For all of NIU’s having publicly “backed away” from a partnership for redevelopment with City of DeKalb et al last spring, it seems the institution had already secretly created a “charity” with a local developer and a banker in December 2013 for similar purposes.
The documents were Tweeted to me.
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Let’s start with a summary of events.
— The group now known as Preserve Our Neighborhoods (PON) was formed last spring in response to concerns that residents were not being included in DeKalb-NIU redevelopment plans that would directly affect them.
— Misty Haji-Sheikh of PON received unsigned documents from an anonymous sender regarding a corporation formed for the purpose of redeveloping the John Street neighborhood.
— The corporation, College Town Partners, was of public interest because NIU and City of DeKalb were named as partners in documents related to its purpose and operations.
— Haji-Sheikh asked NIU and City of DeKalb for documents related to College Town Partners under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). DeKalb denied her some of the information under an exemption to FOIA for preliminary drafts/proposals.
— Haji-Sheikh requested that the Attorney General’s Office of Public Access review DeKalb’s denial of information to ensure the city has used the FOIA exemption properly. The AG accepted this Request for Review.
— City of DeKalb responded to the AG’s request to provide the legal basis for using the FOIA exemption(s) but in an unusual move the city asked for — and received — blanket confidentiality of its response.
— Haji-Sheikh is allowed under the review process to respond to the city’s response and she did so even though she hasn’t been allowed to read it.
Michael Haji-Sheikh has provided Misty’s response to the AG via Twitter. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve read the College Town Partners documents that were leaked to the Preserve Our Neighborhoods (PON) group. (Want copies? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The agreements, which were never signed, lay out a corporate partnership between City of DeKalb, NIU, a local developer and two banks.
They strike me as kind of nuts, actually, being fraught with conflicts of interest that government bodies could never ignore. Whoever developed them — at this point I’m envisioning somebody’s partially demented but clout-heavy uncle who must be humored — possesses no grasp of the “public” part of public projects.
For example, the agreements place the DeKalb city manager in the position of manager of a self-interested company operating in the same community. They also attempt to make rules for the participation of the government bodies (e.g.: confidentiality, non-compete clause, predetermined developer) but that’s the flip of what’s supposed to happen.
The plans as written didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in sunlight. Still, somebody thought enough of them to stuff 60 pages into an envelope to mail to the PON folks. Why? I think it must be a warning that an awful lot of planning has been going on behind closed doors, and that some of it may not represent the public interest.
Speaking of which, let’s look at the recent naughtiness of your mayor that ties in here. Read the rest of this entry
NIU president Baker and the mayor each spoke to the group, as did NIU vice-president Bill Nicklas and an architect who explained the process involved in the development of the Bold Futures Thesis.
In a nutshell, NIU wants to transform the thesis into a real plan for better use of the physical campus in nurturing a sense of place. It is one of several initiatives they hope will improve enrollment and retention of the hip, urban Millennial Generation.
When audience members expressed concern that the university is also pushing development plans for nearby historic neighborhoods without their input, the NIU representatives seemed genuinely surprised that they’d reached this conclusion. The NIU thesis isn’t a plan yet, they said; and besides, the focus is on the campus center.
Funny. I’d reached the same conclusion that the audience did when I attended the March 15 City of DeKalb strategic planning meeting. There, VP Nicklas shared his top budget priorities that involved the city and my notes show one of them is “Locust Street enhancements.”
So, I think maybe the NIU folks are back-pedaling a little.
However, I also believe the city has hitched its caboose to the NIU train with a little sleight-of-hand. Read the rest of this entry
A new police station on Route 38 is in the works, and a proposed expansion of the DeKalb Public Library would involve closing a portion of North Third Street.
Clearly, each of these projects/proposals if built would impact traffic patterns at their respective locations.
Mac McIntyre brought up the need for a traffic study at the police station site a few months ago so I’ve been doing some research into the requirements as time allows.
Communications with the state Department of Transportation have convinced me that it would likely not be possible for the City of DeKalb to obtain a permit for the police station construction without a traffic study. Indeed, ComEd will have to obtain a permit to dig a hole for a pole before it begins utility work at the site.
Additionally, I just found out that the city approved “administratively” a traffic study, now in progress, for the police station site.
All’s well then, right? NO. My reading of the Municipal Code does not allow for an “administrative” decision on traffic studies. The procedure is for the director of Public Works to make a recommendation and for the city council to vote on the recommendation.
I’ve put the applicable section of Chapter 23, Article 7 after the jump. Read the rest of this entry
Author: Kay Shelton
[Updated 7/18 with links to more coverage, at bottom.]
Dimensions, features and amenities planned for the new DeKalb Public Library have been lifted from “A Building Program for the DeKalb Public Library,” September 19, 2009. The plan is to build an 89,000 square foot facility that serves 70,000 people, based on projections of 2% growth per year out to 2030. Building and participant details come after the jump. Read the rest of this entry
There was a transportation meeting at Kishwaukee College on Tuesday. It reminded me of an idea I’d heard and would like to throw out to you.
At the meeting, they remarked that non-local truck traffic was decreasing on Route 38 and holding steady on Route 23 so there is no reason to pursue costly bypasses. Well, there is one road in DeKalb where truck traffic must be increasing and that is Peace Road.
The county maintains Peace Road but building proper roads for heavy truck traffic is much more expensive than for regular roads. Should this perhaps be a job for IDOT? What if the part of Gurler that runs east from 4th to Peace (which eventually will be inhabited by industrial and commercial interests), then Peace Road all the way north to Plank Road in Sycamore, were designated Route 23?
It’s true that the city wants to tackle the South 4th Street revitalization with the help of IDOT, but the other idea clearly has merit as well. I thank M. for bringing it up.
All we know for sure is this: DeKalb Mayor Frank Van Buer cast a vote against Gavin Wilson’s candidacy as 5th Ward alderman. The mayor is now found to have close political relationships with Wilson’s opponent in the race and with the man who challenged Wilson’s ballot petition.
Van Buer’s campaign manager, Don Floyd, says that the mayor did disclose, by way of filing electronically with the Illinois State Board of Elections (btw, the irony has not escaped me). He’s got a point. How is it that the opposition party–in this case the Republicans–didn’t dig up that nugget? How did the Daily Chronicle miss it? As for myself, I didn’t blink or think twice at the time, when Van Buer said “We were advised that that was a mandatory.” That’s ’cause I trusted him.
I assume that when Van Buer sought legal advice, it was from the city attorney. Perhaps he should also have visited with the city manager, who is the designated ethics advisor for the city. That way the mayor’s men maybe wouldn’t have to be engaged right now in a flurry of damage control activity because the ethics of the situation called for recusal. Recusal would have saved the day.
At any rate let’s pursue a big-picture hypothesis brought to the fore by Gavin Wilson:
The Mayor and I were not strangers. He had just recently sent me a letter asking me not to write any more letters to the Chronicle, or it would undo all the things he was trying to accomplish, (for instance, removing the only viable parking in the downtown). I did write more, and I know this was not an action that would endear me to him.
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This week’s council meetings have been rescheduled for next week after Monday’s rain-out, which turned streets south of Rt. 38, from Second to Seventh, into rivers. (I myself am the sudden owner of lakefront property, which happens whenever there’s a “100-year-flood,” or about every four years.)
I noticed this item in the city manager’s notes for the regular council meeting:
ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING A SPECIAL SERVICE AREA NUMBER TWELVE (DEKALB BUSINESS CENTER PLANNED DEVELOPMENT) IN THE CITY OF DEKALB, ILLINOIS AND PROVIDING FOR A PUBLIC HEARING AND OTHER PROCEDURES IN CONNECTION THEREWITH. A Public Hearing needs to be held in order to consider establishing a Special Service Area for the property located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Gurler Road and Illinois Route 23, commonly known as DeKalb Business Center. This property was annexed into the City on December 11, 2006. The Annexation Agreement provided for the creation of an Owners Association, which will be responsible for maintenance of the common areas and storm water retention areas. The Special Service Area would only be activated in the event that the Owners Association fails to provide the required maintenance. Read the rest of this entry