Ald. Jacobson’s Budget Remarks

Many thanks to DeKalb County Online for isolating DeKalb council member Dave Jacobson’s comments of November 28 on the proposed 2017 budget.

The two men showing disrespectful body language are Mayor Rey (far right) and Fourth Ward Ald. Bob Snow (second from right).

Remember this from October?

This week, city staff asked the city council to waive the residency requirement for the IT director candidate that they like. It was presented as super-urgent, and council went along.

The problem with this (besides their ongoing preference for carpetbaggers, I mean) is that it goes against a policy set by council that identified the IT director as an emergency response position. That is, this person has been categorized by council as needing to be close to hand in case of emergency.

Council should have insisted that the policy be followed, at least until the matter could be revisited for deliberation at a public meeting. Instead, the city manager’s convenience was prioritized over a public safety consideration.

Were you perhaps puzzled about how the top IT candidate got so far in the interview process when residency was an issue for him? I’ve got yer answer lying in my email inbox. Out of five ads placed for the IT director, there are zero mentions of the residency requirement.

Remember how City of DeKalb never got rid of its legal assistant, even when the city switched to an outside attorney who is contractually obligated to hire and pay his own help?

The city is still providing the attorney with hired help, only now they’ve changed the name of the position to “administrative assistant.”

Fighting Over Scraps

The Chronicle posted an article online last night about council’s fight over the proposed annual budget that begins January 1.

The article says that city staff presented a draft budget with 75% cuts in the social services allocations. This is different from the online version available to the public, which shows the line item (account 8307) as $160,000.

It’s a problem that these various drafts never get posted for the public so we can participate in a meaningful way. However, my main point here is that everyone is reduced to fighting over scraps to balance this budget, because the city manager refuses to give up any goodies for herself and her pets. The human services line item has been, at best for several years, at $150,000; that probably wouldn’t cover the compensation the new IT director will get. What’s budgeted for education and professional development (account 8376) is $249,000, an amount that’s more than doubled in two years. Meanwhile, reductions in raises are considered the “last resort.” They deny themselves nothing.

Staff say they are only reducing what’s not “core services.” Maintaining streets is a core service, but expenditures for streets are nil next year in your neighborhood unless you’re lucky enough to live in a TIF district.

As Ald. Jacobson put it:

They did what I expected them to do and proved that they are here to serve themselves, they are here to ensure that the raises are either expected or guaranteed and that they get paid more while the community continues to suffer.

That’s what bureaucrats do. They carve out their territories and feather their nests. Our only hope — always, not just now — is a council that understands its role as a check on their enormous appetites.

The budget is up for final approval December 12.

**Correction and clarification added 11/30**

In DeKalb’s fiscal year budget for 2008, $214,000 was allocated in the legislative department budget for social services funding. Two years later, the amount was reduced to $150,000, because the city was still experiencing post-Great Recession budget crises.

The funding has never been restored. It’s been at $150,000 ever since, split between about a dozen agencies/programs.

In the proposed FY2017 budget under consideration now, administrators went so far as to zero out this legislative line item altogether. (**correction/clarification added 11/30: it still appears as a line item, though moved to the community development department, and not at the reduced amount discussed Monday.) Council quickly restored the funding Monday evening amid public outcry. However, I doubt that serious discussion of actual policy took place.

We do need to have that discussion. Should city government fund social and supportive services? If so, what’s the plan? Read the rest of this entry

In “Mayor’s View: DeKalb in Solid Financial Shape for 2017,” John Rey is claiming that DeKalb is in fine financial shape.

This will be his campaign refrain, but it’s nonsense. DeKalb has been spending more than it’s been taking in, the steep rise in spending is primarily due to over-staffing, and the foremost casualty is infrastructure such as street maintenance. It’s the same pattern as for 2010-11, only worse.

dyerware.com


The first category reflects expenditures from Capital Projects, Fleet Fund, and Equipment Fund; some years Fleet and Equipment are separate, other years they are combined with/in Capital Projects. The second category includes expenditures out of two accounts in the Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) Fund that have to do with street maintenance and construction. (Other accounts in this fund, such as one for road salt, are more operationally related and therefore not included.) The third category combines the first two expenditure categories so you can see how close to the bottom of the barrel we are.

As projected, the coming year’s capital expenditures will reach their lowest point in at least a dozen years.

Related: DeKalb’s $10 Million Budget Hole

Last year, City of DeKalb got caught violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA) in approving a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

There were actually two violations, but the one we are concerned with here is DeKalb city council’s failure to take its final vote on the matter in a public session of city council.

Because it looks they’ve done it again. Read the rest of this entry

City staff are proposing to spend $400,000 in 2017 for a STEAM learning center — and that’s just for the architectural service called “building analysis.” The city is already spending $75,000 on a consulting firm, and council has been spending time in closed sessions to discuss the purchase or lease of property. This is an expensive undertaking, ripe for abuse, and should be done only under the watchful eye of the public.

But obtaining information can be difficult, what with our city hall existing now in a perpetually locked-down position, and today I want to share an example. In April 2016, the Request for Proposal for the consultant referred to decisions made by the “stakeholder project team.” In early September, a posting on the city’s website about a survey taken of the community also mentions the “project team.” Do you get the idea that there’s some sort of committee at work? Me too. However, when we ask about the actual makeup of this “STEAM Team,” staff in the city manager’s office deny us.

Here’s how the attempts to get this information have played out so far. Read the rest of this entry

Fun tidbit has come my way, and by “fun” I mean enormously dispiriting.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated 10/31/2016:

Please provide examples over the past three months (8-1-16 to 10-31-16) of analysis documents produced by anyone holding the title “management analyst” within the city of DeKalb’s employment.

This request is entirely for the public good and in no manner represents a commercial request.

As budget discussions are underway it is critical that this response be returned in a timely manner. The results need not be exhaustive, a few such analyses per designated employee will suffice.

The time scope may be expanded at a later time depending upon the results of this request.

City of DeKalb’s response to this request for information:

No records were found for the time period specified in your request.

The city expects to pass a budget in a few weeks that takes effect January 1, 2017, as well as pass a possibly record-setting property tax levy, and the management analysts haven’t been analyzing a thing.

Last I checked, the so-called analysts make more than $60,000 per year in salary alone, and do clerical work such as responding to FOIA requests.

City Barbs Turns 11 Today

The other day, an acquaintance asked if calling City Barbs a “blog” is an insult.

Yeah, I get it. I’ve seen the curl of the lip when some speak of blogs and bloggers. But look who’s doing it. I’m proud of the crowd of lip-curlers we’ve got. They indicate we’re on the right track.

And while blogging often constitutes an act of self-indulgence (as it obviously does today, on this here anniversary) it can also be an act of achievement. I’ve built a significant body of work that has generally served the public interest despite an abundance of vanity. Not bad, I say. :)

So, no, calling City Barbs a blog, or me a blogger, is never taken as an insult.

Let’s talk more about the “we” of City Barbs, which is a group achievement. Over the years, I’ve received tons of support behind the scenes: readership, advice, articles, education, documents, pep talks, and donations. I am tremendously grateful for the support. It makes City Barbs feel like a community, and to me this likewise indicates we’re on the right track.

Thank you.