed owner of all of Illinois – busted lock, crumbling stock and rusted barrel.

Finally, to new Gov. JB: Please hurry up and legalize recreational weed – we’ll need it to endure the next four years.

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Hey, Snow-Job, Hey Dwarfs: Can You Say “Money Laundering”? (Updated)

11.04.18

As we wrote in our most recent post the D-207 bond referendum is less about the money than it is about the honesty of Supt. Ken “Snow-Job” Wallace and his “7 Dwarfs,” the D-207 Board members, in their stewardship of our three high schools for the past 9 years.

You can read about their dishonesty – and their incompetence, in that post

But back in our 08.24.2018 post we wrote about how, under the Election Interference Prohibition Act, 10 ILCS 5/9-25.1, it’s illegal to use public funds “to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition….” But we’re not sure how that applies to public funds laundered through a vendor like the George K. Baum & Company (“Baum”), or a vendor like Wight & Company.

As you can see from the most recent filings by the “Yes207” campaign run by Dean Patras and based in Morton Grove, Baum appears to be the single largest contributor to that campaign’s funding with a tidy $7,943 “in-kind” contribution, presumably from the $75,000 contract Snow-Job and the Dwarfs gave it last January 8 for its “Community Engagement for future school remodeling projects,” a/k/a propaganda campaign.

Right behind Baum is the architectural and engineering firm Wight & Company, which got a $40,520 contract from D-207 back on March 5 for “Additional services for food services & furniture,” and may have other contracts in hand or in the works from D-207. Wight has chipped in $4,900 to sell the referendum to the taxpayers.

And let’s not forget the Frank Cooney Company, a school furniture company who ponied up $1,500 – presumably in return for its $72,798 contract for 66 cafeteria tables on May 7.

Could it be that these three contributions have been made by these D-207 vendors merely out of the goodness of their over-sized corporate hearts – or are they just a “thank you” to Snow-Job and the Dwarfs for profits already made, and/or a down-payment on the hope for some favorable consideration when it’s time for Snow-Job and the Dwarfs to start writing those boxcar-sized checks if the referendum passes?

If you’re a D-207 taxpayer and don’t think you’re being fleeced on this deal, think again.

UPDATE 11.05.2018. After publishing this post we did a little more digging and came across the hard evidence that all three donors actually had decent-sized contracts with D-207 this year alone. And the fact that these three campaign contributions came in only days before the election is no coincidence.

THIS is an example of just one of the many types of CORRUPTION that have destroyed this state over the past 30 years.

But so long as we keep rewarding it by employing and over-paying dishonest and conniving administrators, and by electing and re-electing the corrupt and/or clueless public officials who rubber-stamp whatever those dishonest and conniving administrators propose, D-207 will continue its academic decline despite having some of the highest paid (but least accountable) high school teachers and administrators in Illinois.

And this state will keep on sinking into the muck.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Former D-207 Board President Ed Mueller: Profile In Courage

11.02.18

For all you readers who haven’t yet voted, this coming Tuesday (November 6) is when the rubber meets the road on the Maine Twp. H.S. Dist. 207 referendum.

That’s the one where Supt. Ken “Sno-Job” Wallace and his 7 Dwarfs (the 7-member D-207 Board of education) want us to vote to enable them to borrow $195 Million – at a total repayment cost, with interest, of approximately $300 Million – and spend that $195 Million plus another $45 Million of cash on hand to do a laundry list of projects on all three schools.

In our 08.24.2018 post and our 08.31.2018 post we wrote about how this grand tax/borrow/spend plan is, basically, a scam by Snow-Job and the Dwarfs to stampede us taxpayers into giving them hundreds of millions without any itemization of the costs of any of the individual projects, or even on a per-school basis, and no prioritization – because they don’t want us taxpayers distinguishing between what is actually needed and what is merely wanted, or between what is grossly neglected maintenance/repair and what amounts to new fluff.

And don’t forget how Snow-Job and the Dwarfs have wasted $115,000 of our tax dollars to hire the public relations services of bond underwriter George K. Baum & Company (“Baum”), public relations pollster Public Opinion Strategies (“POS”) and focus group facilitator/manipulator Minding Your Business (“MYB”) to bombard us with their slick videos, misleading surveys and misleading FAQs, all for the purpose of bamboozling a majority of D-207 voters into voting for this boondoggle.

Meanwhile, during Wallace’s 9-year tenure as superintendent, the rankings of our schools have dropped to the point where U.S. News & World Reports did not even rank Maine South in either 2017 or 2018 because it is so underperforming its demographic profile.

But this referendum isn’t really about money: It’s about honesty and trust. Or, in the case of Snow-Job and the Dwarfs, their dishonesty and untrustworthiness, both of which – along with their gross incompetence and lack of transparency – should  disqualify them from any stewardship of both our children’s education and our money.

For example, do you know that as of June 30 of this year, D-207’s own budget document shows that Snow-Job and the Dwarfs had stockpiled over $126 Million of reserve funds, and that it is projecting to end the current school year next June 30 with $120.5 Million of reserves?

That’s right: Even though folks like Kelly Przekota have complained about the schools “falling down faster than London Bridge” and having to buy her teacher-husband a plastic bin with latches to protect his coat and laptop from cockroaches, and even though the ubiquitous Kathy (Panattoni) Meade has warned parents to purchase gas masks for their kids who use Maine South pool because of chlorine gas buildup, and even though Ashley Hawkes pleads for a roof that doesn’t leak, Snow-Job and the Dwarfs have intentionally, callously and dishonestly ignored those and many other sub-par conditions – and refused to make necessary repairs and replacements – despite accumulating and sitting on over $120 MILLION in reserve funds, $45 Million of which they are throwing into the boondoggle pot!

Why?

Because if Snow-Job and the Dwarfs had actually done the maintenance, repairs and replacement needed to remedy such problems, they wouldn’t have all those scary photos and videos – compliments of the $115,000 propaganda squad – that they’ve been using to hoodwink the stupid, the gullible and the profligate into supporting the referendum.

But don’t take our word for it. Instead, read what former 3-term (12 years – from May 2001 to April 2013) D-207 Board member and 3-time D-207 Board president, Edward Mueller, courageously wrote in his letter to the editor of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate published in yesterday’s on-line edition, which is reprinted here with Mr. Mueller’s permission:

Letter: Past school board president opposed to Maine Township District 207 referendum

As a former member of the Maine Township High School District Board of Education for three terms (almost 12 years) and president for three terms (three years), I would like to go on record as opposed to the referendum.

My experience on the board that runs the three Maine Township high schools makes it clear that vast sums of taxpayer money are squandered. The supposed “tax caps” enacted by the Illinois legislature have become floors. During my last few years on the board, I opposed methodical, rote tax hikes designed to maximize tax revenue under the caps without regard to need, and almost invariably was a minority of one in doing so. My efforts to pass tax rebates were voted down while I was on the board (the reasons for increasing taxes and then rebating a portion thereof are complex, related to the above-mentioned “tax cap” legislation).

I know certain of the sitting board members and I believe that the proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on unneeded physical improvements is an attempt to create a personal legacy, which is utterly divorced from actual need. When I was president, I spearheaded a comprehensive review of the physical conditions of the three schools, which utterly belies the current proposals for more taxpayer money. And please, please don’t believe that the cost will be “only” $350 per household per year. That is an average, based no doubt on fuzzy math, and is not what most people will really owe, if the past is prologue.

I urge the voters to vote no on the proposed referendum. And, voters next April should take a close look at the board members who have routinely approved unnecessary tax increases that make District 207 teachers the highest paid of almost 900 districts/schools in the state of Illinois.

Ed Mueller

Past president

Maine Township 207 Board of Education

_________________________

For the past 9 years Snow-Job and the 7 Dwarfs (and their predecessors) have intentionally, callously and irresponsibly neglected the District’s physical infrastructure despite having multi-millions of our tax dollars that could have addressed virtually every actual building NEED. They did so in order to manufacture all these alleged school building “crises.”

And like those folks in Washington D.C. who dishonestly pack 100s of disparate and expensive projects and programs into one bill that nobody can read or understand, and that they can pass without us taxpayers being any the wiser, Snow-Job and the Dwarfs – with the aid of their $115,000 propagandists – have done the very same kind of thing by rolling all these projects into one referendum question.

By voting “yes” you are endorsing incompetent, dishonest, irresponsible, non-transparent and ultimately wasteful government.

GFL with that.

To read or post comments, click on title.

The LWVPR And The “Non-Partisan” Lie (Updated)

10.29.18

On September 27 the League of Women Voters of Park Ridge (“LWVPR”) joined with the American Association of University Women (the “AAUW”) to sponsor a debate between incumbent 55th Dist. state representative Marty Moylan (D) and his challenger, Marilyn Smolenski (R).

Why it takes two organizations to run a debate between only two candidates is a bit puzzling, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Irrespective of the logistical concerns, the LWVPR claims to be big-time ticked off because a portion of a video of the debate taken by somebody associated with the Smolenski campaign – that portion where Moylan loudly denies (untruthfully, it appears) that he has accepted money from Speaker Mike Madigan – is being used in a Smolenski campaign ad. The LWVPR claims that’s a no-no.

Why?

According to letters to the editor by LWVPR president Mary Upson in both the October 22 edition of the Daily Herald and the October 24 edition of The Journal, “[b]oth campaigns asked to videotape the [debate] with the verbal agreement that the video could be used for internal purposes only” [emphasis added]. A “verbal agreement” is a common alternative term for “oral agreement” and is legally enforceable IF mutual assent to its terms, and the terms themselves, can be adequately established.

Unlike written agreements, oral/verbal agreements are disfavored in the law because too often both the mutual assent and the exact terms can be very difficult to prove. So if preventing the use of the debate videos or any portions thereof was so darn important to the LWVPR, one would think that it would demand that both campaigns sign a written agreement to that effect.

But guess what?

At just about the same time Upson was insisting, in her two letters to the editor, that LWVPR had a “verbal agreement” with both campaigns, she also was insisting in two separate comments to an October 22 post on the Concerned Homeowners Group of Park Ridge FB page – that “[b]oth campaigns signed an agreement, one in [sic] which LWV Park Ridge has been using for years.” We have printed that entire FB post and all of its comments, with our various questions and challenges in red because addressing all of them in the body of this post would be unwieldy.

So which is it, Ms. Upson: A “verbal agreement” or a written one “signed” by “both campaigns”?

If it’s a written one, why haven’t you posted the signed versions to prove that you’re not just making up this “we had a deal and Smolenski broke it” whining? Are you and the LWVPR such partisan Democrats that you’re willing to fabricate this whole kerfuffle as your faux-“non-partisan” way to publicly hammer Smolenski for using a clip from the debate video in what you label her “attack ad against Marty Moylan” that actually portrays him as the lying Madigan coat-holder he really is?

But that’s not all.

Ms. Upson, speaking once again for the LWVPR, also complained in those two letters to the editor that “Marilyn Smolenski’s campaign (managed by the Illinois Opportunity Project) offered to share its video with [the LWVPR] to post for community members who could not attend”; and then she beefed that Smolenski’s campaign didn’t provide the copy of its video “despite numerous attempts to contact the campaign.”

Why don’t you name names, Ms. Upson? Which member(s) of Smolenski’s “campaign…offered to share its video”? To whom at LWVPR was that “offer” made? Who from LWVPR made those “numerous attempts to contact the [Smolenski] campaign”? And to whom with Smolenski’s campaign were those attempts directed?

Or are all those assertions just more made-up stuff with which to hammer Smolenski on a purely-partisan basis, for Moylan’s benefit?

Interestingly enough, neither Upson’s letters nor her FB comments say whether Moylan’s campaign made the same offer and followed through on it. And neither those letters nor her FB comments say whether Moylan’s campaign was asked to submit its video for the LWVPR’s website after Smolenski’s campaign allegedly failed to do so.  As of the publication of this post we could find no debate video on the LWVPR’s website or on its Facebook page.

Is your concern about informing those “community members who could not attend” the debate limited to only the Smolenski video and not the Moylan video? Why isn’t what’s sauce  for the gander (Smolenski) also sauce for the goose (Moylan)? Is the LWVPR placing greater demands on the female candidate than on her male opponent?

It sure looks that way.

That being the case, why aren’t Kim “Did you grab my ass?” Jones and her supporters demanding fair treatment for the female candidate – other than because she’s a Republican and they’re all RINOs (or Dems) who are supporting Moylan? Shouldn’t they be asking the LWVPR why it didn’t expect and demand the same video sharing from Moylan that it expected from Smolenski, especially if informing the public is the goal?

Of course they should! But of course they aren’t, and they won’t.

Why?

Because none of them are really “non-partisan.” And most/all of them support Moylan over Smolenski. They just don’t want us average taxpayers/voters to realize it.

Otherwise, the myth of a “non-partisan” LWVPR becomes the lie .

UPDATE 11.01.2018.  True to her word, Ms. Upson has shared with us the “signed…agreement” of Marty Moylan, dated October 13, 2016; and the “signed…agrement” of Marilyn Smolenski, dated September 25, 2018.

As you can see, these are not actual “agreements” but, instead, a set of “Rules” for a candidate forum. They contain no language that identifies them as any sort of legally-binding contract. Additionally, because the Rules themselves contain no language that commits the candidate, by signing, to be bound by them, the candidate’s signature/e-signature does not appear to hold any legal significance whatsoever.

Finally, the only provision of those Rules that deals with video and audio recording is the last bullet point, which merely gives “the sponsoring organizations” a right to record and disseminate the recordings as it chooses.

So we’re left with the LWVPR’s totally incredible, totally uncorroborated, totally evidence-less allegation of some “verbal agreement” by which both campaigns allegedly agreed not to use the videos they took for campaign purposes.

As the late and supremely corrupt Ill. Sec’y  of State Paul Powell used to say: “I can smell the meat a-cookin’.” What the LWVPR has cooked up definitely smells…but it’s most definitely not edible.

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