Taxation Open Thread

The other threads are getting kind of long so use this space to discuss Home Rule repeal, District 428 facilities planning, the city budget, etc. What’s new:

  • All of the DeKalb City Council (except Ald. Gorski, who has no e-mail) received a copy of this letter appearing in the Chronicle today.
  • Watch for it: Mark Charvat will soon be announcing the first organizational meeting for supporters of a measure to revoke the city’s Home Rule status
  • Rep. Bob Pritchard is involved in a measure to provide for recall elections of state elected officials; could this be extended to the local level or not, and if so, is it a good idea? Comments, please.
  • 3rd Ward Alderman Victor Wogen has called a meeting for Thursday, April 3, 6 p.m. in the 2nd floor conference room of city hall. He will be joined by Alderman Keller and if the meeting overflows the room they’ll move it to council chambers.
  • (sniff) Is it just spring I smell, or are there other changes in the air?

    42 thoughts on “Taxation Open Thread”

    1. Nice job with the letter.

      I hope you also show up at council to both elaborate on the points in the letter and add the other suggestions that won’t fit in Chronicle letters.

      thanks for taking the lead


    2. Excellent letter! I’d like to publish it on my site with your permission.

      1) Repeal Home Rule
      The effort, at least from my part, is to get the question on the November ballot to empower the voters with the ability to decide after what I am absolutely sure will be much public discussion and debate. I am having a real hard time understanding why such empowerment should be deprived and frankly, the scurrying to squelch the effort looks bad for those who champion open and honest government.

      2) School District
      a. Please write a or all school board members ASAP and demand that they have Value Engineering into the respective contracts and full disclosure on compensation for any material specifications written into the bidding requirements.

      b. Also ask for a verification of student enrollment projections as the ones currently used are dated and compiled during the construction boom times.

      c. Stress the importance of NOT spending $110 million because they do not have to do that and voters approved UP TO $110 million and trust them to be cost efficient without compromising quality. QUESTION: How many millions of dollars should be budgeted for “personalization?” How much are you comfortable with.

      d. The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is April 15 (yep, tax day). Please attend and voice your ideas and concerns (up to 3 minutes allowed, no stop watch used).

      Thanks Yinn!

    3. In my organizing book I suggest that when there are time limits, divide up the longer message among group members and have each present part, a pain but it works.

      (Actually, the letter is 400 words long and depending on speaking speed just will fit in 3 minutes (I talk at 150 a minute)

      Hopefully though the timed speech will be a thing of the past, in another meeting or two. I’ve been suggesting that policy be changed so that people are requested to keep their comments to a few minutes at most, but those who are presenting substantive arguments not be really timed but only asked politely to summarize and end their comments when they really do go on long. This idea is getting positive response but those on the council, but who knows.

      Remember one of the ideas of more public hearing participation in the budget process has already been accepted (I hope)

      Again thanks.

      (An aside: when biking I’ve been chased off farm roads by dogs into corn fields and being knocked over by a cornstalk ain’t fun :) though I do like your metaphor or whatever part of speech it is. )


    4. Mac,
      I know this will sound like stalling but targeting the referendum for a national election time makes discussion of a local issue difficult — the national election will be dominating and the Foster Oberweis round 2 will make for interest. While i oppose the idea of repealing home rule,, targeting the referendum for the local elections during April would seem to me to make more sense, at least if the goal is to get public discussion going. (In a practical sense the fy09 budget will have already been decided; and the discussion on the fy10 not yet begun)

      Thanks to your effort and Yinn’s (and others) we have gotten a discussion going on the whole budgeting process.

      On the school board, I’ll try to show up. I will work very hard to make sure all views especially those from the development community are presented, but asking me to talk about technical components of a building project exceeds anything I know. That’s why i wanted builders on the fpc and worked to make sure they were on it. I do support full disclosure though on the internal content of bids.


    5. You asked for comments on recall. I support it but if on the books it needs to have strict enough requirements so that every time there is a disagreement with an issue, recall isn’t started. So for example, if we had recall in Dekalb, I never would have signed on for it even with Greg. I disagreed with him strongly but for the most part it was issue based disagreement. On the other hand, there is an anonymous governor of a state that whose name I won’t use (though it was Abe Lincoln’s home state) who to me should be subject to recall because of gross incompetence and for ignoring the existing governmental structures while making his own rules..

      I short, i support recall provisions but with very strict guidelines before they can be used.

      good question, tough issue

      (Months ago I called Bob Pritchard up or e-mailed him or something to apologize for how the Governor was abusing the legislator. Since I had voted for the Governor I felt I had to apologize to someone.)

      herb r

    6. Mac, you go right ahead and publish the letter on your site. Thanks for asking.

      Herb, I made my last comment on the fly and would like to expand on it now that I have a few minutes:

      The ideas as expressed in the letter are very simple. There is no explanation needed. If you are talking about boomer44’s observations, well, at this point I do not have enough information to evaluate his/her ideas for adding them to the list. My recommendation on that would be for Council to delve into these shift, overtime and contracting suggestions with the means at their disposal. Task force, whatever.

      Secondly, I have sent copies of the letter to the members of Council who have e-mail, so they know where I stand. Again, no explanation needed.

      Although I did ask some people whether they’d be willing to sign letters and/or make appearances (and was mightily reassured on that point) I am reluctant to go that route at this time because a) it is apparent that council knows where the average taxpayer stands if it wants to, and b) I have to consider where best to invest my energies.

      I mean, when it comes down to it, you can have a Council that is smart, honest and well-meaning but still too dysfunctional for us to support. The suggestions are good ones. They would be relatively simple to implement. They would represent good faith efforts to improve representation in city government. They would exhibit whose side these people are on–not to mention some sort of sense of self-preservation. But I am not confident that they can disentangle themselves from what I perceive as a misplaced loyalty to staff. In which case, they should go. My letter–and all the other letters and blogs and e-mails and phone calls and such–could cure a slight case of myopia, but not this (IMO) fatal flaw. I will fight for a cause, Herb, but not to save people from themselves. We’re all grownups here, and they either get it or they don’t.

      So, bottom line is that the ball is in their court. If they do something with these ideas, fine. If not, I will work to replace them. The Home Rule issue is somewhat separate for me, because it involves a calculation as to how often a group dynamic similar to this is bound to come up.

    7. Since I do support all the ideas in your letter would it be inappropriate (assuming I’m at the meeting) for me to ask the council in public about their response to your letter? (I will do so in private and have already pushed variants of these ideas in private conversations with them)

      Anyway, not sure if I’ll do it, l do but if it seems the right thing to do can I push for your ideas orally at a meeting?

      My sense is that no council member, except perhaps victor, follows the blogs except when certain anonymous activists who have real trouble seeing small print in blogs and are horrible typists (me) call them up and strongly suggest that they be read. I’ve actually excerpted some of the blogs and forwarded them to council members.

      Again thanks for the letter. I think the only thing I would add in an oral presentation is the elimination of the gall darn ticking clock (if other efforts haven’t eliminated it already). One of our overlapping ideas has already been adopted; that is, having real public hearings associated with the detailed workshops on the budget.

      I really did like your framing of the financial advisory board as a counter balance to the employees’ voice.

      herb r

    8. Mac,

      Push for the home rule measure for the November ballot and if things cannot get done in time, then April would be a great back up plan.

      If recall ever does happen, the first person I would like to see out is Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. How many cousins can one person put on the payroll at double the salary?

    9. The reasons to put Repeal Home Rule on the Nov. 2008 ballot

      1) It will likely be the highest voter turnout in at least modern US history and DeKalb history as well. An important issue such as this should be decided by an engaged voter and the more the better.

      2) The April election will be a consolidated election. While Article 6b of the IL Constitution allows for the repeal of home rule by referendum it does not outline, in depth, the rules for such a referendum. So then in looking at other articles in the constitution and the state statutes there is indication that a BINDING referendum must take place in a general election, which Nov is. I do not want to waste anyone’s time by getting the petition or the referendum disqualified on a technicality.

      3) If the Repeal Home Rule referendum was to pass it would give incumbents and challengers a head start in planning for the changes warranted by the voters’ decision. Therefore the voters would have clearer choices to make in April.

    10. Mac,
      A reasonable response. I too have found ambiguity in the constitution on the matter. My concern was simply that the home rule issue will get buried with the con-con issue, the presidential election, foster-oberweis.

      Even on the way smaller february ballot, my estimate is that about 20% of those who voted in the primary skipped the school referendum ballot.

      We do need a larger forum to talk about the substantive issues than is provided by your and Yinn’s fine blogs.

      You know I read, respect and respond to your blog. But still, many others who do are from the development community (that’s not an insult, accusation or whatever, just a description.) You are wonderful about posting (non insulting) commentaries with which you disagree. But even I hesitate to post on your blog, the concerns about the difficulties that the end of home rule would have on attempts to assure property maintenance in the older parts of our city. Indirectly I heard that the mayor of Rockford mentioned that as one of many problems Rockford now faces and am trying to verify that. Still, I’d rather have a more neutral forum on which to discuss something that might anger some in the development community.

      Anyway, your argument for the earlier referendum is thoughtful.

      Now how do we get a full scale public discussion of the pros and cons of home rule with the structure of communication that exists now.

      Even on the blogs, the discussion has been mainly that home rule reduces taxes and has not talked on the other consequences of hand cuffing the city in many other areas, especially in property maintenance and in business/industrial attraction. As an academic I have read of the consequences of the tax cut movements in both California and Colorado. In the short run, people were happy but then the service reductions started. In California, the state bailed out the localities when schools lacked funds and other services weren’t provided, but then the state ended up with its own budgetary problems.

      herb r

    11. Herb- I, too enjoy reading your perspectives on the issues, Though we disagree on the Home rule issue. I firmly believe Revoking Home Rule in DeKalb is a necessity based, in part, on fact we have a Non-responsive City Council and a Mayor who decided (AGAIN) to ignore the Public when they decided to FORCE feed us this Massive tax increase.

      Eliminating Home Hule doesn’t guarantee that Taxes will decrease. What it does do, is guarantee that an “Out Of Touch” City Council doesn’t force another “Quickie” Tax upon us in three weeks time without discussion. If Taxes need to be increased, they will be required to put a referendum on the ballot to be VOTED on by the PUBLIC. Yes , “the Public”(The Complainers).

      “The Public” : Definition- according to the DeKalb City Council….

      “An entity that is to be ignored at tax time”

    12. Mark,
      thanks for keeping this cordial. Are you positive on your statement about it not lowering current taxes. What about the 4.3 million local sales tax that is already levied and justified because the city is home rule?

      Hope to see you at the Wogen-Keller thingie.

      i won’t be supporting handcuffing the government but will be asking questions from Boomers post and from Lynn’s letter (that was a compilation of ideas from all of us)

      Council did fail to communicate to the public that individual members wrestled with the decision. At least two with whom I spoke between the first and second readings supported the proposal but also shared with me ideas for cutbacks. Povlsen’s public statements on cutback have been pretty strong and others shared private statements that should be public that are pro cutbacks.

      You have also not yet addressed the other ways in which the council are handicapped with out home rule, primarily in negotiating with businesses. I know the mayor of Rockford has a litany of problems caused by the lack of home rule and I sought to contact him today. He is at conference until next week so i won’t be able to share what he has to say until then. I’m also lunching with folk who know a heck of a lot more about home rule than I do hoping to pick their brains. (You know I’d rather be working on my own books, or even making sure mac and Ivan are heard at the FPC, then fighting this current battle. But I will fight it. )

      See you have an easier time supporting ending home rule than I have in defending it. You have honestly indicated that you are person supporting fewer services than i do. The service packages you want do cost less. I’m not a big government person on the local level (and my views on national social programs are to be irrelevant to localities) but do support more services. So what I have to do is (a) both push for economies in providing services (I do think we spend too much on many things) and (b) while trying to convince people that we need more than a barebones government.

      hope to see you tomorrow night.


    13. I am not a developer.

      How much does DeKalb want us to pay for a fire truck for the airport, just so the NIU football team can fly chartered 737s out of DeKalb instead of Rockford (which is already equipped for such planes)? And, just when will something like that pay for itself through increased usage of the airport? With the truck comes increases for firefighters, because people have to be there to run it.

      Sorry–the airport is not a public service. That is something that should bring in more money than taxpayers spend. If this kind of thing keeps up, there will be talk of selling it and privatizing it.

      Any bets on if the current council votes themselves a raise in the next budget!?

      Herb–Not everyone can go to meetings. Blogs are available 24/7. That is what does make them a good forum.

    14. Herb wrote: “Now how do we get a full scale public discussion of the pros and cons of home rule with the structure of communication that exists now.”

      That’s the nexus of my position to put the home rule question on the ballot. Doing so would in itself would be the catalyst for full scale public discourse. The voters of DeKalb are smart enough to figure this out.

      I also think the constitution convention vote in November will spur even more intelligent discussion of Home Rule, especially due to the efforts of John Gile ( Perhaps DeKalb might consider a commitment to assemble of City Charter or Constitution in the effort to save home rule.

      One of my pet peeves is the lack of enforcement of the Illinois Constitution. Chapter 6, Article 9a for example:

      “Compensation of officers and employees and the office expenses of units of local government shall not be paid from fees collected. Fees may be collected as provided by law and by ordinance and shall be deposited upon receipt with the treasurer of the unit. Fees shall not be based upon funds disbursed or collected, nor upon the levy or extension of taxes.”

      The City of DeKalb has abused this article through its misuse of Home Rule and that abuse has a direct relationship to the current budget crisis. The Community Development department directly tied the plethora of building permit fees to their salary. They even showed and bragged about a $150,000 “profit” one year during the height of the building boom. Now they have a $300,000 permit revenue shortfall. And, they are creating a 3-person inspection department that will “generate revenue (fines, fees) to pay for themselves.”

      As a 20-20 hindsight alternative, perhaps they should use one time fees for one time expenditures, which is the spirit and intent of Chapter 6 Article 9a. Buy trucks and equipment with fees. Pay salaries and operating expenses with taxes.

    15. Guys, I skip meals to go to meetings (and I love to eat). But you don’t have to go. Signed letters to the council, to the paper, polite phone calls all work. All I’m saying is that on many blogs it is the choir speaking to the choir and that is not how to bring about change, no matter which side of the issue you might be on. (On a recent contentious issue, I think on the warehouses, but matters blur. People on both sides called me and gave them the same advice: don’t spend time complaining to one another but instead call and write council members, talk to staff and show up at meetings. I do believe strongly in certain policy positions, but I believe even more strongly in encouraging informed involvement as that is what I taught in my classes and what i write about)

      Mark C has talked with council members. Mark is irritated that they haven’t instantly capitulated to his views; but when I talk with the same folk, it is clear to me that Mark’s views have been heard and factored into the decisions that council makes. See Mark, council members hear you and hear the ‘no’ you are saying; but they also hear me and hear the ‘yes’ that I am saying. Their job is to use their own insights to balance out such conflicting constituency input. When Mac had the ear of the council and stopped impact fees, I fought for the fees and lost (for many years) but didn’t cry out, change the form of government so my will will prevail. Instead i joined with others to elect council people who would support the policy perspective I (and many, many others) wanted.

      Both Mac (I hope I am speaking correctly here) and myself disagree with the upzoning and non tear down policy in certain neighborhoods. But how did this policy come about. Members in those neighborhoods organized, showed up at meetings and demanded that they be in place. Council was responsive to such constituency input (I disagreed with the decision but the process was open and one does not always prevail)>

      Mac, you raise such interesting issues but I do like to double check them as many constitutional issues are complicated. On the most recent one I am checking county officials don’t know and my reading of the state laws differs from that of others though the language seems quite clear. (On one issue I checked in the state laws, there were two parallel sets of laws, one more recent in the thirties, one twenty years earlier (or so). Usually new laws replace old ones, in this case, they did not, but both were in effect)

      I suspect the CD department and others were seeking revenue for uncompensated costs that (pre impact fee) developments imposed on the community.

      I just learned that home rule provides an extra $3 million bucks of state money for the first time home buyers program (we do want our kids to stay here don’t we.)

      Home rule also allows more stringent fees on the development community, something that Mac has protested, I have supported these fees, but without home rule many of these fees, exactations would be in doubt. Mayor of Rockford has said (though I’ve only heard indirectly and he is out of town so can’t yet confirm) lack of home rule has made negotiating for business expansion problematic.

      Mac, if i really thought you would run the home rule campaign in a balanced fashion, here is a list of pros, here is a list of cons, I’d be interested (though probably would still oppose it). But at least as most of the blogs are indicating it will simply get cast as let’s lower taxes (and it will probably do that) and not mention the serious deterioration in services that could be involved, as well a the inability to shape our own growth (except through extreme measures like saying no to growth).

      We do need a restructuring of how council relates to staff and citizens on getting budgetary input. I believe that restructuring is now underway. If significant changes in current procedures are not made I will rethink my position. But some of the proposed changes have already been accepted and i bet most of the others will also. But if many of the suggested procedural reforms are not adopted I will loudly squack and then figure out what to do.

      In part you are reacting to some concerns about process, as many, including me, are. But you are also using the sledge hammer of removing home rule to eliminate programs that effect constituency groups that you support. Don’t get me wrong, you have a right to fight against these programs — such as the proposed rental housing inspection program that I think will save old neighborhoods that you are obliquely attacking above, — but doing so through taking away home rule seems a bit extreme.

      Again, though thanks for the discussion and if i have attributed positions to you in error sorry, but the logic of the discussion still holds.

      And thanks Yinn (and Mac) for providing a forum in which debate is possible that goes beyond brief slogans.


    16. “When Mac had the ear of the council and stopped impact fees, I fought for the fees and lost (for many years) but didn’t cry out, change the form of government so my will will prevail. — Herb Rubin”

      Ummm, thanks Herb. Now I have to put my record against fighting impact fees on public display… it’s 0 and whatever. I’ve never been successful stopping impact fees. You must have me confused with someone else. Yinn’s regular readers know that I hate impact fees because I think they lead to irresponsible government spending and make liars and cheaters out of ordinarily good people. But I’ve never been able to stop them. And they’ve never lowered taxes for existing residents, as promised.

      I am NOT trying to impose my will. People want change. We feel it. Obviously, many were very unhappy with the Sparrow administration (at least his last eight years). Many are unhappy with the Van Buer administration. Maybe, just maybe, its the system that is bad and not the people. In any event the mere discourse on Home Rule will bring about change. And I am quite confident that the people of this city can wade through the BS, from any spinster, and make an informed decision.

      There is a difference between state statutes and the constitution. I am adamantly opposed to using fees, any fees, to pay government salaries because it leads to what we now face. I fully support code enforcement to rid this community of mattress renting, for example. But to give people a ticket book and tell them to go earn their salary is entering dangerous territory and all property owners should be alarmed on that one.

      See you tonight.

    17. There will be an informational meeting on the REPEAL Home Rule effort scheduled for 7am at the Lincoln Inn Restaurant in downtown DeKalb on Monday April 7th. The “dutch” breakfast meeting will be conducted by Mark Charvat and Mac McIntyre of DeKalb. Anyone interested in attending is welcome.

    18. Herb- You state:

      “Mark is irritated that they haven’t instantly capitulated to his views; but when I talk with the same folk, it is clear to me that Mark’s views have been heard and factored into the decisions that council makes. See Mark, council members hear you and hear the ‘no’ you are saying; but they also hear me and hear the ‘yes’ that I am saying. Their job is to use their own insights to balance out such conflicting constituency input”

      I am not the only one who had called or spoken with the council members. There are many other members of this community who have done the same. YOU MISS THE POINT, Herb. As I have written on many occasions, the Council members already had their minds made up PRIOR to hearing my thoughts – Gorski, Wogen, Naylor and Polvsen are all guilty of this! Gorski even flat-out admitted it to me and was quite rude to me when I pointed it out to her…

      Baker did not respond to my E-mails and missed the meeting. Ald (No-response) Simpson is MIA and completely IGNORES his constituents and Keller FINALLY responded “After” the second vote. These city council members need to be confronted about their closed minds when it comes to citizen input.

      Herb, I realize you enjoy defending tax increases and we will obviously always disagree on the tax issues. BUT, You cannot argue with the subversive nature that is quite apparent with the way the city council operates.

      Let me make this point clear…the city council members HAD THEIR MINDS Made up “PRIOR” to me even uttering a single word to them.

      We need to act NOW to let the People decide on the Home Rule Issue. A Referendum to REVOKE is the only way.

    19. Herb,

      I was so irritated that no one listened to what citizens had to say about the plans for State Route 38 way back and what happened when I did contact people, that is one of the reasons why I ran for office. Not only did they not listen, they took the time to say I was wrong (will not mention any names here). I have many buddies in IDOT and I had inside information as to what they were not going to allow for the state’s Class II Truck Route. I should not have to tell elected and city officials that I know people at IDOT who gave me information. No, I should have to ‘pull rank’ like that. As a citizen and a voter, I have a right to speak my mind.

      The same could be said about the parking lot. People way back said they did not want the parking lot turned into a town square and it took a nasty petition drive to get that reversed.

      Now, there was a change in having more openness by posting more of the city documents and meeting recordings where they are now accessible to citizens. So, there is one example of folks at the city listening.

      I attended meetings when I can (with three jobs and being a full-time doc student, that is not easy). Too often, those seem more like sales pitches and just for show to get citizen input.

      John Gile is a good guy. Herb, you’d like his principles–Google his plagiarism lawsuit.

    20. Mark,
      I don’t disagree with you that the council had determined its policy based on the backup material prior to the meeting. I faulted them (and I did fault them strongly) for not discussing matters further. I told Mac last night that I too was panicked by what I read. I also have trouble reaching the two council members that you have trouble reaching. The other 5 all respond within a reasonable time (remember they all have full time jobs or in Keller’s case is a student and a leader in student government).

      Mac has a good post on his site on the Wogen-Keller meeting and I bet Yinn will also give her take. My take is that all of Yinn’s suggestions will be passed by the council within 3 meetings. If not I will be very disappointed.

      We are very much apart on the packages of governmental services we want (Since we haven’t met yet I am relying on secondary reports that you are a person who supports very few governmental functions; I support more though still a limited number at the local level. Excuse me if I was told incorrectly but i assume we will eventually chat f 2 f).

      You were at meetings and you saw that my core response to the tax stuff was to push for more open and inclusionary procedures. I testified twice to that effect and wrote a letter to the paper. Yes, i did support the immediate tax increase (though Mac has now convinced me we could have delayed another 6 months; he didn’t convince me on a year).

      But my question is where were other folk when I was in front of the council pushing for changes in procedures. Yinn now has done a wonderful job, but I really could have used some additional support in pushing for the changes.

      Anyway thanks for corresponding and wish you had been at the Wogen meeting last night, just so we could meet. It was entirely civil and most productive.

      I doubt that the tax increase will be rescinded. But I’m betting that sufficient cuts will be made that further increases will be held off. Further, Mac got a promise that Keller-Wogen (and they need one more to get something on the agenda) will move to have the whole matter reconsidered at a time certain (not the vague later on that we have been told in the past.)

      We do differ on scope of government (Bet we’d really differ if we talked about national government). But it seems we should be working together on procedures.


    21. Kay,

      Remember it was Lynn and I working as a team that pushed the change for internet display of documents. Citizen pressure worked.

      You should have been listened to on the IDOT stuff since that is public.

      On the parking lot though, I was on the committee. Now I didn’t care one way or another about the parking lot. I did support having a shared community space someplace downtown but didn’t care where. I had people come up to me in strong support of the use of the parking lot and had people come up who opposed it. It certainly was a contentious issue, but pressure occurred on both sides. The downtown merchants organized, but I got stopped on my walks and a call or two with people supporting the idea. And, I think we got a better plan because of the pressure — more street parking, the parking lot maintained, but a public space added. Though voices did get loud I thought that was a good example of public decision making, as the city did begin with supporters of the revamping of the parking lot chiming in first and then modified after hearing from others. Staff did initially like the plan for converting the parking lot but before the petitions drive had completed (but was under way), staff was circulating alternative ideas in response to the opposition. The renew committee actually played with a whole bunch of other ideas that were rejected (I won’t share them, some really were silly). (And, interestingly, some ideas were rejected after inquiries were made to IDOT that told the city no can do.) I think the initial preference for the public space was on the lot near city hall but that idea was given up as the lot is on the ‘wrong side’ of the railroad tracks.

      As I said, as a minor member of the renew committee, I listened and so long as a public space emerged someplace I was quite happy.

      The sales pitch comment of yours is of real interest as I’m in agreement with you and in fact even more negative on the perception. : much of what we hear sounds too much like ‘this is the way it is going to be’. In long conversations with the city council members I have vociferously argued with them that part of their job is as teachers explaining and listening not in pontificating. They are supposed to read back up material, talk to folk, make up their own minds and then (and here is what has been missing) give full public discussion of why they made up the minds the way they did.

      I have cajoled, argued, even shouted (as much as I’m capable of shouting, that’s not my style) with the mayor and council to make them try to understand that part of their job is in education and part of that education is in explaining in public that yes they have heard both sides of an issue and here is why they come down on one side or the other or better yet worked out a reconciliation.

      Now a secret agenda on my part (as a a lifelong teacher or maybe as a text book author). I’ve learned that when I have to persuade someone (that’s called teaching) I have to examine what I am going to say carefully. Often in doing so i find that I can’t justify my position and need further information. To me at least the very pressure to present an idea in public has caused me to rethink that same idea as I now discover my own logic doesn’t fully hold. I’m trying to move council in that direction.

      On a personal note, something has to give in your schedule. Remember we only have 24 hours in a day, though it often feels like less.

      Herb R

    22. Kay, I need to do an update article on the construction on Route 38, from 2009-2013. I think it important to create top-of-mind-awareness as the response has been “we are aware of it.”

      Above is a short blurb with a map and a link to the idot info page on the construction. With your knowledge and contacts with idot, I was wondering if you’d do an informational article on it. I’d pay ya but I’m broke and I got a lot fires going right now.

    23. Yes, it was Herb & I who ventured up to city hall that time but about 10 people, including Kay, signed the letter that got us on the agenda for the public access discussion and I dare say we would have done more if we’d needed to.

      Herb is obviously disappointed that others, including myself, don’t speak at City Council meetings more often. The thing is, as far as I can tell it is the least effective activity in my repertoire.

      As far as the parking lot-town square idea, that IMO was a goof on the part of the city not to have hashed it out thoroughly with the business owners first and by the time of the outcry, everyone who supported the idea was pretty set on it, not thinking there was any opposition.

      BTW, if anybody from the city is reading this, you are going to make the same mistake with the South 4th Street plan if you do not make the extra effort to connect face-to-face with every business owner along that stretch! They need to understand what this is supposed to accomplish and to have some input.

    24. Upside on south 4th street plan. There is no money nor source of money to go byond the discussion level (except for some environmental remediation).

      I’m not in love with the plan myself but haven’t spend much time on it as without funds it won’t go anywhere.


    25. Yikes. Three minutes left in the lunch hour–will be happy to do all of the above but please give me some deadlines. I do not burn the candle on both ends, the entire candle is on fire.

      We have not even started on the issue of those who complain get retaliation. One particular type of business gets targeted inspections if an owner complained about anything.

    26. Safe to school? I’m unaware (unless it is the idea that once the street is shrunk and sidewalks are expanded than less busing is needed). Will IDOT fund that? if so we do need to pay attention.


    27. I am not surprised there is not enough money to re-do S. 4th St. Re-doing a functional street just because people think it is not attractive should not be a priority.

      South Fourth Street would look much better if someone took a page out of Dixon’s petunias and planted flowers in that tiny strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb. That could be done with a bunch of volunteers on a weekend. Petunias are annuals, so that work has to be re-done every year, or perennials could be chosen instead. For a few hundred dollars, and a mess of volunteers, crocus bulbs could be planted in the fall and purple coneflower seeds planted in the spring. I think both types of plants would do OK with the winter snow and salt slop that would pile up. Dianthus might work, too, as a shorter plant than coneflower and like coneflower, they re-seed themselves.

      Planting flowers would be less expensive than re-doing the street, and the street would not have to be un-widened if the farmland just south of town ended up with new subdivisions in the future.

      Now, someone did tell me the school district spends an extra $90,000 a year to bus nearby students to the high school because Route 23 is considered a safety hazard. That’s too bad because I think 14-year-olds would do much better at crossing Route 23 than the 19-year-olds do at crossing Annie Glidden.

    28. The point of re-doing the street is more than just making it attractive.

      –The sidewalks are too close to the street. Think of a bunch of kids goofing around on the way to school–parents have always been nervous about this.

      –4th is considered a crossing hazard, same as train tracks, by IDOT. Both the school district and IDOT would save a lot of money if they didn’t have to provide bus service for the elementary kids just to get them across that street.

      My previous article on this here.

      I don’t think I’ve met anybody who thought the plan would totally work as is but remember: this was a freebie for us funded by EPA so it is totally enviro-centric. But I hope nobody rejects the entire plan just because some parts of it are kind of pie-in-the-sky for DeKalb.

    29. Thanks Yinn

      I’ll try to learn more on these issues from you and others.

      Vague memory that a lot of state and federal programs work as follows:

      If a locality wants money for a limited specific purpose, say on south 4th doing something about the safety of children and remediating the sites that are environmental hazards, the locality has to show agencies that it has a bigger plan for the entire area. Sometimes the state will actually pay to prepare this bigger plan. If I’m right, this process makes sense as it forces people to think holistically. But it can also complicate matters: I’m sure everyone wants kids to be safe and to clean up sites that are filled with noxious chemicals but when to get funds to do these projects the locality has to have bigger plans that change roads or businesses etc. then controversy can ensue. To complicate matters, the locality might not have to carry out the bigger plans.

      So for instance, the whole large plan that was presented for the south the tracks, Pearl street Gurler? area, came about as part of an effor to get financial help in cleaning up the site with the two (heating fuel?) storage tanks.

      Let’s all keep an eye on the south 4th street area.

      Kay, someplace the city has an aerial map that shows how much green is in the city. I saw it once. It is really discouraging we desperately need mlore living things next to the highways.


    30. Herb wrote–

      “On a personal note, something has to give in your schedule. Remember we only have 24 hours in a day, though it often feels like less.”

      I accelerated my doc program so I can get out faster by taking more classes. That will end soon. I am not going to complain about the extra hours spent on activities related to the shooting–that extra work is worth it. Salary money has not kept up with the rising cost of living.

      Road diets with bad plans force emergency vehicles to drive around stopped cars in the turning lanes on the wrong side of the road. Somewhere, I have citations for that but I do not have time to go look. I cannot remember what that S. 4th St. plan looked like–I remember the bike paths but something in the proposal for an ‘obstacle course’ in the middle made me cringe. There should never be barriers that would impede emergency vehicles. I thought a shooting or a bigger fire was more likely at the high school, where they would have to roll everybody to the high school.

      Nobody wants their kids trying to cross roads that look anything like Lucinda between the Village Commons Shopping Center and the NIU campus. That berm is in the way of seeing cars for anyone shorter than 6′ trying to cross. The height of the berm is to discourage NIU students from jaywalking but it obstructs the vision for people crossing from the north to the south. I do not believe anyone was happy with me when I called that thing Frogger.

      If nobody has any money to re-do S. 4th St. now, then there is probably no point in talking about it. Also, with the high school kids coming out and middle school kids coming in after the new high school is done, does that change the issue? Let me see if I can word this in a way that makes sense–right now, S. 4th is considered too dangerous for high school kids to cross it. When the school gets filled with younger middle school kids in the future, does that mean the road designs would have to be more strict?

      There are obviously no safety restrictions for the 18-year-olds at NIU at Annie Glidden. The sidewalks are right next to the road and I think the little kids pay more attention to drivers than the college students–little kids actually look and wait before they cross the street.

    31. yinn… what is considered pie-in-the-sky should be removed from the plan. IDOT should be consulted for any mandates or no-nos related to a State Highway as part of the pre-planning. Doing so would increase our chances for the federal pass-through funds (TEA21) that IDOT has as well as any other funding. The school pedestrian traffic crossing Rte 23 is going to get considerably younger in the not so distant future. Its all part of the growing need for our taxing bodies to get on the same page.

    32. Kay, it’s only the elementary school pupils who have to be bused. You are right about the emergency vehicles; think about those road tables on Hillcrest!! What were they thinking?!

      Mac, I agree w/taking out pie BUT as a person who lives here I would really like to see a little investment that would bring to the south side a few things that we need. Like a few trees–some of us try to walk and bike and we could die out there on the melty pavement some days. A little coffee place, a video store…I can’t believe everybody in the neighborhood has their own washer & dryer but look how far they have to go to do laundry.

      The plan does not address the questions of people’s driveways nor how traffic should be routed around the high school. Those things have to be figured out before anything else can happen.

    33. Since DeKalb has a tree department and a nursery I fail to see how trees would be pie in the sky. Planting them in the middle of a state highway might be but that’s another issue. Trees for pedestrian shade shouldn’t be an obstacle.

      Is there an inventory of businesses on the south side? An inventory of unoccupied biz buildings and buildable biz lots? With the downtown renovation, if successful, it may well be that South Fourth Street could become DeKalb’s incubator for small independent businesses and start-ups. I do think the southside is positioned for opportunity.

      Herb, as chair of the econdev committee, what are your thoughts on this?

    34. Hadn’t thought much about it recently but when the state did its study we had some discussions either at the EDC or with EDC members and staff, don’t remember which. The thoughts were very much about setting up a small set of stores that wold servce community needs — dry cleaner, maybe a video store.

      Part of the discussion was predicated on two matters outside of direct city control. First, what would happen between Sullivan’s and the outside firm that owns the Sullivan mall (repair and upgrading of that mall would provide the space for the smaller, community stores. Second, if/when/how the Protano site adjacent to the Sullivan site were to be made environmentally sound. Again, something city can’t control.

      Then to complicate matters, Schnuck’s now has in its site some of the smaller stores that could have gone in a refurbished Sullivan’s site.

      In any case, conversations on trees, and local stores were held, support for each was there, but the city is not in control of the Sullivan site (and probably shouldn’t be, my opinion).

      Mac’s sentiments were similar to mine, to those of ED in the city, but can’t do anything until the economics of the Sullivan’s lot becomes clearer, cleanup at Protano occurs and IDOT does whatever it is that IDOT does.

      Oh, of course, all this planning was done prior to the school boards recycling plan that turns the high school into a middle school, so none of that was considered. And having a middle school rather than a high school impacts both traffic planning and what stores might want to open (high school kids spend money that middle school kids don’t have)

      Assuming we have some city staff left with the budget changes who can speak to these issus, they were very much on the agenda, with thoughts very parallel to those expressed here.

      Hope this helps.


    35. Anyone putting in a morning drive-thru coffee place on S. 4th would be a genius. It would be targeted to people who could cut through town to pick up I-88 via Fairview then Peace. Or, the same could happen with a morning coffee place on the south side of Lincoln Highway on the east side headed toward the train in Elburn or Peace then I-88. Somewhere between 7th and Peace would be ideal for such a place. If my memory serves me correctly, though, the city made some bizarre ordinance banning new drive-thru places along Lincoln Highway (along with a ban on storefront churches and auto repair places, too).

      Either location would be good for a Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kremes–having a drive thru is the key to making enough money.

      It is not really the road that is ugly but the lack of decent-looking buildings along S. 4th.

    36. Is there really a ban on drive-thrus? I thought they were going to decide that on a case-by-case basis depending on traffic snarl-age?

      I’d really like to see the old KFC filled. Also, if Sully’s doesn’t stay b/c of Schnucks that would be a good building to divide to hold 3-4 businesses instead of two.

    37. Unless something has changed dramatically, drive throughs require a special use permit, necessity hearings etc. since they need special road configurations and traffic controls.

      Continuing mac’s question: discussions suggested that if Sullivan’s goes and landlord is willing whole site should get a makeover like the Northside Mall though for smaller businesses that would market in the south side.


    38. What happened to the talk about the old KFC becoming a Brown’s Chicken? That would have been fine, too. But since it already has a drive-thru, a coffee and/or donut shop would be brilliant. Franchise anyone?

      As far as I know, it’s only elementary students who require busing across 4th St. Jr. and Sr. High students are deemed capable of using sidewalks, crossing with lights, etc. When redistricting and repurposing occurs, the K-5 kids between South 4th and 7th will go to the new Chesebro/old Huntley, and it will be a moot point. I don’t know if they will make new concessions for the remodeled high school — a light at Barb? Crossing guards? On the other hand, I believe that all students South of Fairview are bused due to lack of sidewalks.

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