Council Watch, January 25 Meetings

Committee of the Whole meeting agenda includes a discussion of establishing a line of credit (PDF p. 3).

Staff contacted eight banks located in DeKalb about submitting their terms and rates for a $2.5M line of credit for the City. We have received four quotes, of which Castle Bank had the lowest fixed rate at 4.95%, while Fifth Third Bank had the lowest variable rate at 1.75% + .25% of any unused principal. This line of credit will be necessary to maintain City operations while revenues continue to decline.

Um, no, I think rather the idea is to maintain cash flow for operations while the city is waiting for revenues to come in, not to make up for declining revenues. The wording here is a little troubling.

Where’s that debt policy?!

Regular Meeting (PDF p. 28):

Installing a new Third Ward alderman: There are at least two fully engaged, conflict-free residents of the Third Ward who are willing to serve. Instead, the mayor has selected a person who, if approved by Council, will come in under a cloud of conflicts of interest. By the way, why the secrecy about Pam Verbic’s involvement with Barb City Manor?

The mayor is also wrong not to release the names of the other Third Warders whom he interviewed for the job. Confidentiality is one thing, anonymity quite another. I wish the Chronicle staff all the best in pursuing the identities of these other candidates. Fortunately for them, the new Freedom of Information Act rules are in effect, so appeals now go straight to the AG’s Public Access Office. I figure the only way we won’t get the names in the end is if there aren’t any.

CDBG 5-Year Plan, public hearing: It’s a shame they won’t try to go after other federal monies for the flood plain home buyouts and put more CDBG funding aside for housing rehab and a bit for employment training, childcare help, and loans to small businesses.

More Citizens Community Enhancement Commission fun (p. 48): CCEC switched from Yards of Distinction awards to Lights of Distinction over the holidays and actually awarded the First Ward alderman. This is not supposed to be about your little club, guys. On an even more hilarious note:

Chairman Matya addressed the Minutes of the September meeting which he said were accurate. He stated that he hasn’t set up a meeting with the Chronicle staff. He added if there is to be a meeting, it should be held with all official media groups that provide information to the citizens of DeKalb. The purpose of a meeting would be to discuss ways in which accurate City information can be Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission Meeting disbursed to keep the citizens informed; it is not to eliminate blogging…Mr. Barnes stated no statement has been made about squashing comments, but getting another opinion out there.

If any of the CCEC members had quashed or denounced the idea to threaten to put pressure on Chronicle advertisers, I might believe them.

Ms. Tate asked if the Commission would consider an open forum and invite the community to attend. This would be a way, she said, for the community to understand what the Commission does. Mr. Matya added the Commission could summarize what has been done, and what is planned for the future, and have an open forum for additional ideas. Mr. Barnes stated that getting actual attendance at these forums is difficult.

Yes, it is true about poor attendance. Top-down organizations can’t attract bottoms-up crowds. The bottoms know it is a futile exercise.

If CCEC really wants to engage the community and turn around DeKalb’s image, it should get busy advocating on behalf of the aforementioned CDBG ideas.

December Expenditures of Distinction (p. 65): Spread across several funds, DeKalb paid about $20,000 for outside legal services last month even though the city has a Legal Services Department of 4.2 staff and an annual budget of nearly $473,000 (PDF p. 55).

Daley Policy Group was paid $30,000 for five months of “airport services.” City staff like to point out that Daley sometimes gets us money for roads and stuff but I think it’s been awhile. I like to point out that airport grants are famously easy to get. Let’s look at this from another perspective, shall we? As in: DUDES. $3 MILLION REVENUE SHORTFALL. BUDGET DEFICITS. MORATORIUM ON LAND ACQUISITION. STAT. Send Daley out for something we don’t have to match and that we all can use.

9 thoughts on “Council Watch, January 25 Meetings”

  1. Almost all grants, especially federal, come with the stipulation for matching funds. It is SOP for federal grants to require an 80 – 20 split, as in the feds will dole out $80 dollars for every $20 in matching funds. In other words, it takes some money to get more money. Often, however, that 20% of matching funds can be in kind services, including overhead like utilities, office space value, and staff time.

    I have a 75% success rate for writing grants, and I managed several grant-based projects. The last one I managed came in around 55% under budget, saving the good people of the formerly Great State of Illinois a bit over $9,000.

    It is also possible to ‘hire’ grant writers on ‘commission’ instead of a full-time salary. In other words, the grant writer applies for the grant and if the organization receives it, then the grant writer becomes the grant administrator, with a salary paid out of the grant. One really does not want to hire a full-time grant writer because he or she could continue to bat zero and get paid with not much incentive.

    There are two keys to grants, though. First, is that there are grants out there to which one can apply. There are not grants for everything under the sun. One is stuck with the criteria that the grant makers set. Second, not all grants require the same thing. Some grants have forms that are almost like paint-by-number, just plug in the information and go. Many federal grants are like that and some really clever twelve-year olds could fill out those forms (if someone had 20% of something to match). Other grants are more or less like writing a dissertation.

  2. Thanks for the grant-writing info. I really like the grant-writers-on-commission idea. It makes a lot of sense.

    I was doing some more reading on the new FOIA rules — in fact I took the citizens’ online course — and found out something that applies to the Chronicle FOIA of the names of the other Third Ward interviewees. If the City of DeKalb intends to deny the information on privacy grounds, they have to notify the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor in advance that they intend to do so. PAC automatically becomes referee on privacy denials.

    The person who FOIAed the city for the names of the Council members who are taking the insurance a few months ago, and was turned down for privacy reasons under HIPAA, may want to try again.

    FOIA online training is at: http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/Training.aspx

  3. On the subject of Last night’s meeting I would have to say that I am thoroughly disgusted by 1st Ward Ald Bertrand Simpson’s behavior last night. He acted in a very unprofessional manor throughout the meeting. (Yelling at Ald Baker, Groaning at a Citizen Speaker before he had the opportunity to address the council) He goes off the deep end! I have compiled (2) video Highlight reels of Mr Simpson Antics.

    1. Listen to the beginning of this video as 1st ward Ald Simpson MOANS about the fact the Council will engage in further discussion on the downtown project. He mumbles, “OKAY, here we go” when “John” ,a Citizen Taxpayer, is about to address the council. This should serve as an example of how some council members have NO respect for their constituents

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU3jbrU2RLU

    2. In this video clip, you can hear Mr Simpson begin to lose his cool and act very unprofessional toward his fellow Aldermen (Mr Baker, in particular). Most of Mr Simpson’s rage can be heard in the second half of the clip

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d84bfjfBZWI

    I believe an official reprimand is in order for Mr Simpson

  4. My grant writing experience is somewhat limited. Tourism, Transportation Enhancement Act, OSLAD… In those programs and in my time commissions on grants were prohibited. That has changed? If so I might fire back up.

  5. If the grant writer becomes the grant administrator and then receives a salary, technically that is not a commission but that certainly gives the grant writer incentive to work hard.

  6. The purpose of the line of credit was to fill gaps between payments. It was not meant to augment declining revenues.

    The current policy, in practice, was to short term borrow funds from Bond Anticipation Notes (BANs). As the name implies those funds were made available (borrowed) in anticipation of a much larger and longer term bond (borrowing) sale. Bad policy. In effect it can tie the city to long term debt even without City Council approval of the long term project. Such is the case with the proposed West Lincoln Highway police station.

  7. Mac, were you able to read the conditions for each of the banks considered? I couldn’t, but noted that one of the banks had a condition of maintaining a balance of $0 for 30 consecutive days each year and I wondered if all of them had similar rules.

  8. I have not read details. Will likely get first look soon before the next finance advisory meeting. As a general rule though for a line of credit it is common for there to be a $0 balance for at least 30 days each year. Its kind of old school and I like it. It prevents rolling a balance over into the next year.

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