Morton Grove Melodrama part 9 – The Face of Our Village

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Dan DiMaria’s cry to the Action Party four years ago as to why he had to be elected Mayor was; “The Village Mayor is the Face of the Village.”

After being elected he certainly implemented his concept by plastering his name on everything from village signs , village newsletters and village mailings to residents to brand himself as the Rock & Roll Mayor.

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All at Taxpayer expense, of course. The last time we had seen the blatant politicization of governmental signage and abuse of public communications was under the Cook County machine politics of John Stroger.

If appears that DiMaria wants everyone to see his name everywhere as many times as possible …except on a check to pay for his political aspirations. He has left that up to developers, contractors doing business with the Village of Morton Grove (pay to play), and members of the Action Party to pay for his reelection bid.

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In the long list of donors one name is consistently absent Dan DiMaria.

Ignoring the Village Law that Dan DiMaria & Bill Grear both voted for, they have lined their political pockets from the old Blagojevich “pay to play” handbook by raising funds from Village of Morton Grove Vendors, Contractors, Developers, and those seeking favors & Ordinance Variances

Speaking of ordinances, this type of behavior is specifically prohibited by Village ordinance 01-08-12 Section D Prohibition of Political Contributions;

D.  Prohibition Of Political Contributions:

1.   Any person or business entity whose contract(s), and pending bids for contract(s) with the village of Morton Grove in aggregate annually total more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000.00) shall be prohibited from making any contributions to: a) a political organization established to promote a candidacy of an elected village official, or a declared candidate for an elected village office, b) an elected official, or c) a declared candidate for an elected village office in excess of one hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) per year per official, declared candidate, or political organization. This prohibition shall be effective for the duration of the term of office of the elected official, or for two (2) years after the date of the election for a declared candidate for an elected village office, whichever is longer.

2.   A political organization established to promote a candidacy of an elected official or a declared candidate, an elected official, or a declared candidate shall not knowingly accept a campaign contribution in excess of one hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) per year from any person, business entity whose contracts and pending bids for contracts with the village of Morton Grove in aggregate annually total more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000.00). This prohibition shall be effective for the duration of the term of office of the elected official, or for two (2) years after the date of the election for a declared candidate for an elected village office, whichever is longer.

From January 1st 2014 through January 1st 2017 according to Illinois State Board of Election D-2 reports that every Political Party must file, (this can be verified by visiting the web site of the Illinois Board of elections), Dan DiMaria has only donated $315.00 in three years ,the least amount of any elected official in the Action Party. That’s less than $100.00 per year.

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You might rightly believe that he should be able to afford to give more.

He gave himself a 25% increase in his stipend & non itemized expense compensation that he receives for being Mayor & liquor Commissioner. That came out to a $200.00 a month raise!

Interestingly, that started one month after he took office. There was no public notice, no amendment to the 2013 Budget and no vote by the Village Board authorizing the increase. He just casually dipped his paw into the public treasury.

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The Action Party is starting out the Spring Election with the largest bank roll in its history. All due to Dan DiMaria’s & Bill Grear’s disregard for Village of Morton Grove Ordinance 1-8-12, forbidding them from asking for and accepting donations from anyone doing business with the Village.

I guess they forgot the oath they swore when they took office, “…to Honor and obey The Constitution of the United States, The Constitution of the State of Illinois, & all of the Laws and Ordinances of the Village of Morton Grove. “

Is it possible that they, and the other elected members of the Action Party believe that the citizens of our town agree with and endorse the “politics as usual” graft that this represents?

There’s one question as a citizen of Morton Grove that you have to ask yourself; “well, do you agree?”

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Morton Grove Melodrama Part 8- Other People’s Money

There is an old saying that “timing is everything”. There’s another one that says “there is no such thing as coincidence”.

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Last week, you might remember, we were talking about the five year dither by the Morton Grove administration regarding sourcing water from Evanston because of the 100% plus rate increase imposed by Chicago. The question was why was it taking so long to get this deal done and how much higher was the cost going to be because of the apparent delay?

Surprisingly, a few days after our last story, an article appeared in the Evanston Now publication that announced a deal between Morton Grove, Niles and Evanston for supplying water. Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the agreement; “provides Evanston with additional revenue to fund service and facility improvements, he said, while offering the residents of Morton Grove and Niles lower water rates for years to come. It will  yield over a million dollars a year in new net revenue to the city. ” 000000wheelbarrow-of-money

Back in 2012 Public Works Director, DeMonte, said that the infrastructure build-out to connect to Evanston could run as high as $35 million and he questioned if that would eat up any savings. Now, news reports are that this deal will fund service and facility improvements in Evanston’s infrastructure while providing $1 million additional net revenue into the Evanston treasury. Good deal for Evanston tax payers having your neighbors pay for improvements and then ponying up an additional million dollars a year to boot.

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Sometimes it seems that elected officials forget that they are spending other people’s money… taxpayer’s money… your money. This tends to lead to less than best practices regarding the government purse.

Morton Grove News is investigation the cost of village government vs the benefits to Morton Grove residents. We wonder, for example, why there appears to be crony white collar patronage and why the budget line item under “administration” is just under $500,000 this year. We’ll keep digging and report back next week.

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Morton Grove Melodrama Part 7- nor any drop to drink

Back in 2012 there was a news story in the Morton Grove Champion about water rates that got a lot of folks stirred up.

“Chicago officials say their rate hike is necessary to maintain an aging system. But many towns say the increases, which will total 90 percent after four years, are a burden — one large enough to spend money to look elsewhere for water.

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A 25 percent increase took effect Jan. 1, with hikes of 15 percent planned for each of the next three years already approved by the Chicago City Council. Des Plaines, for example, paid Chicago about $5 million in 2011 for water, but the rate increase means it will pay $6.25 million this year. By 2015, that figure will reach $9.5 million, officials said.”

 

There was much huffing and puffing on the part of the DiMaria administration about how the village should look for another vendor for Lake Michigan water. The idea of approaching Wilmette or Evanston was, you should pardon the pun, floated.

But, like so many other bits of bluff, bluster and bloviating, (like a “critical” need for a new police station for example), this DiMaria promise faded off into the fog and off the radar.

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Fast forward to  2016, after an, (at least), 70% increase in our water rates,  all of a sudden, the administration announces a big money consulting contract. Morton Grove trustees voted unanimously at its Nov. 28, 2016 village board meeting to hire the Chicago-based Klein Thorpe and Jenkins Ltd. as special counsel.

Five years and a 70%, (or is it 90% as first reported?), rate increase later, our village government decides to spend big bucks, (your tax bucks), to put together an agreement with Evanston to provide water.

The first question that comes up here is, why do we have a village attorney, who, according to village administrator Ralph Czerwinski in praising her 2016 accomplishments in his budget message, stated; “Served as a member of the management team to negotiate a long term water supply agreement with the Village of Niles, and oversee numerous processes to evaluate construction and financing options.” Are we paying double for services here? If the village attorney was overseeing this process, why did we hire Klein Thorpe and Jenkins Ltd.?

Various news articles keep telling us that an agreement between Evanston, Niles and Morton Grove is very close. We were also told, back in 2012 by Public Works Director, DeMonte, that the infrastructure build-out to connect to Evanston could run as high as $35 million and he questioned if that would eat up any savings.

In an article in the Evanston Review on 1-9-2017, it was reported:
“Work will begin in February on a long-planned project to improve Evanston’s water treatment plant, according to city officials.
The work will include replacing or fixing aging parts of the plant. Those include valves, ducts, piping, electrical systems and components and the chemical feed system, among other items, according to a city news release.
The project follows a 10 percent water rate hike in 2015 for Evanston customers, according to city reports. It also comes as Evanston continues talks to supply Niles and Morton Grove with Lake Michigan water.”

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Interesting timing here. Is it possible that the taxpayers of Morton Grove will be paying, at least in part, for the new water facilities in Evanston? Why couldn’t Morton Grovers get some help from their State Representative John Damico? (Would it have anything to do with the fact that Mr. Damico holds a second government job with the City of Chicago Water Department?)

 

 

 

Somehow a great many parts of this deal seem all wet.

Tune in next week, dear readers, when we answer the question; “What is village government costing Morton Grove taxpayers?

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Morton Grove Melodrama Part 6 – Aye, there’s the rub

Well, dear readers, when we left our story last time we were pondering some of the financial facts surrounding the Moretti family- restaurateurs and friends of mayor DiMaria- being given the opportunity to lease the property from the village for a ridiculously paltry sum for an extended period.  Morton Grovers will have yet another pizzaria to enjoy, but they might want to consider when they pay the check that they not only have paid for their pizza, but also for the land under the restaurant… the alleged contamination of that land… and who knows what else.

Today we ask the question; “Does the change in the massage parlor ordinance mean an announcement of exciting new businesses by the Mayor?”

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Morton Grove. because of it’s Home Rule status, can license the parlors and make them subject to spot inspection.  (Home Rule allows a municipality with more than 25,000 residents or one whose citizens have voted to become a Home Rule unit to do pretty much anything not forbidden by state law.)

According to The Morton Grove Champion,

Village board members voted unanimously at their Dec. 12, 2016 meeting to adopt the new regulations which officials said are intended to give the village better oversight of massage therapy establishments.

(The main thrust of these new regulations increases the fee for a license to provide revenue for the village)

“The regulation of massage establishments is a matter of growing importance to public health safety and the welfare of residents,” said Trustee Bill Grear. “And is intended to prevent the spread of diseases through unsanitary practices and…abate nuisances and unlawful activity.”

Village administrator Ralph Czerwinski said there are currently four massage therapy establishments in the village and that another application is pending. He explained that none of the current ones are suspected of anything inappropriate, but the village just wants to proactively have measures in place.

“There should be rules because it protects the community and provides a healthy and appropriate environment,” Czerwinski said.

He said Morton Grove started partnering with Glenview earlier this year to have Glenview health inspectors inspect Morton Grove food and restaurant facilities and said the same practice will be extended to massage therapy establishments. So on top of everything else, Morton Grove taxpayers are paying Glenview for inspection services. Where is the oversight by the Morton Grove administration?

Here’s a thought, why doesn’t Morton Grove require the licenses of the massage therapists to be posted (state law, already),  add the requirement that photos with names, addresses and phone numbers of the therapists would have to be posted as well…  as well as, photos, names, addresses and phone numbers of supervisors.

You might wonder why this would even be an issue until you look back over the past few years and find that there have been a number of prostitution arrests associated with massage establishments in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.

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A few years ago, prior to the current administration, Morton Grove was winning national acclaim for being a great place to raise a family. Since then, we have seen an explosive increase in liquor licenses and gambling establishments with little, if any benefit for the quality of life for Morton Grovers.

Village officials claim that there is no suspicion of anything inappropriate, yet a website called RUB MAPS
whose motto is “Where Fantasy Meets Realty”, where people literally suggest who to request & other “personal services” info on all kinds of massage parlors, lists three “questionable establishments, one on Waukegan and two on Dempster… one of which  on Dempster  was shut down by the Morton Grove Police.

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The frightening thing is that these establishments could be involved in human trafficking, meaning under aged women or women from foreign countries could be brought into Morton Grove and once here, forced to work in these places. It wouldn’t be surprising if drugs are involved in some. The working gals could be drugged up and become addicted, resulting in a dependency and vicious circle. There is also the possibility of gang activity and drug trafficking. All sorts of bad stuff is possible.

What is happening in our once family-friendly suburb? Follow the politicians; follow the legal folks, but most of all, follow the money.

Large bills fanned out and held in hand

This all begs the question; “Why isn’t the press or somebody investigating and reporting on this?”

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Morton Grove Melodrama part 5 – When the moon hits your eye

Well, dear readers, when we left our story last time we were pondering some of the financial facts surrounding the DiMaria administration that just didn’t seem to add up. We wondered, for example how, according to the Morton Grove Champion , Morton Grove Village President Dan DiMaria said the 2017 budget will maintain the same level of services without additional fees or increased property taxes. Considering that twice in the life of this administration the major companies that monitor government financial affairs lowered Morton Grove’s bond rating. 00000000junk-bond

DiMaria brags about saving money by having village workers take on multiple responsibilities while continuing to add six-figure “white collar patronage” employees and retaining more and more high-priced consultants. Something doesn’t add up.

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Speaking of not adding up, what about the parcel of land on Dempster St known as the “Maxwell’s property”? To refresh your memory, the village originally had grandiose plans for a multi-use structure, but the original buyer was foreclosed on by the bank.

Through intervention by the village, the property was resold to a political contributor to mayor DiMaria for the purpose of building a restaurant. Those plans fell through, and the village repurchased a part of the parcel giving the mayor’s buddy a quick $500,000 profit.

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Within the last year, the Moretti family, restaurateurs and friends of mayor DiMaria were given the opportunity of leasing the property from the village for a ridiculously paltry sum for an extended period. They were to build a large restaurant/banquet facility a literally no cost for the land. There was, however, a problem that raised it’s ugly head. This land was found to be contaminated and required EPA clean up.

The sweetheart deal was sweetened even further by the village taking responsibility for the clean up. Apparently Christmas came early for the friends of Mayor DiMaria. Do your own research. Look at the village board meeting minutes of December 7, 2015 and October 10, 2016 for exact agreements.

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We have noticed that recently a construction fence has been erected on the site and heavy earth moving equipment is parked there also. The question then becomes, “Is this part of the clean up of the contamination on the site, or is it infrastructure construction in preparation of building the pizza restaurant?”

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So, maybe… just maybe the new eatery will open by the end of 2017 as promised by DiMaria… or maybe not. If it does open Morton Grovers will have yet another pizzaria to enjoy but they might want to consider when they pay the check that they not only have paid for their pizza, but also for the land under the restaurant… the alleged contamination of that land… and who knows what else.

It sure is good to be politically connected in Morton Grove!

Tune in next time when we ask the question; “Does the change in the massage parlor ordinance mean an announcement of new businesses by the Mayor?”

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