City Watch: Mystery Solved*

Landlords and other business owners marched to City Hall last evening.

DeKALB – Frank Kasper stood outside the DeKalb Municipal Building before the DeKalb City Council meeting Monday with about 20 other residents holding neon-colored signs against tax increases and a proposed rental licensing program. Passing cars honked in support of the signs and could be heard from inside council chambers as city officials prepared for a meeting that included passing the 2009 budget.

While some protesters were upset over budget issues, Kasper, a landlord, is concerned about a proposal for a rental inspection program, something he said infringes on Fourth Amendment rights of private property.

The original crowd marched with 20 people, but grew to about 30 as the Committee of the Whole meeting wore on. Some protestors carried two or three signs, which they shared with new arrivals.

The Chronicle article got one thing glaringly (to me) wrong. They did not cut 10% from the Administrative Services Dept. budget, only 1.2%. Also the paper left out the administrative pay raise as well as the water rate and fee increases and helped the assistant city manager crow over the “balanced budget.” Well, FY2008 was supposed to be balanced, was it not? This budget does nothing to prevent us being in the same hole this time next year, if not earlier.

Two statements beg for rebuttal. Mayor Van Buer defends the skating rink idea because the funds come out of TIF instead of the General Fund. Holy cow, is TIF the cookie jar money? We KNOW it’s TIF and we still don’t like our funds spent that way. BTW it’s hugely politically tone deaf not to recognize it’s become symbolic of the waste.

Secondly, Ald. Naylor shows ignorance of his role when he continues to repeat how much city staff deserve raises and how we should be keeping up with the joneses in giving them. Excuse me, but–besides the fact that he seems to listen to his constituency not at all–the matter does not rest with how deserving people are or how much other communities are paying, rather with what makes sense in terms of ensuring the city’s financial health and paying what the community can afford.
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*The protest was intended to take City Hall by surprise, but I hear somebody passed on the news to the wrong person and it did not remain a secret.

21 thoughts on “City Watch: Mystery Solved*”

  1. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee deserves gratitude from the taxpayers. That group placed more pressure on the city to do more about cutting back even further.

    Of course, in any large budget, there are still things that could be cut. Here are some interesting items on the Check Register for May:

    $400+ for more Wright Athletic Center memberships

    P. 29 “RNTL HOUSING TR” [rental housing training??] For a program not yet in place, we are spending money on it, why?

    $3760+ for cell phones *and* $802 in long distance charges? Why? I certainly do not do that for the household budget. Who needs long distance when there are cell phones? Oh, they have Verizon for long distance and US Cellular for cell phones. My household uses one company for both, and receives a little bit off the total bill because of that. I guess the VOIP system will help that in the future.

    For the nickel and dime category:

    P. 14, ReNew DeKalb, $25 M. Biernacki and $25 Mary Kay Biernacki Coincidence? Does this Mary Kay Biernacki person work for the city???

    P. 10, First Bankcard $17.34 Biernacki/Gorski LINC INN 3/27 [Lincoln Inn??]

  2. you know…
    I find most of the little stuff funny, I really do.I mean I love pointing out that a certain staffer loves to buy his sandwiches on the city credit card.some of you know who Im talking about.. i’ll leave it at that (after all he may be on city business)
    I also posted the Hooters line item to get laughs more then anything else .

    but this weeks COMEDY of ALL COMEDIES
    page 24 line 1
    a GUITAR HERO purchase

    all right BEFORE anyone flies off the handle.. it was purchased by the Police Department.Im sure it was a legitimate purchase (Feithen has proven to be the most fiscally responsible boss, with IMO the most OVERWORKED crew)

    I dont think the PD buying Guitar Hero is a problem…

    I think the REAL problem is $160,000 to the Egyptian,$50,000 to Renew and another $50,000 to the Chamber.. these are the things which SHOULD get the blood boiling.Guitar hero is nothing compared and LIKELY was used for some PD Youth program.

    $30 for some kids to have a good time or $260,000 to quasi non-profits?Heck I say give all that $260,030 to fund some Juvenile outreach and after school work for the PD.
    That would be a TRUE investment in DeKalbs future.

  3. Yes, I saw the Guitar Hero purchase. I agree on the comments about the Police Department, which is why I did not put it on the list. ;-)

    I cannot imagine the stress those in the emergency services go through, including the 911 operators who have to hear screaming family members when someone is having a heart attack.

  4. As to the rental inspection program: the expenses should have been taken out of the budget along with the revenue. In fact, my blood boils about a certain contractor who is getting paid for work on a program that doesn’t exist and who was picked up this way to get ’round the hiring freeze. Doesn’t work. It clearly violates the freeze no matter how he gets paid.

  5. Dear furloughed worker.

    As you know by now in order to help balance the FY09 budget you will be required to take a furlough of 5 workng days during FY09. We realize there are lost of questions so let this memo help explain the issue.

    First of all lets assume that your annual FY08 salary was $52,000.00. You may think that your FY09 salary would then amount to $51,00.00 considering the one week furlough you may be required to take. This may not be the case.

    Remember we need to add the COLA and merit increases to your FY09 salary before the furlough takes place. You can expect a .02% merit increase and a .0193 COLA adjustment to your salary before the furlough takes place. These adjustments would raise your annual salary from the aforementioned $52,000.00 to a new rate of $54,063.00. After a 1/52 reduction for the furlough your FY09 salary will come in at $53,024.00. Althongh this is not as much of an increse as we hoped it is still a increase of a little over $1,000.00 for the year and please do not forget you will be getting an extra 5 days off of work to spend as you wish.

    More importantly the new base of $54,063.00 will be used as the basis in determining and future merit or COLA increases.

    If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. I would suggest you not contact member of the council because they do not understand their own benefits as demonsrated in the meeting on Juen 23, 2008

    Pevo

  6. “Currently we have a – in my opinion – a fairly unorthodox system in the way an employee contributes to health care costs,” Biernacki said. “The standard way is that an employee contributes as a percent of premium costs.”

    He says in a detached way as if he’s had no hand in the “unorthodox” system.

    It’s not only unorthodox, it’s such a sweet deal that it constitutes another taxpayer robbery. I just figured out that a city employee bringing in the same income as my family would have to triple what they are paying now for health insurance coverage to come anywhere near what my family pays–and we are fortunate to have a pretty good deal ourselves when it comes to the insurance department.

  7. Somebody needs to let “Grumpy” know that taking a pay cut and having employees pay a portion of the health premium is not an ” empty gesture”. It is something we expect the council to do in the future for all employees.

    Also ” I used the Google and searched all of the Internets” and could not find an instance where employees were given pay raises and asked to take a furlough in the same fiscal year.

    Maybe we are setting a new ‘ industry standard”

    Pevo

  8. Kay, if we opened the nepotism can of worms I’m sure we’d see a lot of squirming.

    Pevo, I’m with you–no gesture is empty under these circumstances.

  9. So, does the previous answer mean Mary Kay Biernacki works for the city *and* is related to the city manager?

    The nepotism (and cronyism) can of worms should be opened. People here think they are cleaner than the people in Chicago, where nepotism, cronyism, and patronage are a ‘religion.’ I think a measure of clean vs. unclean politics may be in order.

  10. Kay, I was speaking more generally because I haven’t opened that can of worms. Sometimes I’ve wondered about things–such as why Baxter & Woodman always get the city’s business, for example–and this reimbursement certainly raises questions. But I’ve been preoccupied with skating rink and rental inspection and the whole budget mess and haven’t gone looking for these relationships yet. At the moment I am just speculating at what would be found. It would just kind of fit a pattern.

  11. Herb would like for me to tell y’all that Mr. Biernacki reimbursed the city for Mrs. Biernacki’s ticket and that is what the “REIMB” notation means.

  12. Ralph Tomkins who works at Baxter and Woodman was the former Public Works guy for the City of DeKalb. He is very familiar with the current staff and how the city works.

  13. I contacted Mayor Van Buer with regards to his comments on the radio clips the other day regarding the ice skating rink using TIF dollars and not tax dollars. I did remind the Mayor that TIF dollars is dollars that are being borrowed and for all practical purposes is tax dollars. I also reminded him that the park district is more than glad to sponsor the ice skating rink according to a comment made by the park board president.

    I would say there should be no need for more discussion on this matter, yeah right. The mayor reminded me that the skating rink is not a done deal and there will still be further discussion and encouraged me to participate in that discussion. I thought I did with the email but I guess vocally is better that the written form.

  14. I am wondering if we could ask the fire department suv that is parked in Sycamore to consider this move.

    FROM THE AP NEWS WIRE

    Police officers to pay for taking patrol cars home
    AP

    IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) – In a push to save on fuel expenses and avoid a public relations black eye, the Idaho Falls police chief plans to have officers who live outside the city limits and drive their patrol cars to and from work start paying a mileage fee.

    Police Chief Steve Roos estimated the move will save the department about $10,000 annually.

    “There’s the whole gas issue, and what offends most people is when they see an Idaho Falls police vehicle outside the city limits,” Roos said.

    City officials had asked department heads to come up with ways to save on gas. The police department uses about 5,000 gallons of fuel a month, which at $4 per gallon adds up to $240,000 annually.

    Idaho Falls Councilman Tom Hally said he likes Roos’ plan because it keeps in place a system that allows off-duty officers to respond quickly while also addressing one of the most frequent complaints he and other city officials get, which is residents calling about police cars outside the city limits.

    “I’m not against using cars in the community,” Hally told the Post Register. “But having cars in Rigby, Ririe and other communities doesn’t benefit the citizens of Idaho Falls who are paying the cost.”

    Roos said the new policy will go into effect Oct. 1.

  15. I have no problem with officers taking cars home–it certainly feels like a crime deterrent. If employees live outside DeKalb, I have no problem with them taking cars home and paying mileage for the distance to their homes from the city limits–that sounds like a great idea.

  16. Get ready for the Shodeen dog and pony show tomorrow. I bet there will be glowing reports in the newspaper, by aldermen, the mayor, and of course, Biernacki. The Internet Marauders’ Search Team was at it again, though:

    This blogger has a particularly intense beef. There are more posts than just this:
    http://openline.blogspot.com/2008/02/fleecing-of-aurora-shodeen-hole-in.html

    http://www.kcchronicle.com/articles/2008/05/11/news/local/doc4826d3c40e0ab775666518.txt

    http://blogs.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconblog/2007/12/post_12.html

    http://www.complaints.com/directory/2006/march/13/20.htm

    http://openline.blogspot.com/2008/03/shodeen-project-uses-smoke-n-mirrors-to.html

    http://www.complaints.com/directory/2005/november/17/22.htm

    http://www.9thward.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=328

    http://www.uexpress.com/coveringthecourts/index.html?uc_full_date=20011114

    http://www.delavan-lake.org/downloads/1013/autust_2006_newsletter.pdf

    http://millcreektimes.com/?p=225

    Yes, part of the family fortune went to immortalize the name through a significant hospital donation:
    http://www.delnor.com/body.cfm?id=242

    Despite being problematical, these people have projects all over the place and obviously they have enough money that taxpayers should NOT GIVE ONE PENNY OF TAX INCENTIVES to these people.

  17. Courtesy of the Internet Marauders’ Search Team:

    Just what did happen in Elgin while Biernacki was there and on his way out the door? Total coincidence? You decide!

    Here is an interesting story of citizens resisting the local Elgin government and fearing annexation that may ruin their rural lifestyle:

    http://www.preservecampton.org/Elgin%20Annexation/Articles/Preserve%20Campton%20Statement.pdf

    The Web site for that organization is active at:

    http://www.preservecampton.org

    It appears that to resist annexation from Elgin, the people of Campton incorporated themselves into a new village. The woman in charge of the preservation group now serves as the Village President. Take a look:

    http://www.villageofcamptonhills.org/

    Congratulations to them and best wishes toward having the lifestyle that they want. It is too bad those of us who want out of DeKalb’s local government run amok cannot try the opposite and split to form our own city, or vote the bums out now. Revoking home rule may be the next best thing.

  18. Yes Kaye, there is talk that the city is working quick to figure an answer for the stairwork to be completed where they just knocked that building down. You just can’t have a straight ramp down from Lincoln Hwy to Palmer Court. Like mentioned, it would be direct competition to the ice skating rink in the winter for it would be the ultimate sled run. I’m not sure but it would be interesting to hear from staff how they will manage this. One way may be to put landings every so often but I would hate to see a wheel chair get away from someone.

    It must be a ramp or ADA approved however. That is correct since they are using public funds. The local chapter of RAMP would probably have some better answers. Anyone know someone over there?

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