I jumped in about 7:30 last night, in the midst of citizens’ comments so the proclamations must have taken a long time! Here’s my assessment of what I saw.

The Bad

The saddest part, of course, was Council’s approval of almost all of ReNew DeKalb’s wish list. With that they closed the door on the possibility of using TIF funding for the badly-needed police station expansion for the next 10 years; an option that, in light of our poor financial position, we should have held onto.

Also, the city left out something important in its repayment calculations. It’s all well and good to ask whether we can repay the $12 million if EAV within the TIF drops another 5% or 10%, but nobody mentioned what the threshold is for real trouble. Why is a 10% drop the arbitrary worst-case scenario? Is it because we’d hit trouble at 11%? 15%? Holy cow, I can’t believe nobody asked. This is a failure of imagination that could really end up biting us.

The Good

While the decision to take on new TIF debt at the worst possible moment is going to hobble us for some time to come, it was hardly a rubber-stamp operation. Sure, there was some grandstanding going on, but Gallagher and Baker did not argue one way and then vote another as we sometimes see people do, and it’s the votes that count. Pam Verbic is nowhere near being anybody’s puppet and said “no” the most, something that we badly need to see a bit more often. The newest alderman, Lisa Kammes, seemed to be trying to assert herself here and there, which makes me hopeful that she will be capable of independence once she’s up to speed on the issues.

What I’m saying is there’s potentially quite a formidable voting bloc of people capable of thinking differently, which is necessary if we’re to avoid another disastrous budget year.

Let’s also give a tip o’ the hat to “Patrick,” the transplanted business person who came to Council with a list of the ways the code enforcement staff have been remarkably, shall we say, inconsistent. Make no mistake about it, “Patrick” is the tip o’ the iceberg. If more people came to Council with their stories, it would shed great light on one of the main reasons DeKalb is perceived as business-unfriendly. We MUST get a handle on the code enforcement piece if we are to bounce back as a community as the economy recovers.

Next

Budget season is almost here. Most of my ideas are the same ones that have fallen on deaf ears for the past three years, but here is a new one: DO NOT COUNT ON THE STATE. We must build a budget that assumes the State of Illinois’ share is not going to come through. (Then, if it does come through, put it in reserve.)

More:

  • Zero-based budgeting. A real effort at this is indispensable for getting to the heart of our spending problem.
  • Accrual accounting. This “modified accrual” accounting is a bunch of hooey. I don’t care who else uses it. The potential for manipulation is too great.

  • EPI recommendations. When do we get to the part where we re-organize? Let’s not let the recommendations fall to the wayside.