There has been much posted on Morton Grove News regarding this Tuesday’s Village Election. We have only one more comment…
The DiMaria administration claims many things as as fact.
What they have provided are either unsupported statements, or at best half-truths which they apparently believe that the voters of Morton Grove cannot see the difference between overblown empty promises and the reality of this administration’s failure.
-Four years ago, the DiMaria administration promised a revitalized economy increasing sales tax receipts.
What the DiMaria administration has delivered is higher cost of government and a continued stagnant business tax base.
-Four years ago, the DiMaria administration promised more and better senior services.
What the DiMaria administration has delivered is reduced, or in some cases, eliminated senior programs.
-Four years ago, the DiMaria administration promised a revitalization of the area around the Metra station with shpping and other amenities. They were going to make a Morton Grove version of Edison Park.
What the DiMaria administration has delivered is a Metra station that is not advertised or promoted. There are no new businesses or amenities around the station and the area more closely resembles the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s south side rather than Edison Park.
-Four years ago, the DiMaria administration promised that they would move Morton Grove forward. Great sums of money, your money, was spent to hire outside consultants to create a village ‘brand’ and create business. An economic development officer was hired to address the “numerous” large parcels of land in the Village’s “Land Bank.
What has the DiMaria administration delivered? Take a stroll around town and look at the empty retail buildings and storefronts. These vacant properties generate zero sales tax revenue. The corner of Dempster and Waukegan is one of the most heavily traveled in this state and it’s corners sits there undeveloped and under performing. The industrial strip along Austin is a ghost town.
-Four years ago, the DiMaria administration promised that they would maintain village services while keeping your taxes low.
What has the DiMaria administration delivered? Fines and fees have increased with no appreciable commensurate increase in services. The DiMaria administration has certainly increased Village employees…we have certainly staffed up and created more office space for them. What has the increase in staff done to make things better?
-Four years ago, the DiMaria administration promised to address the crisis facing the funding of our police and fire departments.
What has the DiMaria administration delivered? The Police and Fire Pension funds are owed over $20 Million dollars. Where is this money going to come from? Without a business tax base the homeowners are the sole funding source. Right now the 5000 households owe $4000 each to this fund just to catch up!
-Four years ago, the DiMaria administration said that we were in dire need of a new police station because the current station was outmoded and presented a safety hazard to the residents of the neighborhood. Once more, the village went into the real estate market and purchased a manufacturing property on Lehigh for the purpose of moving the police into a new facility.
What has the DiMaria administration delivered? A vacant building on Lehigh and no solid plan made public as to when, (or if), the new police facility will happen, and, if it does, how it will be paid for?
– Four years ago, the DiMaria administration promised openness and transparency.
What has the DiMaria adminstration delivered? A Chicago style ‘political boss’ version of government has done little to nothing to stimulate business or improve Village finances. A use of village resources, (like the newsletter, village web site and village-wide mailings), as political propaganda to promote Village president DiMaria.
What has the DiMaria administration NOT delivered? There is no major food market within the village limits. There is a shopping center on the 3rd busiest corner
in Illinois going to ruin, even though the ownership was eager to reach a redevelopment agreement. There is a loss of the sense of community that up until 4 years ago had Morton Grove as one of the top 10 places to live in Illinois.
Has the DiMaria administration told the truth? Perhaps only half of it, and, as Benjamin Franklin said in Poor Richard’s Almanack; “Half the truth is often a great lie.”
In February 2013 the daughters of Jack O’Brien, one of the Action Party founders, spoke out on who they feel would be their dad’s choice in the Feb. 26 election in a letter to a local news outlet. Here’s what they said:
As daughters of Jack O’Brien, who, with former Mayors Dan Scanlon and Dick Flickinger, founded the Action Party, we are quite dismayed by the turn of events within our Party which has led to the necessity of holding a primary.
It’s distressing that Trustee DiMaria:
The Action Party has always prided itself on its inclusiveness. We have sought out the best and brightest of our opposition and invited them to get to know the Action Party better. Some accept, some do not.
In 2001, our dad, Mayor Scanlon, and other prominent Action Party members reached out to Dan Staackmann to determine his interest in joining the Action Party. Dan was elected as a Village Trustee in 2003, and ran for Village President in 2005…in a campaign marked by nastiness from our opponents—the same individuals who are now supporting Mr. DiMaria. Dan Staackmann was reelected to the position of Village Trustee in 2007 and, in 2009, ran for the office of Village President and was successful.
During very tough economic times, Dan Staackmann has stabilized the Village’s finances and balanced the budget. This is no small accomplishment! He has provided solid leadership, brought in businesses, improved infrastructure, streamlined operations, maintained services at a superior level, and has done it all with an outstanding Village staff and personnel…and with only a 3% property tax increase in the past four years.
Dan Staackmann is passionate about Morton Grove and has spent about half of his life in public service to our town. We feel Dan Staackmann would be Jack O’Brien’s choice for mayor, because Dan Staackmann is a man of integrity who gets the job done.
We urge you to cast your vote in the February 26th primary election for Dan Staackmann.
Lori O’Brien Gattorna and Terri O’Brien Cousar
Now, 4 years later, the situation in the village has not improved with Mr. DiMaria as village president. The promised transparency has not been forthcoming, but the current administration has scheduled a “Neighborhood Outreach Meeting” for Thursday, March 16th at the American Legion Civic Center.
This would be a great opportunity to ask Mr. DiMaria 10 questions “On the record”:
One of the advantages of being the incumbent party and controlling all the municipal functions of the village is being able to “game the system” to your advantage.
For example, a recent Morton Grove Champion article , recounts how a challenge to the current Action Party candidates was refused a hearing by the village clerk, who is also one of the candidates running on the Action Party ticket in the upcoming election.
Albers’ objections were filed Dec. 23, making the papers late, according to Board of Elections attorney Menzel.
“Those candidate petitions are presumed to be valid and the candidates move on — even if there were flaws in the petitions — because the time window for the challenges passed,” he said.
Albers maintained that the Action Party nomination papers were accepted a half hour before the clerk’s office opened and questioned whether statements of economic interest were filed with the clerk during the filing period.
Not filing statements of economic impact during a filing period could be “fatal,” he acknowledged, but there is no way to investigate further because of the lack of timeliness.
“The only way to challenge candidates’ petitions and qualifications to get onto the ballot is through the objection process and it has a hard and fast deadline,” he said. “I’m not going to speculate what happened here, but there isn’t a format to challenge because they were too late with their objections.”
So, in essence, there could have been hanky-panky but there will not be a hearing, there will not be transparency and the voters will have one less chance to fairly judge how this current administration is dealing with following election laws ethically.
When you are in charge and control everything you can pretty much do as you please apparently. For example, a few weeks ago there was a village newsletter that more resembled an Action Party campaign piece mailed to residents. It follows, almost word-for-word, the political web site of the candidates running on the party ticket for the April 4th election.
Just this week residents received a post card announcing a “Town Hall” meeting for Thursday, March 16th. It’s funny that this administration which promised transparency decides to have what could rightfully be characterized as an Action Party campaign rally paid for at taxpayer’s expense within three weeks of the election. Illegal? Maybe or maybe not but unethical and politically sleazy? Absolutely!
Many might think that political patronage was long dead. After all, the Supreme court in Elrod v Burns decided that political patronage hiring was illegal, ( 427 US 347) and reaffirmed the decision in Branti v Finkle, ( 445 US 507). What the court left standing, however, was what is commonly referred to as “white collar patronage”.
In recent cases the US court of appeals held that the first amendment protection under Elrod does not extend to government contractors. This preserves on of the most highly valued elements of the patronage system the distribution of government contracts and awarding of government money and commission positions as a means of rewarding political supporters and donors.
For example, the TIF money that was earmarked for the revitalization of Prairie View Shopping Center has, instead, been used to underwrite Heartland ( the development company behind the luxury apartments at 8700 Waukegan Rd, political donors to the Action Party. Money from the Lehigh-Ferris TIF went to underwrite Moretti’s pizza restaurant, (another political donor to the Action Party).
Three of the candidates running for the Park District are officers of the Action Party and appointed members of village commissions. It is interesting to see coordination in the placement of their campaign signage, so apparently there is now a plan in place for the Action Party to have all elected and appointed offices under their control.
Some would say that the folks running the Action Party are gaming the system, but you don’t have to game the system when you can make up the rules as you go along and decide which rules, (like the village ethics ordinance), you choose to ignore.
As the actor Mel Brooks says in his film “History of the World-Part 1”; “It’s good to be the king!
Village president DiMaria, during his last campaign fashioned himself as “the face of the village”.
Considering that his name and picture are plastered all over the quasi-political campaign literature laughingly referred to as the village newsletter, and his smiling visage appears in almost every local “news” story featured in “the Champion”, you can see that Mr. DiMaria takes his self-styled title very, very seriously.
There has been much talk in the national media lately about the narcissism and ego of a certain politician. Fair enough, but many of the same opinions and comments can be made regarding the Morton Grove Village President.
There’s little question that politicians wield vastly more power and control than the average citizen.
Moreover, privy to non-public, industry-related knowledge affords them all sorts of opportunities (blatantly unethical under Morton Grove ordinances) to substantially augment their income through “insider” trading and investments. For many of them the appetite for material riches can be insatiable.
Which helps explain why at times the liberty that some of them can’t resist taking with the public trust is so flagrant that (moralistically kicking and screaming) they actually end their careers behind bars. (Does the name “Rod Blagojovich ring a bell?)
One of the primary characteristics of narcissists is their exaggerated sense of entitlement.
It’s hardly surprising then that so many politicians (like our current village president) somehow think they “deserve” to game the system. After all, from their self-interested perspective, isn’t that what the system is for?
In their heavily self-biased opinion, if they want something, by rights it should be theirs. So, nothing if not opportunistic, they take from public and private coffers alike whatever they think they can get away with. (Consider the increase in stipend and “technology allowance” that the current administration granted itself without the benefit of public notice, public input or a public vote).
And given their grandiose sense of self, they’re inclined to believe they can get away with most anything. Sad to say, in today’s politics their judgment isn’t that skewed. Which is to say they’re much more often right than wrong.
Exploiting their privileged position in such a manner hardly leaves them plagued with guilt.
In general, guilt isn’t an emotion they’re prone to. How could they be if they feel entitled to the objects of their desire? In their minds their very ability to attain something must certainly mean it was merited. So it’s only when they’re caught with their hands deep in the till and their various efforts at denial have failed them, that they’re ready to admit responsibility, and posture remorse. But even then, whatever alligator tears they might shed are calculated to lessen the penalties for their misbehavior—or the time that otherwise they might be required to spend in lockup.
Ironically, despite the steadfast ethical values they profess, these politicians can be viewed as “moral relativists” in that what they adamantly deem immoral for others is yet somehow acceptable for themselves.
In our village, this raises it’s ugly head in playing “bait and switch” with TIF money earmarked for one project but funneled into a sweetheart deal behind the scenes, or changing a zoning/planning ordinance to pressure a landowner to take actions contrary to his/her own best interests, or something as simple as taking credit for increased businesses in town when there are still an overwhelming number of vacant retail properties on Dempster street, (Who are you gonna believe, Village President DiMaria or your own lying eyes?)
Whether we characterize the personal “allowances” they make as constituting a double standard or outright hypocrisy, these privileged concessions to self clearly broadcast their overblown sense of entitlement. Which is precisely what enables them to regard themselves as sufficiently exceptional to exclude themselves from the rules and standards they impose on others.
What is hard for us to understand is why the village trustees have forfeited any credit, let alone much of a mention, for any of the “so-called” achievements of the DiMaria administration. Little acknowledgment of trustee Grear, who is, after all, the senior and longest serving trustee. Little acknowledgment of trustee Witko, who, while secure in her seat is defending the position of village president DiMaria while he stands mute and doesn’t defend himself.
The saying “Promises are made to be broken” rings particularly true for them. It’s become almost a joke that the devout pledges they made on the campaign trail bear only trifling resemblance to what they’ve done once in office.
The ability to convince voters that they’ll best represent their interests is what defines their success. Actually implementing what they avowed they’d tirelessly work for isn’t really an essential part of their agenda—which is typically well-hidden from constituents. In short, their campaigns measure how well they can dupe the public, not how well they’ll fulfill their responsibilities once declared victorious.
Over the past week there have been a couple of things that should make Morton Grover’s shake their heads in wonderment.
Last week, a mailing was sent out to Morton Grove businesses in a hand-addressed envelope that showed the return address of Village President DiMaria. Inside the envelope was a message that began; “Mayor Daniel P. DiMaria cordially invites you to the 2017 Business and Leaders Forum to discuss the Progress, Opportunities and Challenges for Morton Grove businesses…” Later on it states; “Meet the Candidates for the 2017 election…”. It is only after reading the back of the invitation and the enclosed card that it becomes apparent that this is a fund-raising ploy aimed at squeezing money out of the businessmen and businesswomen of our village under the guise of a Business and Leader’s Forum. Accidental “bait & switch”? Not likely.
Also last week the “Winter edition” of the Morton Grove village newsletter was delivered to the homes in town. Interestingly, the content of the village newsletter mirrors the content on the first page of the Action Party web site, (including the use of the outline of the tree which is part of the village logo and the use of the village motto which first appeared on the village stickers). Use of village communications for private political activity is prohibited by not only village ordinance, but also by Illinois ethics statutes, ( ELECTION CODETITLE 15. REGULATING POLITICAL FUNDS AND CAMPAIGNSCHAPTER 255. REGULATING POLITICAL ADVERTISING AND CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS ).
What DiMaria and the Action Party seems to have done bears a resemblance to what passed for politics as usual in Chicago in the 1950s. Richard J. Daley, who was mayor at the time, used to offer a succinct piece of ethics advice to newly elected aldermen. “Don’t take a nickel,” Daley told them. “Just show them your business card.”
Even the greenest of political newcomers understood exactly what Daley meant. He was telling them that people with an interest in city council decisions would be happy to throw an alderman a little cash on the side to help bring about a favorable outcome. They just had to find an acceptable way to do it.
A law office was a good place. Petitioners who needed a favorable council vote could be depended on to pay generously for a little legal work. An insurance agency was even better.
It was all considered quite legal, at least in the ethical climate that existed in Chicago at the time. There was no quid pro quo, or any need to discuss out loud what the petitioners might want the city council to deliver for them. That part was understood. If a landlord or a building contractor or a labor union wanted to flatter a public official by doing business with him, they had every right to do so.
The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, says that perfectly voluntary transactions can qualify as extortion as long as one of the parties is acting “under color of official right.”
So now, apparently, Village President DiMaria and the Action Party are not satisfied with shaking down village businesses “under color of official right”, but they are blatantly making use of materials that have been paid for by the taxpayers of Morton Grove no matter if they support the Action Party or not.
Bathhouse John Coghlin and Hinky-Dink Kenna, (two old-time Chicago machine politicians) would be proud… maybe the residents of our village, not so much.