No Task Force, No Public Input Allowed at Council’s Special Meetings on Housing Issues

[Updated with link 5:30 p.m.]

The DeKalb City Council is planning three special meetings on housing issues, scheduled as follows:

  • Wednesday, Aug 22 at 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept 19 at 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct 10 at 6 p.m.
  • The meetings will not include Safe/Quality Housing Task Force members except as members of the audience who are invited only to “attend and observe,” according to a city e-mail that is making the rounds.

    Count me among the Task Force members, landlords and others who are concerned the lack of public input will leave the administrators’ agenda inadequately challenged. For example, the city has included a $150,000 rental property licensing and inspection contingency in the FY2013 budget that was rejected as a Task Force recommendation yet continues to be pushed by city staff.

    8 thoughts on “No Task Force, No Public Input Allowed at Council’s Special Meetings on Housing Issues”

    1. Why would any self-respecting person hereafter sit on an advisory commission when all your time and effort takes a back seat when the real decisions are made? They should at least have a liaison to the Task Force present… someone who can facilitate communications with the folks who have been working on this and/or articulate the flavor of prior discussions at the sub-committee level or with the full commission. But no, that’s not the way things are done in this little kingdom where the man behind the curtain is anything but a wizard.

    2. Agreed.

      I wonder if council members think this is the way to conduct the meetings, or if there could be a push for more inclusion as would better befit a public process.

      Btw, the e-mail itself appears to have come from the Public Works department. ???

    3. Well Linda has been the administrative support for the Task Force all along so it would seem to make sense for public works to send out the meeting notice — she has the list of addressees who have signed up to receive such notices. Why not?

      As to council knowing how to conduct meetings, one has to laugh. Former Clerk Kapitan and City Attorney Frieders attempted a brief overview of meeting conduct but it was met with contempt by council. While it’s acknowledged that strict adherence to Roberts Rules is not mandatory, way too often discussion goes off on willy nilly tangents and it is impossible to know what motion is being discussed, etc.

      Many of these problems are promoted by so-called experienced council members who never learned appropriate protocol for such meetings. It’s a waste of everyone’s time… and undermines the credibility of the public body.

      A certain alderperson should be embarrassed everytime she opens her mouth to “make a motion”. As any 6th grade student council member can tell you, a representative MOVES X, Y or Z. You never make a motion”.

      Voting on a motion, under city protocol requires a vote of “Aye” or “Nay” and yet this mayor insists on using the “same sign” shorthand.

      The list of faux pas is too long to enumerate here.

      Elected officials are not allowed to meet at will to discuss city affairs: there are specific legal requirements in terms of postings, quorums, protocols, etc.

      Citizens deserve representatives who can follow these basic rules reliably and without error.

      And after trying to correct certain anomalies at one time, the city attorney has seemingly given up: you can only fight “city hall” for so long before you realize you are wasting your breath.

      This is a very sad metaphor for the reality of how mistakes and missteps go ignored at this city hall — “correction fatigue” sets in… and we’re all expected to accept lower and lower levels of professionalism.

      It would all be a joke if only it weren’t so sad and definitely not funny.

    4. After talking with a task force member and long time city hall advocate, I was under the impression that the task force is not an advisory committee, but rather an actual appointed committee and therefore a unit of DeKalb government. They apparently have conducted open meetings and followed the provisions of the Open Meetings Act.

      Lynn, sounds like you are also a member? If so, what’s your take on advisory vs actual committee?

      In any event, Task Force should have a seat at the table during these meetings and public should be allowed to participate. More nonsense from Biernacki and Povlsen.

    5. Kerry, all such boards and commissions are advisory in that the city council has the final say on any recommendations coming from them.

      They are considered part of city government because within their defined roles they can be expected to have influence over the course of city business — most especially the spending of public funds. Therefore they must follow OMA and FOIA so we may witness, offer input and evaluate their work.

      (An example of an “unofficial” group would be the neighborhood called Ellwood Historic District. This group not only has a say in how TIF plays out in the neighborhood, it also had a $100,000 “allowance” placed in last year’s budget for its projects. How is this group not subject to OMA and FOIA? IMO it’s simply because nobody has sued the city to make it so, as has been done in at least one other Illinois community with an “unofficial” group spending tax money.)

      I’m not a member of the Task Force myself, but before my accident I had a good attendance record and was the person who made requests for information under FOIA to understand the hiring and intended role of Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins in Task Force proceedings.

      The Task Force should be involved. It doesn’t have to be the full body, just a couple representatives so that they aren’t, accidentally or otherwise, misrepresented during the special meetings. They should not have to depend on the whims of aldermen to call them to the floor for comment.

      Furthermore, each recommendation of the Task Force deserves a clean vote by the council, unpolluted by any other agenda. This is a matter of respect.

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