Archive for the ‘ Community Resources ’ Category

Because the local library applied for a state construction grant in 2012, I decided to read up on these grants. One result of the research is doubt that all the money from a new library grant “pot” has all gone to libraries — but I am having a difficult time finding out for sure. This is a progress report for citizen watchdogs and others interested in state level grant programs, the Illinois State Library and/or the Freedom of Information Act.

Sandwich Public Library found out about its $1.6 million construction grant award months ago, but word is just now circulating. DeKalb Public Library was likewise notified in July that it wouldn’t receive an award this fiscal year, yet suddenly now it’s getting $8.5 million from the state for its planned expansion.

The questions that arise out of these announcements — and their peculiar timing — are related to what I would describe as an uncharacteristic lack of transparency by the Illinois State Library in administering a $50 million construction grant program. I’ve used the Internet and, just lately, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to try to part the curtains.

Though the FOIA adventure continues, having local libraries and their good fortunes in the news seems a reasonable excuse to lay out the story so far, so here goes. Read the rest of this entry

In a story that appears to be designed to make us feel ashamed about questioning the destruction of recreation space that has become important to the community (I’ll comment further on the land swap deal another time), the Chronicle drops in this tidbit:

About that pool: Although the DeKalb Park District won’t be building the aquatic center complex envisioned in 2010, Capek said there is a plan to fix the pool at Hopkins Park.

The pool there now was built almost 40 years ago and is nearing the end of its useful life. The park district pursued a grant for the work, but missed out in the face of stiff competition, Capek said.

“The board made the commitment to do that within existing financing,” Capek said. “The project will move forward at end of pool season in 2014 and they hope to have it open for the 2015 season.”

Unlike the old plan, this time park officials plan to save money from their annual bond issue to put toward the pool improvements. The new pool will fit within the footprint of the existing pool, Capek said.

The park board has agreed to allow staff to stat moving forward with the project, and it should be discussed more at the park board’s budget meeting Dec. 6, Capek said.

It so happens that the McHenry County Blog has just explained well this lovely loophole that park districts have made an annual ritual: Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb’s city council will hold a special workshop meeting August 22, 6 p.m. in council chambers, to discuss proposals related to the work of the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force. The agenda and backup materials (a 109-page PDF) are here.

If you’ve been following the work of the task force, especially lately, you know that its advice differs in several ways from recommendations advocated by city staff.

Now, the DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) is weighing in on those same recommendations with a position paper its board released today.

I’m posting the paper in its entirety, with very minor editing, after the jump. Read the rest of this entry

Website Transparency Standouts

The Illinois Policy Institute recently re-tested government website transparency in DuPage County’s York Township and released results last week.

Dubbed “The Local Transparency Project,” grades are based on the availability to the public of vital community information such as public meeting schedules, government employee salaries and tax rates. Since the project was launched by the Institute in February 2010, more than 160 government entities have been graded.

The government entities that scored above 80 percent were: DuPage County, Elmhurst School District 205, DuPage High School District 88 and the municipalities of Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Downers Grove and Lombard. The village of Lombard, in fact, maintained a score of 100 percent that initially awarded in May 2012.

Almost all of the websites gained points the second time around, and the top sites made such improvement as to suggest conscious responses to the first test.

And it’s not just about uploading content, but organizing it in such a way that it is easy to find.

The Village of Lombard website is tops for several reasons. Redundancy is one. For example, you can get to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) information and forms from both the “How Do I…?” menu on the front page, and via the “Online Forms by Department” menu. An “A-Z” index is also available, which is how I found out the village offers extra goodies for residents, such as a directory of local contractors who meet village requirements for insurance and so on. Read the rest of this entry

Corn Fest Financials Through 2010

ear of cornDeKalb Corn Fest was lucky to have funds in reserve when it moved from the downtown to DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport in 2008.

YearRevenuesExpensesGain/LossGrants
Given
Ending
Fund
Balance
2004129,016153,600-24,584?25,805
2005174,734140,83933,895?59,700
2006183,392163,69819,69425,20079,394
2007167,509156,17411,3353,00090,699
2008160,999178,519-17,5204,00073,179
2009183,662184,376-1,01430072,165
2010155,804171,748-15,944None56,221

Except for the “Lady Antebellum boost” in 2009, revenues have been trending downward. Revenues are no longer itemized on the tax forms, so we don’t know which categories have gotten hit.

The expense story is not so mysterious: expenses jumped with the move to the airport because site costs rose from $20,000 to $38,000.

It will be interesting to get last year’s numbers to see what effect, if any, the new parking fees had on the bottom line. You will recall that the City of DeKalb, not Corn Fest, benefits from the parking fees; nevertheless they could still affect attendance and spending.

Source: Foundation Center 990 Finder

…have been published at DeKalb County Online.

The meeting is Tuesday, June 26, 6 p.m. in DeKalb council chambers.

The joint meeting is a signal that the work of the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force is almost done and that proposals will come up for votes at council soon.

The city’s agenda does not list specific items, so I got mine from the DeKalb Area Rental Association. The issues include discussion of:

  • Three different mandatory inspection ordinances
  • Licensing and fee requirements for rental housing
  • A new Vacant Housing ordinance with possible $500 fees
  • Increased registration requirements and fees for rental housing
  • A Disorderly House ordinance

I’ve attended several Task Force meetings. In my view, this whole exercise was started as another attempt by administrators to latch onto the teats of a new cash cow, aka DeKalb landlords. However, to my utter delight I have become a fan of the Task Force. This is no puppet committee.

Meanwhile, the cow in the form of DARA obviously is going to kick and kick hard; but please do not make the mistake of believing these ordinance proposals only affect landlords. Come for the potential fireworks but stay for a conversation that ultimately will involve all of us.

[Updated with Deposit Insurance Fund info @ 1:40 p.m.]

…and one of its former officers is a DeKalb County official.

From an FDIC release yesterday:

Farmers and Traders State Bank, Shabbona, Illinois, was closed today by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with First State Bank, Mendota, Illinois, to assume all of the deposits of Farmers and Traders State Bank.

The two branches of Farmers and Traders State Bank will reopen on Saturday as branches of First State Bank. Depositors of Farmers and Traders State Bank will automatically become depositors of First State Bank. Deposits will continue to be insured by the FDIC, so there is no need for customers to change their banking relationship in order to retain their deposit insurance coverage up to applicable limits.

The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $8.9 million. Compared to other alternatives, First State Bank’s acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC’s DIF.

You heard it here (and perhaps only here) that FTSB accepted a consent order from FDIC last summer in response to charges of “unsafe or unsound banking practices and violations of law, rule, or regulation related to its Compliance Management System alleged to have been committed by the Bank.”

Yes, the Chronicle published from the same release this morning, but what they missed — and what I missed before — was Mark Todd. The Mark Todd who was appointed last year and has been serving as DeKalb County treasurer is the same Mark Todd who left his position as vice-president of Farmers and Traders State Bank just a few months before the bank got into trouble with regulators.

And the same Mark Todd is now running for a term as county treasurer, and so far is running unopposed. Terrific.

The 162nd annual town hall meeting of DeKalb Township begins tonight at 7 p.m. at the township offices, 2323 South 4th Street. The agenda is here.

DeKalb City Council Chambers will serve as the setting for a candidates’ night on Thursday evening involving some of the candidates City of DeKalb residents will vote on, and will include a telecast on Channel 14, the city’s public access channel.

The newly reconstituted League of Women Voters of DeKalb County (LWVDC) is hosting. Participating candidates of non-contested races will provide short presentations about themselves and their platforms, while contested races will involve questions from the audience as well.

Find more info at the Chronicle or e-mail leagueofdekalbcounty@gmail.com

Full disclosure: I serve on the LWVDC board of directors.