Archive for the ‘ Community Resources ’ Category

Fighting Over Scraps

The Chronicle posted an article online last night about council’s fight over the proposed annual budget that begins January 1.

The article says that city staff presented a draft budget with 75% cuts in the social services allocations. This is different from the online version available to the public, which shows the line item (account 8307) as $160,000.

It’s a problem that these various drafts never get posted for the public so we can participate in a meaningful way. However, my main point here is that everyone is reduced to fighting over scraps to balance this budget, because the city manager refuses to give up any goodies for herself and her pets. The human services line item has been, at best for several years, at $150,000; that probably wouldn’t cover the compensation the new IT director will get. What’s budgeted for education and professional development (account 8376) is $249,000, an amount that’s more than doubled in two years. Meanwhile, reductions in raises are considered the “last resort.” They deny themselves nothing.

Staff say they are only reducing what’s not “core services.” Maintaining streets is a core service, but expenditures for streets are nil next year in your neighborhood unless you’re lucky enough to live in a TIF district.

As Ald. Jacobson put it:

They did what I expected them to do and proved that they are here to serve themselves, they are here to ensure that the raises are either expected or guaranteed and that they get paid more while the community continues to suffer.

That’s what bureaucrats do. They carve out their territories and feather their nests. Our only hope — always, not just now — is a council that understands its role as a check on their enormous appetites.

The budget is up for final approval December 12.

**Correction and clarification added 11/30**

In DeKalb’s fiscal year budget for 2008, $214,000 was allocated in the legislative department budget for social services funding. Two years later, the amount was reduced to $150,000, because the city was still experiencing post-Great Recession budget crises.

The funding has never been restored. It’s been at $150,000 ever since, split between about a dozen agencies/programs.

In the proposed FY2017 budget under consideration now, administrators went so far as to zero out this legislative line item altogether. (**correction/clarification added 11/30: it still appears as a line item, though moved to the community development department, and not at the reduced amount discussed Monday.) Council quickly restored the funding Monday evening amid public outcry. However, I doubt that serious discussion of actual policy took place.

We do need to have that discussion. Should city government fund social and supportive services? If so, what’s the plan? Read the rest of this entry

**Update: More about this now posted at Barry’s Blog.**

KishHealth System officials answered questions from the public following a presentation before the DeKalb County Board last night. While the Daily Chronicle chose not to address an exchange regarding who owns the real estate where Kishwaukee Hospital operates (as well as other KishHealth System holdings acquired by Northwestern Medicine), journalist-cum-blogger Barry Schrader did. Here’s an excerpt from an emailed statement (my emphasis added): Read the rest of this entry

I want to thank the DeKalb County Citizens for Better Mental Health Care (CBMH) for keeping abreast of these developments and getting the word out.

In fact, if it weren’t for the ad hoc CBMH, there wouldn’t even have been a public hearing on the matter; hearings are not automatic and must be requested of the supervising state board.

This post combines facts from the application itself (the proposal requires approval of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board), my observations of the September 24 public hearing, and reports from CBMH co-chairs Barry Schrader and Eileen Dubin obtained at a press conference earlier this week.

Mergers vs. Acquisitions

Many people use the words interchangeably, but there’s a distinction between mergers and acquisitions and Northwestern definitely wants to acquire KishHealth. From the application:

In the proposed transaction, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare (NMHC) will become the sole corporate member of KishHealth System (KishHealth). As such, NMHC will have the power and authority to govern, direct and oversee the property, funds, business and affairs of KishHealth.

It’s a change of ownership that, regardless of the appointment of a few local people to serve on the new board, would effectively end local control over the second-largest employer in the county.

CBMH points out that when Kish acquired the DeKalb Clinic, the Clinic employees lost all seniority. In the case of staff cutbacks, they’ll be the first to go. What is there stopping the same thing from happening to Kish staff?

For that matter, what would stop Northwestern from closing some departments or facilities? Answer: apparently, not much. This, from the “affirmations” attached as appendices to the application (my emphasis):

[Northwestern] and KishHealth do not anticipate any reductions to the scope of services or levels of care currently provided at Kishwaukee Community Hospital within 24 months after the affiliation.

Same goes for Valley West Community Hospital in Sandwich.

Read the rest of this entry

As indicated a few days ago, I have concerns about DeKalb’s hotel/motel inspection and licensing ordinance.

The good news is, the city does recognize that some people are permanent residents of hotels and motels.

“Permanent resident” means any person who occupied or has the right to occupy any room or rooms in a hotel or motel for not less than thirty (30) consecutive days.

However, status as a “permanent resident” only means that the usual 7% hotel/motel tax is not charged. It has nothing to do with tenancy or conferring tenants’ rights in long-term living situations in motels.

This is consistent with state law, which tends to keep considerations of landlords and innkeepers separate. Generally such a separation plays out reasonably, except in the case of people having to use cheap motels to keep a couple of walls between themselves and the streets on a long-term and/or indefinite basis.

Let’s consider how this works in case of a motel shutdown such as City of DeKalb’s closure of the Travel Inn.

In an email, Mayor Rey said, “The City is very sensitive to dispersing permanent residents from short-term rentals onto the streets. It is my understanding Lynne that due notice is given upon such displacements.”

“Due notice” is not required by DeKalb ordinance, and my Freedom of Information Act request returned no evidence of any such notice. Yet, conversation on Facebook suggests that people were indeed booted out onto the street.

Mayor Rey also said:

The closure of the local motel was not a result of city causation. We were merely enforcing health/sanitary living condition standards for short-term rental available to visitors.

Irony alert! Living on the street can be bad for your health, too, which is why people will put up with fleabag conditions to avoid it. Especially those with children.

I’m also pretty sure that if harm should come to someone as a direct result of being kicked out of his or her residence without time to make other arrangements, it would put the city at risk of legal action.

The larger issue, of course, is simply one of conscience. I want local government to have one. You?

Originally, I had no plans to publish this email exchange. It was just me as Joan Q. Public, sending an opinion on a budget allocation to His Honor and to other DeKalb city council members I thought might be receptive. I expected a generic “thanks for the input” response, which would have been fine.

But the conversation, which began in June, became extraordinary and eventually sparked a Freedom of Information Act request; and after digesting the response to that request, I’ve decided to share the emails with you. Read the rest of this entry

Last Saturday on Facebook, I crafted a “status” asking where the City of DeKalb warming centers are. There was nothing on the city’s website or Facebook page about them, and the last council agenda seemed to have dispensed with the idea entirely.

Warming Centers
One of the current challenges faced with the moving of the Police Station is that the City Hall is no longer a 24/7 building. Because of that lack of 24/7 presence, the building can no longer be considered a 24 hour warming center. The building will continue to be a warming center during working hours. The City does not have another facility that is capable of performing this function on a 24 hour basis.

I didn’t watch the meeting, but I understand from someone who did that council did not end up designating the new police station — or any building — as the 24-hour warming center.

Anyway, about 3 p.m. yesterday the following was posted on DeKalb’s website and Facebook pages:

Due to the extreme cold weather and the National Weather Service wind chill warning, the City of DeKalb will be opening a warming center if the need is there. If you’re in need of shelter due to the weather, please contact Police Dispatch at 815.748.8400

If the need is there? How much more grudging can you get? Read the rest of this entry

Remember this, from our financial consultants last April?

[I]f you survey potential businesses, would they consider DeKalb business friendly? I don’t know the answer to that question. We have heard anecdotal evidence; some say that DeKalb is one of the most business-unfriendly cities they’ve ever encountered. Well, if that’s the case, economic development will be a challenge. So, it’s something that perhaps could be addressed.

Yesterday I spent the day at the DeKalb Farmers Market. I’d previously understood from the ReNew person in charge that the city had agreed to keep Locust Street open for the duration of the market, which runs until 6 p.m. But they got antsy to start setting up for Corn Fest by mid-afternoon, put up barricades and killed traffic. Vendors started fleeing as early as 4 p.m., leaving little for the after-work crowd to shop for.

That’s not even getting into the impacts to downtown business people in buildings. Some of them already know they will see their worst weekend of sales for the year this weekend with Corn Fest back downtown. And even if the city’s/Corn Fest’s impatience didn’t worsen the sales outlook, the powers-that-be clearly squandered an opportunity for goodwill. There was some real anger expressed in the Van Buer parking lot yesterday and the blame was laid squarely on the City of DeKalb and Corn Fest. It sounded a lot like what the financial consultants heard.

DeKalb is run by a relatively small group of self-anointed VIPs, within government and without, who regularly tramp roughshod over the interests of others in the community. Some are the very same people who talk about economic development all the time yet seem to lack a clue about how to provide it.

Here’s one: Get over yourselves and start thinking about somebody else for a change.

Among the presentations at Monday’s council meeting was a certificate of appreciation given to DeKalb’s team members in the America in Bloom beauty contest a couple weeks ago (see p. 5).

  • City of DeKalb Staff
  • Members of the Environmental Commission
  • Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission
  • DeKalb Park District Staff
  • NIU Staff
  • DeKalb Public Library Staff
  • Ellwood House Staff
  • Master Gardeners
  • Proven Winners
  • With the exception of the Master Gardeners, the list represents a love-in between bureaucrats plus a business that has managed to get the city to advertise its brand and to make residents pay for that advertising. Read the rest of this entry

    *Update: Final list of candidates is here.*

    In the article, “DeKalb County Certifies Preliminary Ballot,” the county clerk stated that there are about six people who have filed as write-in candidates in April’s Consolidated Election so far. As of 9:30 a.m. today there were indeed exactly six:

  • Michael Franckowiak – Genoa Park Board
  • Veronica Bruhl – Kaneland Board of Education
  • Rick Goken – Shabbona Township Trustee
  • Virginia E. Toppe – Malta Library Trustee
  • Charles G. Rose – DeKalb Regional Board of Education
  • Antonio C. Amaya – Genoa Park Board
  • We could see additional declarations of write-in campaigns this week because the deadline is Thursday, after which the final list of candidates will be posted at dekalbclerk.com.

    While I’m at it I’d like to recognize John Acardo and the Office of the DeKalb County Clerk & Recorder for their high standards of professionalism and customer service. Nobody answers requests for information faster than they do, the communication is very good and I like how I am treated.