Note from Ivan on the Cop Shop

Update: The meeting dates for the Police Facility Advisory Committee are Wednesday, June 11; Thursday, June 19; and Thursday, June 26; all at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers.

[Once again, Ivan Krpan brings us one of his “comments”–this time on the city’s advisory committee for the new police station–that should have been a post in itself so I’m bringing it to the top. But for goodness’ sake, would some of y’all who get on a roll like that with first-hand information or analysis please register to post under your name? It’s a painless process and I am glad to help with formatting and the like; just save as a draft and let me know you need help with “bloggifying.” Now here’s Ivan.]

You know it always seems that when it rains it pours. Like in my business, it seems that all of the tools all start breaking down at the same time and probably will again because now I’m replacing them all at the same time. Kind of sounds like DeKalb’s infrastructure and building needs.

The citizens advisory committee met for its first meeting last night to get a detailed explanation of all that has happened to this point from the start of discussing the need for a new police station which actually started close to 9 years ago. Reasons why choices have been made and how those choices will help today and tomorrow as this community grows through the upcoming 20 years.

First, I must go on record to say, unbelievably awful and embarrassing! That is the feeling that I had when I completed my personal tour of the DeKalb Police Department. I absolutely take my hat off to all of these committed officers for putting up with what they have for a station. This current station does not fit their needs at all for the work they are responsible to do today.

I thought the high school was approaching bad. Fellow citizens of DeKalb, this station is way pass bad.

Old bathrooms and closets are actually used for offices and files of that officer. Interrogation rooms that have thinner walls than most college apartments. A ladies locker room that was a previous janitors’ closet. Their shower space is a closet now for winter and rain gear. Mold is all over the ceilings and walls of the gun range and meeting area. The actual police station office area, resembles more Grand Central Station than a secure and professional law enforcement office. 911 communciations is cramped for 2 dispatchers but runs up to 3, really could use 8 stations to run the way a 911 center should. Air quality is awful, holding cells are a joke. The detectives’ area where literally every case is examined and investigated is inadequate for space and necessary lab work. Literally no safety measures are in place for employees and guests who are constantly having criminals paraded right past their desk and stations.

I do encourage all to talk to an officer about the current station and even better yet, stop by and ask for a brief tour. It won’t take long for you to feel the same.

The committee has an interesting charge as the council is looking for a recommendation on how to proceed whether now or postpone to later date, build for today and expand tomorrow (never makes sense when you know you are already short of space and growing) and how does the city expect to pay for this.

Hopefully, we can help in a positive direction that will give the officers of this community who we count on to “serve and protect” us everyday, 24 hours a day. With times like they are for all of us today, the need is great and hopefully we can generate some great ideas to how this can be done with as little impact to the taxpayers of this community financially. We’ve have to figure how to do this for our police department.

46 thoughts on “Note from Ivan on the Cop Shop”

  1. The first time I was in the police station was in 1991 after someone broke into my apartment. That was almost twenty years ago and I thought it was small then.

    The need is there. This goes beyond space and technology needs. Something I hear from CVB people far away from here over and over again are that the two most important factors in having a successful downtown are fire and police nearby. With that in mind, is there ANY way possible not to have a referendum for a new police station but radically modify the downtown TIF plan and use TIF money instead? Police is right there at the top with fire, ambulance, and water for priorities. Economic development is not possible if crime gets out of control and too high.

    The land next to Yen Ching should be very valuable. Why not let sell that off as commercial? People keep whining (me included) about taking valuable land off the tax base. Any restaurants would do well in that slot next to Yen Ching. Park a new police station at First and Locust. I think Royal Travel and that other building are coming out of there next. Build it into the hill with police parking along Locust and there would be more parking in the infamous ‘town square’ parking lot for visitors. I think it would be easier to get cars in and out of the First and Locust area better anyway. Traffic backs up around those two stoplights on 38, at Carroll and Normal.

    Yes, that would blow the idea for whatever it is they want with Locust. Do we really need a Taj Mahal streetscape or do we need a new police station more? Why not chuck the whole streetscape plan and get a new police station instead? Or, is it already too late to dump the Locust streetscape?

    How in the world did anyone get streetscaping in ahead of basic needs like a police station not being crammed into a tuna can? For that matter, how does the city find money to dress up a street when the snow plow drivers work 24 hours? If semi-truck drivers are not supposed to drive that many hours in a row then neither should snow plow drivers and how will there be enough of them next winter? How does a city find money to buy up property and tear it down yet cut peoples’ jobs? Oh yeah, through raised taxes.

    Ivan–Isn’t there a shooting range in the basement? Is that space adequate? Would it be possible to build new offices and the jail portion elsewhere but leave the shooting range and the garage area where they are? Yes, that would split up operations but police and fire are the among the very few operations that should be split up and spread out. I know folks on the east side of town are afraid if the police station moves to the west side of town, crime will go up on the east side. Costs on a new smaller building would be less than whatever someone had in mind, overhead might be a little more with two locations, but those on the east side might not fear an increase of crime if there were two locations. I think lots of people might go for the idea of seeing police cars spread out in two locations, if that would knock the new building estimate significantly down from $11 million. (I would be in favor of having a lot more ‘take-home’ cars, too.)

    I am thinking aloud here–please feel free to point out what part of this is stupid. :-)

    DeKalb Police arrested some guy on my front lawn a couple of years ago and they did catch the people who broke into my apartment back in 1991, which are things I will not forget. If more space would let them do their jobs better, then that should be a priority over any tree-lined street.

  2. I too am one who would’ve liked another location and property for the department but I am going to try to answer some questions the way I understood the presentation.

    First, I would like to start out that I am very impressed with the city’s choice for architect. Listeners they are who are very well versed in police stations and other buildings that are required to be used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This building cannot be built on the “cheap” Chief Feithen pleaded to the committee and he is absolutely right. We cannot build this cheap, it has to be done right.

    Hope this answers a few more questions.

    Second, the choice for the lot as very much to do with crime studies, their trends in the past years, and also the concern for response time. Response time is very important if you’ve ever called for help and then had to wait, seconds seeem like minutes. Trends and historical data has over 74% of the crime in DeKalb happening north of the railroad tracks with the greater percentage around NIU student areas. From the current police station or the former Sawyer’s Auto (once considered), it takes close to 7 minutes to respond to the north end of Annie Glidden and Dresser Road. From the proposed spot, it is literally cut in half. That is huge in my opinion. Addressing the east side, north of the tracks (#2) for crime, the new location adds just under 1 minute to the response time. Still under 2.5 minutes in response time. South side via the Annie Glidden underpass makes many of the areas very coverable in less than 3.5 minutes due to less traffic areas plus less need to respond due to less calls.

    Downtown locations put them too close to the rail intersections. Locust gets really congested and is generally only two lanes. Super congested during long trains or multiple trains (worse for stopped). The old St. Mary’s hospital was even considered but too close to a school. Higher number of children walking around a police with emergency vehicles flying in and out is not a good combination. Chief F. said that even the proposed site has rail behind it but the just about 4 acre site works well for a station of DeKalb’s proposed size.

    The intersection of Carrol and Lincoln Hwy really works well for in and out. The traffic signal will be set up for emergency vehicles to control the signal giving them the green when really needed. The turn lane on Lincoln provides an additional opening for the vehicles to get out and go through busy traffic. The more I think of it, the police station would not be built in a residential area and according to future plans for DeKalb (thinking for the future) the growth is planned for north to northwest making the new station almost central. No matter where it goes, commercial land will be lost but how much commercial are we really needing? (This is another future debate topic).

    The other advantage that I see is that its visibility may end up saying a lot to the parents that bring their children to our town to attend NIU. Safety is always a major concern of us parents.

    I did ask what the feasibility would be to have the stations split in two with maybe using a sub station. I think we all understand that is is more expensive to have 2 of everything. Things like desks, phone and radio systems, heating and cooling, lockers, cells, staff etc. etc. etc. not to even the times when there would be unnecessary traveling from station 1 and 2 just for required meetings, training, equipment reload etc.

    I asked if the station could be built with core for future growth and only build what we perceive we will need for now and the architects explained to me that a police station is interwined together as in a school the core (gym, locker rooms, bathroom, cafeteria, etc) could be built for more and later additional rooms could be added as the need required. I guess when it comes to a police station, as the community grows the entire station would grow with it, just not as easy as building 10 more offices. We also need to consider that since the police station will be operating 24 hours a day, it is really more difficult to expand areas in the department.

    Yes, the current station has a firing range but when I walked into it, the walls and ceilings are literally infested with black mold.

    I also seemed to come away from the first meeting that police work is a team effort. Having everyone report to the same station makes it much easier to keep all on the same page. A lot of the resources that the officers need throughout a shift are kept back at the station. Many of these resources would also be required to be duplicated if two stations were used.

    With 63 officers, I believe, I’ll check my notes later when I announce the committee meeting nights, would be a costly venture if we allowed city officers to take cars home. Officers who are following up incidents that they responded to need to make calls from a land line, meet and interview witnesses that come in to the station, writing reports and filing etc. Patrol officers spend many hours doing office work out of the cars. The police station is a very important part of how the police do their job. I believe one station is the right direction.

    What has to be figured out is how to give them what they need and maybe a little bit what they are wishing for while being financially responsible to the taxpayers. When I was jumping around City Barbs, I saw a comment from Jack suggesting cutting 4 officers for some space. The current police station when it first opened up in the late 60’s was built for around 40 officers and support staff. Those numbers have been completely demolished. Looking at the budget, I do believe that Chief Feithen and his department have been very fiscally responsible. They should be rewarded by being given the tools they need to protect this community.

  3. Sorry about being long. A lot of information that needs to get out about the PD station. I really do feel it is a difficult situation with times like they are right now but after looking at the average pays of our police officers with their counterparts in other communities and seeing their “office”, I am really motivated to help figure out how they can step up into a facility that can help them in their crime fighting and crime solving abilities. It is very important to this community that this happens.

    I know there are many great minds in this community that also incorporate common sense with their thought. Love to have you stop in to these following meetings. The next one is supposed to be with Rudy Espirito but that is not confirmed as of yet because we only agreed to the meeting dates late Thursday. The first meeting was just under 4 hours.

    All meetings are to start at 6:00 pm in the council chambers and are being taped, at least the first one was.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008
    Thursday, June 19, 2008
    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    It is with hopes that by the end of the last meeting that we can come up with a recommended direction for a start date, type of facility, and of course how we propose the funding for this station. Hopefully, if and when this station is approved, this committee can be a part of how the construction will occur. For all of those LEED supporters, it is the goal of the council to be LEED Silver or LEED Gold with this building.

  4. Plan I liked best was to expand city hall, move everything out except for the police and then restore a downtown building with the rest of city hall. A building was examined for this plan but the engineers said ‘no go.’.

    I too strongly support a new but non taj mahal police building.

    TIF usually won’t work for police facilities (or fire). What you have to show is that the new project will increase EAV and by definition public facilities can’t do that directly. So what you have to show is that the public infra-structure will cause other properties to increase dramatically in value to compensate for the cost of the public infra-structure and that is tough to do.

    thanks for your work, Ivan

    herb

  5. I asked about the restoring angle Herb and the architects said what I was thinking. The current city hall would cost extensively more to redesign and configure the way “a police station” should be designed to run. I personally feel, after seeing the mold and deterioration, that it would cost almost as many dollars just to tear apart and ready the old building as it could to build a newer and bigger station. Remodeling a facility that is used 24 hours a day and hard, is so next to impossible, it makes it outrageous in costs to do. It would surely be easier to build a PD station and convert the present city hall to just that City Hall. As a committee, I feel we are also leaning towards recommending that the courtroom stay at the present site (council chambers).

    Putting all of that aside. The interuptions that would be placed upon the police department while this work was being done would be nothing less than insane. I would think that to be the breaking point for many of the officers that are currently working sub standard conditions right now. While being honest, I am really surprised that OSHA has not shut down many of the areas that the PD uses.

    I really to mean that I simple tour of the current facilities would do many in this community good. If not anything else, the police would receive a little more respect for what they are putting up with. The new building does not have to be a Taj Mahal but can easily look distinquished and professional. It could easily add value to the businesses that are adjacent to the station. I know if I was Yen Ching or any other business within sight of the proposed station, I would consider that a definite upside to my property/business value.

    We have to remember that this facility is more than a building, for a police officer, it is one of the biggest and most important tool they have to combat crime. Right now, the current station is a shovel without a handle IMO.

  6. Ivan, thanks for serving and for spreading the news. One thing I was worried about was backed-up traffic when, say, something is going on at the Convo center, but it didn’t occur to me to use the center lane.

    Enviro Commission was hoping for at least Silver certification, so the LEED news is excellent.

    One funding idea I’ve heard–but have not evaluated for myself yet–is to have a city vehicle sticker. Wonder if someone has done the math on that; i.e., worked out how much and whether that would work as a one-shot deal.

  7. Ivan–Thanks!!! That is all great information, and very important. If you did not already know this, folks I talk to out in the community trust your judgment and have nothing but good words to say about you.

    Everybody already thought of what I and others in the community did, and found reasons why those other ideas will not work.

    I know when the site first got mentioned, a lot of people thought it would be silly to have two police stations two blocks away from each other. I would guess the shooter on campus changed those attitudes. I think a map of where the crimes are happening would be very helpful–something like that foreclosure map which Mac found. I think I remember seeing something like that. People in the community still think all the crime is in the Pleasant Street area but there is a lot happening on the north and west sides.

    Chief Feithen (as well as the fire chief) did an excellent job with the budget.

    All that mold must explain what smells funny in the city building.

    We cannot cut four officers. The types of crimes are getting more violent. There will always be drunks but there are more home invasions. The phrase “home invasion” says it all. There were people in vehicles driving and shooting at each other, which is ridiculous. DeKalb is right in the middle of Rockford, Elgin, Aurora, and Chicago–the gates to DeKalb need to remain shut to more gangs from those areas. DeKalb cannot wait until some eleven-year-old girl inside her house gets shot and killed in a drive-by.

  8. In thinking what would be the easiest way to charge for a police station, I would have to think that a vehicle sticker program might work. It also may be a way to get a few dollars from the students as they come into the community for NIU.

    I’m not trying to take advantage of the students or say that the burden of a new station is due to them, I just feel that the students do also depend on the DeKalb Police Department for their needs and protection along with the NIU department. With NIU really not funding any revenues to our City Hall and the services they provide, the vehicle sticker method might be the fairest way to go for all. I know that fuel prices are up and all of the other arguments. I just think this is a fairer way to go. If you own 7 vehicles then that’s your decision to do so.

    We have to realize that it is important to have a strong police department and we need to figure out a reasonable way to get it done.

    Figuring somewhere between 10,000 to 14,000 vehicles at say $30.00 a pop (throwing out numbers only). I would think this could help generate enough revenue for the purpose of the PD (no city general funds). I believe the city has the capacity in its IT department already to implement this program, if not the state will do so for a small fee.

    You can have an automobile fee, one for trucks, and even say discount the first sticker for a senior, second sticker standard price. There may be a way also that private business could say build the PD for a set lease payment with the end of the lease, the PD is city (taxpayer) owned. There just has to be a way to get this done and not burden the homeowner anymore.

    Now, I do not profess to know how the Chief or City officials feels about this. I do not know how much of a burden this places on an already police department but if any additional hires are needed to implement and administer this, I’m sure it would be figured into the cost of the program and not current programs already in the budget. This program would have to be self sufficient and is so in many communities already.

    This is why the June 11th meeting with Assistant Manager, Rudy Espirito, will be interesting. I will inform if I receive any meeting updates or changes.

    As we are in the Memorial Day weekend now, I would like to express my heartfelt thank you to each and everyone who either now or in the past wore a uniform in defense of this nation and its colors. From the local police and fire to state and National Guard, and on up to Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard and their auxiliaries and support groups.
    THANK YOU and God Bless!

  9. Yinn,
    Sorry to be posting on technical matters. To repeat I’m all for the police station.

    Vehicle stickers are an anathema to most in the public sector. They are very expensive to administer, create endless administrative head aches, and administrative costs versus fees collected are very high. All problems are compounded in a university town with many out of town, sort of, drivers.

    (Learned all this years ago when i initially advocated the idea of stickers and then was shown why it was not a good one.)

    To repeat, the fire and police presentations really complicated life. The presentations were straight forward and informative but if anything showed we are understaffed. Combine that with the obvious deferred maintenance and we have more serious public fiscal problems than we initially thought.

    My tally: savings in the hundreds of thousands have been pointed out and many adopted (we think). To me airport, represents more savings but getting there is problematic. Ditto for the COLA, but even if that were passed that’s about 3-4%, real money but for one year. Okay, with COLA and piecemeal savings we could probably save almost as much as the tax increase will cost. That’s good.

    Now the problems: Reserve fund is really sick. My sense is that in a sales tax dependent city, a reserve fund should be equivalent to almost a quarter of year’s revenue (handles snow emergencies and allows for cheaper cash flow borrowing). Somehow reserve fund needs building up.
    Then both police and fire, indirectly, made the case for even more staffing; fire scared me more than police as I’m a south sider dependent on the understaffed station.

    Then we have the police station that unless Bill Gates takes pity on us, is going to cost real bucks, even if ivan makes that a smaller amount of real bucks. Then as we have all pointed out, infra-structure is really in bad shape. Several described roads and sidewalks. The real bucks are in the storm sewer (linked to sanitary sewer) problems.

    I found the hearings informative and very upbeat with regard to citizen participation (and totally exhausting for all). But my goodness gracious, if a realistic assessment of my personal budget was as scary, I think I’d move to a hidden south Pacific Island and not leave a forwarding address. (I’d still take a camera and my bird book :) )

    Herb

    (Oh, between hearings, preparation, lobbying on budget matters — about half a day of private discussions, , dentist (ouch) and computer upgrades I have gotten no work done on my own books this week. What the heck do people do who are still having to punch a clock and show up for work? )

  10. If the cost of the schools could come under the $110 million maximum, that would help everyone out a lot. Taxpayers right now are a squeezed balloon but if the pressure could be eased up on one end, that helps release pressure throughout the whole balloon. Insisting on precast and/or any other designs that could reduce the overall cost of the new schools could turn all involved into saviors.

    I do want to add that it was not the police response time that folks on the east side of town worry about–the thinking is if the police station moves, then there will be less attention paid to the east side, fewer patrols, etc. Folks on the east side want and need a visible presence.

    If take-home cars are too expensive, then more bike patrols would be great. Those are popular with residents.

  11. If TIF can’t be used for public buildings then its pretty hard to explain the Nehring Center. My frustration with TIF is that it often appears that the use of it just doesn’t fit whatever is not in the plan.

    I fully support the need for a bigger, better police station. I also rate Feithen as one of our best administrators. But if a referendum is required to build a new station it is DOA. Roger Scott is well respected and that amounted to the price of a cup of coffee to voters in the county jail referendums.

    This city’s taxpayers could be up to $110 million in debt due to school facility needs that, according to some, will require another referendum to complete. We could be up to another $111 million in debt for central redevelopment plans. The city does have, under its home rule authority, the ability to issue some non-TIF debt obligation bonds without voter approval. This all adds up to a lot of concern.

    One way of financing the construction of a new police station is through a lease-back arrangement. A private developer would finance the construction and lease it back to DPD. At the end of the lease the DPD would own the facility. The developer would likely need to own the land that the police station was to be built on. Earmarked revenue sources, like vehicle stickers for example, could be used to pay the lease payments.

    On public owned land a similar type of lease-back could be employed but debt obligation bonds are required because private developers cannot get financed for such a project without owning the land. Northern View Apartments (students with children facility) was built and financed using this mechanism. A Texas-based developer built the facility on NIU land. NIU leased the facility from the developer but sold bonds to pay for the construction. NIU’s lease payments pay the developers’ loan payments and at the end of the lease NIU owns it. That’s actually a pretty sweet deal for the developer since the tenants and the various government subsidies those tenants qualify for actually make the payments to NIU who then makes payments to the developer.

    Until financing and debt obligation requirements are fully known and understood, I reserve support for this project.

  12. My first, instinctive reaction to remarks about how difficult it would be to eliminate, for example, COLA-type raises or to implement, for example, a one-time vehicle sticker program is this: seems to me that our city’s very sick financial situation is going to require some hard work, innovation and a few sacrifices. IOW, the cost-benefit analysis of some of these ideas changed with the discovery of our ailments–it’s a time for no stone unturned, etc.

    And by sacrifices, I mean more than just additional tax pain on the part of residents. For instance, when I hear about offices being repainted and city administrators taking exotic vacations and buying 2nd homes, we know there is indeed at least one group left in the city that can give a little more.

  13. Herb, I have spent not only time but also sacrificed a bit of income to spend more time on city matters and I appreciate your sensitivity to us non-retired. :-)

  14. Minor points
    TIF in theory is supposed to show nexus between project and increased EAV. In theory(though not in practice) Nehring center is supposed to draw people downtown so is justified by TIF.

    Yinn, it’s not the difficulty of setting up the vehicle sticker program it is once it is in place it has huge administrative demands with very little if any extra money. Plus, no matter how you label it, vehicle stickers are another tax. (From an administrative perspective taxes are evaluated in terms yields versus administrative expense as well as public reactions they create. Sales taxes are high yield, low admin expense and with exceptions such as the current mess, usually don’t lead to public reactions (note the current situation is a clear exception). Vehicle stickers are low yield, high admin expense and uniformly cause resentment among everyone.

    (A personal aside; to me the only fair tax is a progressive income tax done by a higher level government that is then combined with a perfectly designed (there is the rub) revenue sharing program. )

    For COLA stuff there are steps that could be taken. Threats of cutbacks to staff size could lead to renegotiating contracts prior to expiration but could also lead to really upset staff and perhaps labor actions. (I have been pushing for doing something about COLA in all my private contacts)

    Let’s be fair with city staff. We can argue about their salary levels and raises, but what they do with their own money is their own business. (Let me make this one very clear I feel strongly about it. i take exotic trips paid for by money I saved to take care of parents in their old ages, none of whom lived long enough to need the care. I’d rather not be taking the trips.)

  15. Herb, I’m glad you stated the fact that stickers is another tax. So isn’t impact fees, user fees, registration fees, hook up fees, rental apartment licenses etc.

    I do also believe that there once was a time that make administrating the sticker fee as a costly one. I am also led to believe by numerous IT guys (computer program geeks) that the city definitely has the capacity to do this with the computer software it already has. Let the IT department administer the program.

    It puts a burden on vehicle owners which, yes, are local homeowners but it also gives us the opportunity to address student drivers from NIU and Kishwaukee Jr. College. I would also believe that it would be relatively easy for a link to the Secretary of State with regards to home addresses where car would be registered. I like Mac’s idea that the private sector could step but you know someone will always complain that the group would be making money on the deal. It would be open to all!

    The only problem is still to find a stream of revenue to pay the lease. If we don’t find a revenue source that least impacts our community homeowners, I believe that Mac is correct and this is Dead on arrival to the council.

  16. NIU used a clever lease back partnership to build the building that houses public administration but plan worked because it also houses the people who paid for the construction (ironically the trade association for financial officers of school districts or something like that).

    Let’s think politically: who the heck has the courage to propose a vehicle sticker tax. Maybe Mac’s committee or Ivan’s could introduce the idea to council.

    Oh, Mac or Ivan. Could one of you give a sense of the annual costs to amortize a sensibly priced police station. My guess is that it would be in the high hundreds of thousands a year, but more precise numbers would help.

    Alternative idea: a tax on bloggers :)

    herb

  17. That’s great now, taxing the freedom of speech. Herb, we know you a little better than that.

    That’s going to have to be a question for the assistant manager on June 11th. Architects are going to have to give a ballpark number for such a station and hopefully a local banker can help us understand how this could be amortized.

    Maybe we’ll have to decide to cut on some “luxury” services within the community. I really do not how long this station can be allowed to be used as is. It would be crazy to put money towards a temporary band aid with regards to the station. It just really seems #@$ backwards to be buying and tearing apart the downtown when it is so important to get a station up.

    We really need to during this budget hearing maybe find a refocus on what this community considers its priorities and needs. There has to be a way that the downtowners can get what they want and the police department gets what they need. Something will get figured out.

  18. Kay and Ivan (and Herb)

    Remember people on a blog often reinforce each other’s opinions. I think we are in reasonable consensus on the police station, but in my wanderings I have picked up opposition to even that project.

    I still support downtown work (on that we are not in consensus) balancing out two pressures: (a) an awareness that the whole idea might not work; I so stated at the meetings of the downtown advisory group (b) But that if downtown were to have any chance at all, work would be needed on site preparation in order to attract businesses. In other words, the downtown projects is a risky investment with the hope of return, that if occurring would redefine DeKalb as a city a community, not simply homes with strip malls.

    More practically: stopping the downtown work would contribute little to alleviating the current budget crisis (though eliminating the TIF would dramatically change financing for f010 and so forth).

    Using TIF money for public sector projects is very difficult unless an argument can be made that the project itself is a cost effective way of promoting economic development, a hard sell with an expensive police station. Even more practically, TIF projects have to be done in the TIF district and unless I’m missing something there is no space in the TIF district for a station, especially space that the police chief would want.

    That being said, the image problem remains as Kay points out.

    To be honest, while I do fully respect our local police, and police in general, and have received fine service, I am not of the school that believes that just because the police want something the police must get it. The very pressure Bill F brought to get the site next to Yen Ching, when less expensive places were available still bothers me.

    Let me clearer (I’m making up numbers as that is how I think).

    It seems to me that to many the priority of city services are Police 1; Fire 2 and then the next service is 5 (i.e. police and fire are way above anything else). My own priorities are Fire 1, Police 2 and then I have a legitimate 3 that is below police and fire but not dramatically so.

    Before I get yelled at, my other morning activity has been writing a strong note to council (except Donna who is not on e-mail) strongly arguing for the council to hang tough during budget hearings, eliminate the 100,000 holding place for consultants, demand better accounting on gas and on the airport, and then do something drastic to push for the end of COLAs this year even if it means pushing the unions (Remember AFSCME is taking a 2 week furlough, the equivalent of no COLA). My note was as firm as I ever get in writing.

    Probably I’ll get everyone angry at me and so I’ll escape and see if my newly repaired (expensive) lense is still malfunctioning. I do spent some of my money on a hobby and even the free capitalist market does not live up to my expectations in terms of quality and service. .

    Herb.

  19. Herb, you are absolutely right that it’s people’s own business what they spend their money on. If I had more salary information, I wouldn’t have to piece the picture together via spending habits. But I have invaded no one’s privacy for it. They gladly tell us these things.

    Bottom line here is, the situation is skimming awfully close to a Marie Antoinette moment. Will they tell us to go find some cake, or will they help us save our bread? Are they in touch at all with how the typical household is surviving in DeKalb? I suspect not–alternatively I worry that the attitude is “I’ve got mine so I don’t care.”

    Priorities IMO run 1) fire/ambulance; 2) police; 3) water; 4) trash; 5) streets & sidewalks. Ideally, airport & downtown revitalization occur if and when the others are in good shape. It’s obvious that the pet projects have taken precedence and that is a mistake, especially in a period of low/no growth. Our current circumstances call for caution, fiscal flexibility and an eye toward sustainability, but I suspect too many people are way-y-y too comfortable to bother. “Feet to the fire” is one way to lower that comfort level.

    Are you sure about the furlough for AFSCME? I thought it was 5 days and pretty much fake in that they can easily make it up with the overly-abundant overtime provided.

  20. Can someone explain to me how taking fully rented apartment buildings and a building with fully rented businesses, buying the land, bulldozing the buildings over, and leaving empty spaces for an unknown period of time is a good thing:

    http://www.daily-chronicle.com/articles/2008/05/25/news/local/news10.txt

    I have no problem with low or even zero interest loans to businesses or competitive grants for existing businesses to spruce up, but buying up land on spec seems very risky to me. That might work for the Donald Trumps of the world but that is being done with taxpayer money. That takes properties offline from paying property taxes, too.

    I am not saying stop everything downtown, but I am saying that a new police station would be more palatable if money elsewhere could be saved:

    1. A less expensive school (just talked to another person who says precast is the way to go).
    2. Scale back downtown and take a close look at the John Street expansion.

    The article lists $10 million for downtown TIF, which is a lot but that John Street proposal has a vague reference to $111 million, which is scary. Add $110 million for schools, $111 (?) million for TIF, and $10 million for a police station and remember there are only 45,000 people who live here . . .

    That just makes my calculator go to E . . .

  21. Make that schools as a plural, as in a new high school and a new grade school in Cortland.

    I think I remember $10 million mentioned for a police station.

    Sorry–I will try not to stop to check the weather reports in the middle of writing. It looks like we are in for a bumpy night, though.

  22. Yinn,
    We need to double check on the AFSCME and Admin services furlough that it is real. I too would be more comfortable with a COLA freeze.

    Myh priorities mesh with Yinn’s (I forgot water as 3, mea culpa). Redevelopment though to me is way higher. Not right, not wrong, just different preferences.

    Kay, you are talking about overall public spending and problem is of course that schools and cities are out of very different public budgets, though of course both out of our taxes. And, often times public money is either non fungible or is appropriated at very different times so things do end up looking funny.

    To me the schools were top, top priority. The downtown had been approved and started before the economic mess was apparent either in the city or the country. I know city staff were looking for funding for the police station concurrent with the downtown project, and were coming up with and then tossing out different ideas. (The new impact tax scheme had a funding scheme for the police station but hasn’t gone anywhere because of the building crunch.

    The ‘visibility’ problem with public construction does cause problems all the time. Think of the university. The state was willing to fund the Altgeld reconstruction (that i think is wonderful) and provided funds so that project got done. Meanwhile far more pressing needs in teaching buildings were ignored by the state (that would have come out of different construction budgets.) From a PR perspective the university was seen fixing up an old and expensive building while not doing anything with classroom buildings. That was true, but that’s how the funding came in.

    I feel your frustration. And, certainly support the less expensive school construction but that doesn’t free up any city money.

    The downtown purchases (I’m guessing now) are based on the overall downtown plan. The traffic studies etc. showed that the largest flow of traffic was on the north turn from lincoln to first (and the reverse route). The logic was that sites on north first would be the ones to catalyze redevelopment but needed to be both cleared and in single ownership to be sold to developers. Hence the purchases. (I’m not arguing one way or another on this one, just repeating the guiding logic as I remember it)

    Last night was terrifying. Haven’t checked my basement yet.

    Kay, the schools will directly end up on our tax bills. Reasonable chance that the police station will also. But don’t add in the TIF money to your tax bill at least not the whole sum. If TIF works as it should the increment in taxes that would not have occurred without TIF should repay the bond. If TIF fails totally bond holders lose out. Where it could cost money is if the projects would have been done anyway without TIF money and then the tax calculations are complicated. In that case, we all share a (modest) increase in our taxes to make up for the loss to the GR fund of money that would have come in without TIF. This is too compllicated to easily esxpress but let me give bottom lines: All of us are paying for the 110 million on our home taxes, in my case about $300 a year. If we do the police station on property taxes it will cost me about 40-50 a year. Even though the total for TIF is the same as the larger sum, unless everything really goes south and the city negotiated full recourse bonds (something it should not do) TIF even if it doesn’t work, won’t cost me anything as much, especially as sales tax TIFS bring in state money that is ‘free’ to the city. (Though not to the state). Three people fully understand TIFS and they don’t agree with each other :)

    See everyone Tuesday night (after more dentist appointments.) Imagine dentist appointments being more pleasant than some public meetings. :)Ouch (oh, and dentists costs me a heck of a lot more than does the city).

    Herb

  23. “And, certainly support the less expensive school construction but that doesn’t free up any city money.” –Herb

    What I am taking about is that squeezed balloon–to me, taxes are taxes. Taxes come from the same source, us. It does not matter if the taxes go to the city or the schools, my paycheck is going to stay the same. If the school budget could come under the estimate (probably need an act of God for that to happen) then spending elsewhere would be a lot more palatable to the citizens. If I think I am going to spend $300 for schools, but if that act of God comes through and the actual comes out to be $250 for schools instead, then I would have $50 for the police station.

    Does that makes sense?

    That is usually what people miss when they talk about X budget item or Y budget item coming from two different pots of money. Well, the original pot of money came from the taxpayers before it got divided up. If taxes in Pot A going to budget item X could be lower, then people might have a little left over so that Pot B going to budget item Y does not look so bad.

    Think about people on a fixed income. When the price of gas goes up, then people have less to spend on groceries. Money might be going to two different places but it comes from the same place. If gas prices go back down, then people have more money to spend on groceries.

    Taxes are up, prices are up, but this year, most people’s paychecks are going to be flat with no increase. That balloon is very squeezed. If there is to be a new police station, something has to give.

  24. Several semesters ago I had an extremely bright student in my graduate organizational theory course, who was also on the Wheaton city council. He told me that he was getting increasingly concerned that their expenses were rising, but their revenues were flattening out. We discussed this quite a bit. DeKalb is considerably poorer than Wheaton, and as Kay has pointed out, our wages and salaries are not rising much, if at all. I think that the administrations of our local governments are engaged in some very misguided empire building, and the public wealth is not there to support much of it, and certainly not all of it. I am not sure how the administrators can be dragged kicking and screaming to perceive fiscal reality, but they are not going to have much choice about it eventually. We simply cannot afford these grandiose projects.

  25. I cannot support yet another tax (….Vehicle sticker, sales tax, property tax) to pay for the Police station. We are being taxed to death in this town and it has gotta stop. While I agree something needs to be done to resolve the police station space issue. We need to find a way to get NIU to help fund this station. As stated in earlier posts…most of the police calls involve the university, thus we need a way to get the NIU community to pitch in…perhaps a “Student Safety fee” on their tuition bills (hey– just thinking outside the box here…).

    I firmly believe we need to be very frugal about how we go forward in expanding our Police facilities. I am not in favor of vacating our current site, however, I do believe we can be most cost effective in considering a satellite facility or adding on to our current facility.

  26. Mark, I understand where you are coming from but am upset, after finally putting it together just how neglected the police force has been, for the fiscal line in the sand to be drawn there.

    Putting the pressure to bear on changing the city’s policies and priorities is going to be like trying to turn around an aircraft carrier. I fear it is going to take longer to get it right than the police department can afford, so am reluctant to throw out any particular idea at this point.

  27. I am wondering what is going on with the PD. They should not be handling issues with university students, at least on campus. That is the job of the University Police. The University Police also have jurisdiction beyond the campus borders, so they should be able to handle student problems even in the Greek Row area.

    We are assured that there is not crime problem in DeKalb, in fact, our sheriff assures us that there is no crime problem in the County. But, despite the lack of a crime problem, our jail is bulging at the seams, and we need a bigger one. The lack of crime problem seems to be centered in the Amber Manor and Greek Row areas. This is why I do not understand the push for the new station location by Yen Ching. In order to respond to non-crime problem related calls in the area where the non-crimes seem to be not occurring, a squad would have to go through campus to get there. It would seem more practical to put a satellite station up on Dresser Road where the City already owns property and has some facilities in place. I am also disturbed by the revelations that the current police station has some severe issues of lack of maintenance. If they cannot afford to keep up what they have, how will they maintain new facilities?

  28. Let me point out a few issues in the FY09 budget that I feel are causing the real problems with the City’s budget. Some of the issues are in black and white on each line item and others take a little math. Either way I am really disappointed in the lack of addressing these issues which are the real cause of the City’s budget and building problems. I will limit this discussion to the Fire Department Budget which no one else wants to talk about. The same argument, however, can probably be made for every department

    First of all the overall FY09 DFD budget is $9,016.884 up from FY 08 budget of $8,212,483. This 9.8% increase amounts to a dollar increase of $804,401.00. I have not heard anyone address this increase or justify the amount of the increase in the overall budget.

    The entire budget increase (over 800k) falls under the category of Personnel so let’s take a look at the personnel. In FY08 there were 62 total employees on the Fire Department. FY 09 calls for the same “number” on employees but classified in different positions. FY08 had 43 Firefighters. FY09 has only 40 Firefighters. FY08 had 4 Captains. FY09 has 3 Captains. FY08 has no Battalion Chiefs FY09 has 4 Battalion Chiefs. Why the decrease in Firefighters and increase in Administrators. If the FY09 Fire Department Budget is implemented there will be 40 Firefighters, 20 Officers and 2 Secretaries. That is a ratio of one supervisor for every 2 Firefighters not sure that makes any sense.

    Secondly, the FY09 budget shows an increase in overtime from $840,000 to $923,193 or $83,193. Why a 10% increase in the amount of overtime for FY09? Could this be possibly related to the proposed decease in the amount of firefighters and increase in administration?

    The next step is the actual salaries paid to the firefighters. The FY09 budget for “regular” pay is $4,556,667 divided by the 62 employees comes to an average pay of $73,494.63 per employee. When one adds Overtime, Wellness Bonus, Longevity and the Education Bonus the pot grows to $5,531,200.00 divided by the 62 people and that brings the average take home per Fire Department Employee to $89,212.90. I would really like to see the exact pay ranges for these positions and what the city employees are actually making in take home wages.

    Do not, however, read into this as a complaint of what our employees are being paid. I just want to point out what the actual wages are. I have no problem paying what seems to be very high wages as long as there is a tax base to make the payments from.

    It is all about decisions. If the City is going to pay the highest wages in the area then is goes without saying that the citizens can also expect to pay the highest taxes in the area. If the citizens demand a more moderate tax rate than the wages paid must reflect that attitude.

    It just does not work out when you pay high wages and have a low tax base. Other projects and items within a budget will ultimately suffer the most. When salaries take up the entire budget and then the building and other Capitol needs suffer. How the council decides to set it’s priorities ultimately determines the Capitol vs. Operational needs of the Community.

    Let’s return to the $840,401 increase in the Fire Department budget for a moment. If Wages paid to the Firefighters remained at the FY08 level the average Regular pay for each Fire Department employee would remain at $68,671.47 instead of climbing to $73,494.63 and the average take home pay which includes Overtime, Wellness Bonus, Longevity and Education would remain at the FY08 level of $83,113.05 instead of rising to $89,212.90.

    It now becomes decision time. $804,401 freed from this budget each year would more than pay for Capitol Building needs of the City. One must decide, however, how much compensation we as a community want to offer our employees. High wages = high taxes. A more moderate and stable wage = Capitol development projects within the present tax base.

    Pevo

  29. Steve, you don’t have the same information that I have. Just in opened investigations this past year, 2007 saw 652 cases opened compared to 460 opened in 2006. Over 85% have been cleared to date. 2007 saw 2,070 accidents reported compared to 1,861 in 2006. Annie Glidden and Lincoln Hwy is the #1 accident intersection with Annie Glidden and Hillcrest as #5 with Annie Glidden and Lucinda at #6. 1st and Lincoln is #4 and 1st and Locust is #2 for accidents.

    Calls for assaults, home invasion, theft, loud parties and noise complaint, are higher in the northwest quadrant of DeKalb. It is referred to as Zone 1 on the presentation given to City Council and police advisory committee. Zone 2 is basically downtown with Zone 3 around the 10th and Pleasant, Lincoln Hwy and 10th street area.

    74% of the calls are on the north side of the railroad tracks with over 52% of those calls coming in Zone 1 (main college housing areas, greek row). NIU generally will only report the calls that actually occur on NIU property leaving DeKalb or Sheriffs departments to handle calls. DeKalb police assisted other police agencies 531 times in 2007.

    Satellite station would cause need to duplicate many pieces of equipment needed by officers and would prove costly. City has tried several smaller satellites in the past years and not worked well. As for maintenance of the current station. It is over 40 years old. It is a building that works 24 hours a day and does have high traffic. Air system is outdated and is estimated to cost over $2 million to replace. The communications room was not designed to be closed in and high security. Many of the rooms do not meet ADA standards at all. There is no isolation between the good guys and the bad guys. All come through and leave through the same room. There is no ladies locker room and facilities, the one they use is a former janitors closet and furnace room.

    Maintenance over the years has nothing to do with the police needs of today. Any doubts at all would be quickly dispelled with a simple tour of the facilities. 60 minutes of time would answer many questions. It did for me and several others I know that toured the station. I don’t think there is a question of whether they need one or not, the question is how do we get them one with things so bad in DeKalb right now.

    Steve, I encourage you to find some time for the tour.

  30. Ed P

    In private correspondence with council I have made similar points about overall compensation packages. I’ve gotten two linked answers: they will fight the issue come contract renewal time and the complementary answer that they are bound by union contracts. My response: if that is the case then personnel reductions are required unless there are give backs. Hate arguing for give backs but options seem limited. The promises I’ve gotten to hang tough during negotiations seem credible, but do little to handle the more immediate problem.

    Ideas???

    Herb
    oh, you of course omitted both retirement and medical from the salaries you presented — just makes things a lot more expensive

  31. Ivan, I appreciate your update. I have some familiarity with the Department, as I have some friends and acquaintances who work there. I have also assisted a bit with some of their training and familiarization with their new AR-15 carbines. When my house here was broken into several years ago when I was the city administrator in Galva, Illinois, one of my friends on the force came over while off duty and helped my neighbors secure the place until I could get the door replaced.

    I am concerned about the conditions in the headquarters. Why was the black mold not dealt with immediately? Why was the ventilation system let fall into disrepair? I agree that the design of the police space in the current city hall is obsolete. And, since the building was built, the city has increased greatly in size. It was also designed to allow the addition of another floor, possibly, two. This from Donald Crawford who was the city manager at the time it was designed and built. Might this be a viable alternative? I don’t know. I do know that police departments hate being in the same building as administration. What I find disturbing is the attitude that necessary maintenance is avoided since we can always yell loud enough and the taxpayers will build us a new facility. I am skeptical that taking what should be prime commercial land off the tax rolls to build a police station is the best approach. In order to allow for the best response time, the fire department has set up satellite stations. Might this also be the best long term approach for the Police Department? It seems to me that getting squads quickly up to the northwest part of the city from either the current location, or the Lincoln highway location is going to be a real problem. I applaud your efforts in trying to get things improved here. I pretty much gave up as I was considered a pest except for when I paid my taxes.

  32. My office faces Normal Road. Once a squad car is on Lincoln Highway, I can imagine the response time being fast based on what I cannot help but see. That is OK to me if squad cars go through campus to get to apartments on the north side. I would hope that an increased visibility by the police would ‘encourage’ students not to get so drunken and disorderly–I do know of one fraternity a long time ago that straightened up its act after one member got busted for DUI. They also need to think about leaving their bad friends from their home areas at home instead of bringing them to campus only to cause problems.

    As stated before, one problem I see is that the folks on the east side of town will continue to feel left out and that may worsen. I know many upset that Greek Row got the increased street lighting years ago which they said was supposed to go to them. It is not really the response time that is in question from the possible Lincoln Highway location but the feeling that there might not be as many patrols on the east side, especially by the bike patrols, which residents do like. Perception is almost everything.

  33. Ivan- You have made an interesting case to support your position FOR the new police station. Although I am very much against the idea of abandoning our current facility entirely, I do see the need for additional space. If the city does decide to scrap the old location for the TAJ MAHAL, I am quite concerned as to the HUGE Burden that is going to placed upon the taxpayers. I, for one, cannot accept any additional tax increases.

    That being said, here’s a question I have…., Why can’t the city sell off some of the the land that it owns and use the proceeds to finance the police station? If it takes multiple properties to do this, I don’t have a problem with that….. perhaps selling the Airport?? Any takers???

  34. Kay,
    I thought I overheard a conversation indicating some involved in the schools were seriously thinking of shrinking the size of the projects with the resulting dollar savings. I know some bloggers are paying more attention to this than I am. Any infor?

    Mark,

    How much land does the city own that is saleable? That’s a real question, not an argument.

    Herb

  35. Now, Mark is getting the idea. I feel it is not necessary to have to raise taxes all of the time. I was hoping the budget hearings was going to bring out where there is waste within the city. Everyone has a different definition for waster but we can all agree that there is a much better way to handle the finance’s of this community.

    Steve, I have talked to several architects including a very good friend who does much towards the commercial side. He told me that it was a trend in the mid 60’s to design buildings to grow upwards. Unfortunately, he only knows of one building that has done that and it cost the same as a new building would have cost and maybe a little more when you factor the inconveniences that the lower floors experienced during the construction.

    DeKalb High School was also designed that way but when you have design problems with the lower floors, it can also pose problems for the addition. Also, it is very much recommended today that the lower floors not be occupied during the construction, especially the heavy part of the structure work.

    Mold, air systems, and other environmental conditions should have been handled. I do know that many times during mitigation of mold and say asbestos, that the occupants do have to leave the building. If this is the case, where does the PD set up temporarily. I can’t even imagine the costs of having to reconfigure the current station. Just to tear it apart to get restarted would be very costly. Once apart, it has to be put together again and now how do you configure the new areas required by todays law enforcement agencies into the present design without building a new wing? We also do not, I would think, want a PD that is spread out in such a way that the officers and detectives could not work together a little bit more conveniently.

    What is wrong with giving the police a new station designed efficiently for their needs so they can do their jobs a little bit easier? I believe the faster the officer is completed doing his/her inside work, they can get back on patrol. I also believe that if you look at this community 20 years and then 40 years into the future, the Lincoln Hwy location will actually be closer to the center of this community as growth continues to the northwest and our eastern boundaries are just about to the end.

    Why not sell the annex buildings across from city hall and put all back into the City Hall building? It would be easier to convert the PD into offices and parking would be less of an issue for the annex buildings. IMO

    We have to remember that our current station was designed over 40 years ago. No one could have foreseen the needs of the department that far into the future especially when it comes to technology let alone what the size of the department would have been today. Don’t forget, women weren’t even considered for patrol officers back then.

    The final point is that the department cannot shut down. I would find it difficult to have to ask the officers, secretaries, and detectives to constantly be moving their “stuff” around while only lord knows how many people would be working in the station doing the work. There would absolutely be no fail safe to provide privacy and confidentiality to any of the cases, new or old with the workers. As cramped as they are for space, remodeling would disable the department.

    The question that I am asking is how do we give the DeKalb Police Department the tool they need most today? That tool being a station that is user friendly to them. I would prefer they spend more time doing their job then constantly having to move things around just to be able to do something.

  36. I am well aware of problems in remodeling police facilities. I helped set up the Streator Police Department’s new computer system back in 1999-2000. I also speced in their new phone system in their city hall. Just moving the PD to a new facility is going to be an awful mess and will require some very careful scheduling and staging. I was starting to do this at the last city I worked in. There, the outer walls of the police station were starting to fall away from the rest of the building. I was planning to move them over to an old school the city wound up owning, and wanted to move city hall there, too. Now, it is someone else’s problem. What I see here is a lack of decent planning by the city administration. All the growth was promoted, but nothing was done to accommodate an increased load on the police department. The fire department seems to have looked ahead much more clearly. My concern right now is that all the desires of the schools and the most important departments of the city government have now turned into needs, and at a most inopportune time. We are just starting one very nasty recession. Wage growth is lacking, and so then is the ability to pay higher taxes to fund the needed facilities. Most of the money in the budgets goes to salaries and wages, since local governments exist mainly to provide services and it takes people to do that. So, the taxpayers are stressed and getting surly, and the city revenues are declining, and now we need new facilities. Something is going to have to give, and I suspect that the needed changes are not going to be popular. Herb, I have thought about getting involved in the budget process as you have, but have my doubts as to whether my modest assistance would be of any use.

  37. Steve,
    Just listening to the discussion has both taught me and modified my views.. Trying to change process at the same time dealing with both short term and long financial problems would stress a saint.
    What has bothered me the most is being pulled in opposite directions at the same.time The strongest critics have shown places in which cuts can be made (I’ve even joined in on this process), yet at the same time the city presentation have shown that if anything the city needs more money to provide services that people want. In some of the budget discussions the city has not been forthcoming enough but on the other hand critics have sometimes reached conclusions before listening to city explanations.

    I’ve never seen politics as simple, but this process and the issues raised are by far the most complex I’ve ever seen in local government.

    My biggest disappointment has been in citizen participation. The new and more open procedures (for which many of us including myself) should be proud have not brought forth the citizen participation. The advisory committee is an important and hopefully lasting step, but to the best of my memory (and I’m burned out right now) testimony was presented by Gracie, Kay, Lynn and myself (probably forgot someone) when dozens should have shown up. Those who have testified have all ‘borrowed’ ideas from the bloggers, but ultimately all the council has seen are 4 (or so) faces.

    Herb

  38. I am not too surprised about the lack of citizen participation. Even back in the 1970s when one of my room mates was upset about the underhanded way the river was re-routed through Huber park, he was basically told to just shut up. I worked with Donna Gorski in trying to get neighborhood organizations set up, and had some success but not a whole lot. When I was on the Cultural Affairs Commission back in the days of Mayor Bessie, the staff did not give us much support. To say the least, citizen participation is not encouraged in the DeKalb municipal culture, and it is just as bad at the county level. That being said, the problem that the city has to face is going to be some sort of wage and salary freeze, and likely even an across the board reduction if the economy does not turn around very quickly. Most of the revenues flow into personnel lines. It will be extremely difficult to provide even necessary services if there are any meaningful layoffs. Either way, keeping any semblance of morale in the city work force is going to be very difficult. I once worked for a small firm where the management and engineering staff took two 10% back to back paycuts. It was tough, but it kept the company together, and it later recovered. I have been watching the financial storm clouds gathering for several years now, and I do not think this thing is going to be over for at least several years. If I am right, and I really hope that I am not, the way our local governments are run is going to have to change radically. If I can be of any help, I will be glad to get involved.

  39. Most people do not have previous experience talking into a microphone in front of a crowd. That is intimidating. Plus, the responses (culture) is backwards. Instead of listening to the citizens (who should be the bosses), city staff respond, often defensively, explaining why X or Y citizen is wrong about A or B, etc. It takes more guts to put up with that after the microphone bit is over.

    There is no way to know how many people call or e-mail their aldermen, or what it is they said. Going public at least means folks do not get to ignore the citizens.

  40. The fear and experience problem are quite real. But on the other side anonymity does not move council people, at least that is what they tell me.

    Kay, you’re in the library; why not check my writings on the subject of participation and how to encourage it: Best description is in the 2008 edition of a text I’ve written. Process is far from easy but has succeeded again and again. Saying it won’t work, guarantees it won’t. (Maybe NIU library under small state budget hasn’t bought the latest edition; Amazon has it)

    In recent years at least three city movements have succeeded based on citizen participation (people differ on their views of each issue, I’m just pointing out their success based on citizen involvement): the anti-discrimination ordinance; the impact fee and the anti-smoking ordinance. Plus, a handful of us were sufficient to change the budget procedures. (Just thought of another case. I moved my neighborhood to show up at city hall on some water problems. The chamber at city hall was filled. We actually moved Greg to change some policies and start on solving the problems, though many still persist because of the tens of millions a full solution would cost).

    IMHO I do somewhat disagree with one comment. Yes, citizens are bosses but technical employees do know stuff and do care and are often expert in matters in which we are just amateurs. I can assure you that I have never simply deferred to a public official because of his or herr position. But I can also say I truly believe most public bureaucrats care about their work and try to gain expertise in their areas. I really do respect anyone who goes into public service, that doesn’t mean i think they are always right. But it also does not mean that I think they are wrong just because i disagree with them.

    Some incomplete examples but how I often understand public discourse. These are incomplete because they refer to engineering, design stuff in which I’m not competent to follow. I’ve watched committees where the citizens have disagreed with the bureaucratic technicians who when hearing the citizens concerns disagree and do explain why they made their suggestions. But discussion need not and in the case i remember did not stop here. Citizen (committee members) would accept with respect the technical ides presented by staff, but then say, is there a way of accomplishing what we as citizens want. Often the answer involves the technical staff working out another proposal that handles their technical concerns with the citizen desires. That’s called good discussion but the discussion did involve the technical staff showing why the initial concerns of citizen committee members won’t work. Compromise was reached.

    I’m not saying that citizens should roll over and play dead when staff disagree, quite the contrary, but I am saying that discourse, civil discourse, is proper and just as we don’t have to defer to city staff staff when they think we are wrong have an obligation to tell us when they disagree. I’m supposedly an expert in housing (affordable housing), yet in committee discussions city employees often point out erroneous understandings on my part and I am appreciative of the correction. I always worked for the state of ILlinois and my students were in many ways my employers, but I had no problem in telling them when they were technically wrong. (In fact, can’t wait until Jim Mason hears my technically qualified response to his survey).

    Oh, unless my alderman and his predecessor were deceiving me and I highly doubt it (and my previous alderman is and was a close friend) both complained how few people made contact with them especially on the broader issues. Most contact were on neighborhood types of issues, stop signs, but not on the broader policy issues. Some general contacts did occur but often I was a measurable proportion of all broader policy related contacts. That’s a shame, but that’s what they told me.

    Herb

  41. The more I think about the police station, the more I believe that a implementing a vehicle sticker program within the City of DeKalb is the way to go. Somehow we must get our police the most important tool they need in order to keep our families safe and to serve our community in the many ways they do today.

    I would be interested to see this actually become its own topic and have our bloggers, old and new, suggest other ideas if they do not favor this one. I do fully realize the burden that we have today to finance our local, state, and federal governments but I’ve tried to think of ways that we could postpone the building of this station. I cannot. I sat in the lobby the other while paying several water bills and just watched the traffic in and out of the police station itself. The variety of people in and out, going to court and other offices, and the detectives walking back and forth through the main City Hall lobby from their offices to the station.

    I just cannot imagine how they continue to do the quality work that they do day in and day out. So, I am asking you to help with ideas as to where we do not necessarily fund based on real estate but on vehicles that use our roads. Our next meeting is June 11, 2008 and it would be nice to have a feeling on what is acceptable or not.

  42. OK, Ivan, I’ll put a post up on that topic tomorrow (today I’m devoting to the new tax hikes) so everybody save further comments for then, please.

Leave a Reply