Norridge village president hopeful slams cuts to police budget

Tom Benigno wants to restore police cuts made by Tannhauser, improve crumbling Village infrastructure

Benigno points to pictures of Norridge’s crumbling infrastructure

Norridge Village President hopeful Tom Benigno held his first campaign rally at his Irving Park Road office.

Due to COVID-19, the Benigno campaign limited the number of people inside the office at one time, and live streamed the event on its Facebook page.

Benigno came out swinging against Norridge’s appointed Village President Daniel Tannhauser, criticizing Tannhauser’s 2020-2021 budget, which significantly cut the Norridge police budget.

“Did you know that the new Norridge budget for 2021 cut $600,000 off the Norridge police department? $600,000.” Benigno said.

“All 20 of the auxiliary police have been cut.”

Benigno stated Norridge had more police on the street in 2013 than currently.

“Does that make you feel safe at night? No. That’s insane! Especially in these troubled times we live in”.

“Norridge is not in a bubble”, Benigno continued. He cited examples of increasing crime, including the robbery of a Walgreens, a Citgo gas station, numerous home break ins, and a fatal stabbing on Lawrence.

“Last Sunday, a 9 year old boy was attacked 2 blocks from the police station. That could have been your child, that could have been my child, in that situation”.

“Cut the police department? Does that make the neighborhood safer? I don’t think so”.

Benigno also broached the subject of consolidating police departments with other area departments, a discussion long sought by fiscal conservatives in Norridge.

“We should [look at] combining our resources with neighboring Villages, to have more police on the street”.

Land purchases, local schools, infrastructure, and government attitudes

Benigno made mention of the multiple land purchases the Village has made the past few years, including some being sold at a loss, such as the Village-owned piece of the show property, now known as the “Norridge Marketplace“.

Benigno also took issue with the current administration’s hands-off approach to the issues faced by local schools.

He said the same issues exist today at the schools as when he first ran for office eight years ago, including money shortages, and maintenance problems.

“I know there are school boards in place, and the school boards are doing the best they can with the limited resources they have”, Benigno said.

“[The Norridge Improvement Party] administration … washed their hands of the school boards, telling them ‘you have a school board, the schools are your problem'”.

“But the last time I looked, the schools are in Norridge!”

Benigno suggested putting together a working group with Village residents and the school boards to raise funds for local schools from education grants, and private sector foundation money.

“You can’t always run to taxpayers to foot the bill. It’s not right”.

On Norridge’s infrastructure, he showed several photos of broken curbs and sidewalks, including a big hole in front of Leigh school.

“You see that hole? That was there all summer, and kids play around there.”

Benigno said infrastructure in general within Norridge has not been maintained.

“Go anywhere you want in the Village and you will see curbs and sidewalks that need work”, Benigno said.

“Some of the alleys don’t even have sewers in them.  And they flood”.

Finally, Benigno addressed the current atmosphere at the Norridge Village hall, and the “outsider” attitude from Village officials to community involvement from those who are not supporters of the Norridge Improvement Party.

“That’s the way they want you to feel… if you’re not part of that chosen few, they don’t want to know you.”

“Neighbors, this is our neighborhood … We should be here working together to benefit Norridge. Not to benefit the ‘chosen few’.”

Bengino emphasized positive changes coming if he is elected Village President, including community meetings “for all of Norridge”.

“I will have an open and transparent administration. And I won’t forget that I work for you, and not the other way around”.

Benigno said when he moved to Norridge 25 years ago, his “dream came true”. Norridge had “great community spirit” that no longer exists.

“When you elect me Village President, I will make that dream I had a reality again for all of us”.


District 79 mulls new property tax increase referendum

Options range from renovations to a $28 million new building

Norridge School District 79 is considering putting yet another property tax increase referendum on the ballot.

If approved by the District 79 board, it would be the fourth referendum attempt since 2014, the previous three having been defeated, including a $25 million bond sale in 2018.

The D-79 referendum discussion comes as local property owners reel from higher property taxes resulting from higher tax levies, including a District 207 high school bond referendum passed in 2018.

The first of these D-207 bond sale payments are being seen in this year’s second property tax bill, due in August.

The increases are compounded by property value re-assessments conducted in 2019, with many homeowners reporting property tax bills rising by 20% or more.

District 79 consists solely of Pennoyer school, and its boundaries include parts of Norridge, Harwood Heights, and unincorporated Norwood Park Township.

Most Pennoyer homes flow into D-207 for high school, with a small number going to District 234 Ridgewood.

Pennoyer hires consultants

As a side effect of the COVID-19 lockdowns, public bodies have been required to publish recordings of meetings held remotely.

District 79 has posted recordings of these virtual meetings on its YouTube channel, including Facilities Committee meetings on June 2 and July 1, where the referendum was discussed at length.

At the June 2 meeting, District 79 board president Michael Malusa and board member Phil LaPalermo appeared to be pushing for a $28 million new school building.

Malusa and LaPalermo advocated a similar expensive strategy in 2018 that failed to show results.

D-207’s 2018 referendum, while successful overall, did not pass in the areas served by D-79.

Pennoyer taxpayers are paying consultants, including EO Sullivan, who was paid $7,500 to conduct robocall phone surveys of 252 residents the week of June 15th 2020.

Those polled by the consultant reported the strongest support for a new school over the other options, but heavy opposition to the $28 million cost.

However, the data shows an over-sampling of left-wing respondents, as well as under-sampling for people over 65.

Seniors are a key active voting demographic in the areas where the referendum will take place.

$10 million now…  $28 million later?

The Facilities Committee discussed various options

  • $7 million dollar renovation
  • $10 million renovation and small addition
  • $18 million renovation and large addition
  • $28 million new school

The committee made a recommendation July 1 for the $10 million renovation and expansion of the existing school building.

LaPalermo indicated Pennoyer would still be looking to spend tens of millions more on a new school further down the road.

“A low end [referendum] would be worthwhile”, LaPalermo said.

“If we can get a yes, get a referendum approved, I think it greatly enhances our chances of getting another one approved 1, 2, 3 years down the road”.

LaPalermo admitted doing a renovation now and a new building later would be wasteful of taxpayer dollars.

“Even though it’s wasteful, because if we do a new building ultimately, that … money is wasted, but you know what, we can’t control that”.

But LaPalermo didn’t want the public to know of more planned tax increase referendum(s), saying it was “too much information”.

“Sometimes too much information to the community is too much, you know”, LaPalermo said.

Higher enrollment

One of the justifications for the referendum was higher enrollment at District 79. Pennoyer says it needs to add multiple new classrooms as a result.

Overcapacity at District 80, and school district consolidation to reduce expenses, were only discussed in passing.

Consolidation of Districts 79 and 80 would make it possible for overflow students to attend Leigh or Giles.

D-79’s school board could take up the committee’s referendum recommendation as soon as the next board meeting, scheduled for July 15 2020.

If the ballot question were to be put on the November 2020 Presidential Election, it must do so by mid-August.


Norridge budget up over $1.8 million despite economic slowdown

$25.3 million budget cuts police nearly $600,000 and streets by $140,000

If Norridge’s budget was at the doctor’s office for its yearly check up, this year’s visit would leave it with a warning: you’re morbidly obese.

The Village of Norridge Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget of $25,361,741 is a $1,840,685 year-over-year increase from the $23.5 million 2019-2020 budget.

The $1.8 million increase comes in spite of the economic hardship currently gripping Illinois as a result of IL Governor JB Pritzker’s “lockdown” executive orders.

The COVID-19 lockdown has hurt government tax revenues

Pritzker’s rule-by-decree lockdown closed many businesses for months, in many cases completely, while service businesses such as restaurants were only able to get by on carry out orders until recently.

Some businesses didn’t survive. Many continue to struggle. This suppression of economic activity has devastated government tax coffers statewide.

Yet that didn’t stop the Village of Norridge, under current appointee-mayor Daniel Tannhauser, from swelling Norridge’s municipal budget further.

More revenue in a down economy?

The Village’s “expected revenues” show a substantial anticipated increase – from $23.7 million in 2019-20, to a whopping $26.5 million in 2020-21.

The claimed expected revenues flies in the face of statewide sales tax revenues being down significantly. Norridge gets $4+ million in state sales tax sharing alone.

Income tax losses could be in the billions. Some of that money makes it to the municipalities via income tax sharing, or indirectly through grants and other funds.

A nearly $3 million increase in tax revenue under these conditions? Unlikely.

Included in Norridge’s “expected revenues” is a $683,000+ increase in gasoline tax income.

No doubt Tannhauser included estimated revenues of the 12-pump gas station being built on Irving Park Road across from the Sieb center.

Is that money likely to materialize this year? With Pritzker’s lockdowns the cause for nearly 1.5 million unemployed in Illinois, and many employees (who are still employed) working from home, the demand for fuel has plummeted

The expected revenues from Tannahuser’s budget, therefore, seems more likely to be, as former Norridge mayor James Chmura would say, “a load of BS”.

Police and streets cut

Even with the $1.8 million budget expansion, the Norridge Police department has been cut by nearly $600,000.

The auxiliary police force was pared back by over $100,000 alone, from $255K in 2019-20, down to $150K in 2020-21. We have received reports many auxiliary officers have already been dismissed.

Is Tannhauser trying to jump on the radical left’s “Defund The Police” train, even as Norridge has been targeted by the mob?

Street maintenance was also cut by $140,000, from $1,845,123 in 2019-20, to $1,702.655 in 2020-21.

Despite the cuts, the Village allocated another $550,000 for the corporate welfare agreements they signed with the owner of the Harlem Irving Plaza.

Funding for attorneys also soared well past the quarter of a million dollar mark, increasing from $240,000 last fiscal year to $300,000 this year.

(The Village’s primary law firm, Johnson & Colmar, is a campaign contributor to Tannhauser’s Norridge Improvement Party.)

Tannhauser’s first… or last budget?

Daniel Tannhauser was appointed to succeed Chmura in 2019, shortly after Chmura’s 2019-2020 budget was rubber stamped by the Village board. The 2020-21 budget is Tannhauser’s first.

He’s gone full throttle on spending, throwing caution to the wind, counting on money that may not be there.

The Village will have to pay the shortfall out of it’s reserves… or, as is more likely, balance the bloated budget on the backs of Norridge’s property owners.

The previous two years saw double digit increases in the Village property tax levy. This year’s levy is up again, to $2.2 million.

Tannhauser’s 2020-21 budget prioritizes corporate welfare and patronage payroll, over police and streets.

One would have thought with an election 9 months away and a deep-pocketed challenger on the horizon already taking shots at him, Tannhauser would a bit more… conservative in an uncertain economy.

If Tannhauser’s imaginary revenue streams don’t become a reality… then his first budget, may very well be his last.

And it’s high time we put Norridge’s budget on a strict diet: better priorities, and fiscal discipline.


Benigno launches 2021 run for Norridge mayor

Illinois Deputy Secretary of State Tom Benigno launches his candidacy for Norridge Village President

Benigno cited a need for new ideas and leadership, in a statement released by the Benigno campaign.

Tom Benigno is running in 2021 for Village President

“We see that many of our community’s strengths have been diminished and that our greatest asset – our people – the very families who pay the taxes and support our schools and village services are not being heard.” said Benigno in the statement.

“Between COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions and unrest across our region, the very fiber of our community is being challenged,” Benigno said.

“It’s time for change, it’s time for a change in leadership. And it’s a time for new ideas. That’s why I’m announcing today that I am running for Norridge Village President.”

“Working together we can be the Norridge we are meant to be – safe streets, attracting new businesses and strong supporting our public schools – all with an eye on holding the line on taxes,” Benigno said. “It’s not just doing more, it’s doing more smartly.”

This will be the third campaign for Benigno, having sought Norridge’s highest elected office in 2013, and in 2017.

In 2013 Benigno ran as an independent against then-financial director James Chmura of the Norridge Improvement Party (NIP).

In 2017 Benigno sought a rematch against Chmura, running with a full slate of candidates under the Norridge First Party ticket, challenging Chmura’s NIP.

Benigno is once again running as an independent, in the local elections scheduled to be held in April 2021.

Daniel Tannhauser of the NIP is currently serving as acting Village President.

Then-trustee Tannhauser was appointed Village President in July 2019, following the abrupt resignation of James Chmura the previous month.

Tannhauser has since stated his intention to seek an elected term for Village President.

Benigno’s campaign website is FriendsofTomBenigno.com, and lists a phone number of (312) 907-5683. His campaign Facebook page is at facebook.com/friendsoftombenigno.

 


Norridge volunteer makes masks for local police

Susan Tague produced dozens of masks for the Norridge PD

Susan Tague and her mother made dozens of masks for the PD

In response to COVID-19, Norridge resident Susan Tague was making masks for family and friends, as well as offering them to health care workers.

However, she felt a calling to go beyond that, and wanted to produce masks for first responders.

She checked in with the Norwood Park fire department, who thanked her for the offer, but stated the department was mandated to wear the masks they were issued.

Then, she asked the Norridge police department if they could use masks, and they responded positively.

“They were ecstatic that somebody was offering to donate masks to them”, Tague said.

She wanted to make dozens of masks for the PD, but Tague had been laid off from her oncology and hematology job prior to the COVID-19 epidemic.

As a result, Tague, her husband, and their two children were living off only her husband’s income. Finances were tight, limiting the number of masks she could produce.

That’s when she decided to post a request for donations on a local Facebook group, where she received contributions of funds, and 19 home-made masks made by others.

Tague used the money donated to buy more thread, fabric, elastic and copper wire.

She had to be creative to obtain the materials needed to produce the masks, as the raw materials were in high demand.

Norridge Police Chief David Disselhorst wears one of the masks produced by Tague

For the copper wiring, she bought lamp cord from Norridge Ace Hardware, removing the plastic covering, and utilizing the individual copper strands in the masks.

Tague and her mother produced 45 masks in patriotic stars and colors. In total, nearly 70 were delivered to the Norridge PD this week.

The Norridge police department posted photos of the masks on their Facebook page, posing with Tague’s son.

Asked why she went out of her way to ensure Norridge’s first responders had masks, Tague said she had a “Rosie the Riveter” vibe.

“I have a drive to want to help in a situation or a crisis”, Tague says.

It goes back to her grandmother during World War II producing war materials to aid the war effort.

“I felt that ‘Rosie the Riveter’ feeling, where I wanted to pitch in to do something that could be useful.”, she said.

“Or maybe ‘Suzie the Seamstress'”, she added with a chuckle.