Archive for the ‘ Council/City Watch ’ Category
City of DeKalb employees and the group Ellwood Historic Neighborhood have hatched a new plan just in time to take up a line item in the FY2014 budget: Buy up multi-family homes in the north 5th Ward, convert them to single-family and resell each property at a loss. In fact:
“We have worked with a local realtor and contractor to identify a willing seller of a multiunit house in the neighborhood,” said David Castro, a member of the Ellwood House Neighborhood Group, a group of residents who have worked with the city in the past to restore the area.
Council has put this plan on hold. Good for you, council members! Personally, I would, too. I agree with Ald. Jacobson that DeKalb should not get into the business of property speculation. First and foremost because it is so, so bad at it (see: empty lots downtown). Read the rest of this entry
The City of DeKalb got rid of 30+ employees at the beginning of FY2011 in order to balance its budget. There followed a year of quiet, but now we’re in the midst of a hiring spree.
|YoY Comparison of|
Full time Equivalent
Here is what it has done to personnel expenses.
And here’s what the FY2014 budget narrative (PDF p. 29) says about the increases:
Total Personnel Services reflect an increase of 4.5% percent over FY2013. Most of this increase is attributable to a 15% percent increase in pension costs. Wages reflect increases based on collective bargaining agreements. Our insurance consultant informed us in March that the City’s health insurance premium will increase by 4.5% percent[.]
The latest pension cost increase is distressing, but in terms of dollars it is neither the only source nor the primary source of rising personnel costs, which make up some 83% of the General Fund budget.
So we’re looking at these expenditures going up $2.4 million over a two-year period. However, personnel expenses as a whole are expected to rise only about $1 million. In my opinion, this has given council and others a false sense of security that our revenues are naturally growing to cover the ongoing, rising expenses — so let’s try to tug the curtain away. Read the rest of this entry
The DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) has sent city council members a letter and with general budget recommendations for FY2014.
EPI, of course, refers to Executive Partners, Inc., their latest report to the city and the April workshop we talked about yesterday.
Jump for more. Read the rest of this entry
Executive Partners, Inc. (EPI) was hired four years ago to help put the City of DeKalb on a more sustainable path financially.
The fix didn’t take, so they’re back. EPI met with city officials at an April 13 special meeting.
Mr. Nuehring stated he will discuss opportunities for revenues. He noted that there are approximately 375 fines and fees and enforcement can be a challenge. He added that a full review of all may be necessary. The question was asked of staff yesterday, he said, if fines and fees are viewed as revenue or used for public safety and compliance. Staff stated they are meant for public safety and compliance. Mayor Povlsen agreed.
DeKalb’s personnel expenses are going up $1 million in FY2014, but most of its core revenues are slipping. Property taxes are still flat, city sales tax has been reduced more than $100,000 in the past year and the utility tax revenue estimate for FY2013 is $320,000 less than the year before. Are we really supposed to believe the timings of the new rental housing registration program, towing/impounding regulations and steep increases in fines are coincidental and not responses to continuing revenue shrinkage? Read the rest of this entry
The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce wants a new annual allocation from the city.
The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce is requesting $45,000 from the city to create an event coordinator position to take over the events that Re:New DeKalb has run for years…Re:New DeKalb will undergo a fundamental shift later this year, said Frank Roberts, the president of the organization’s executive board. He said the organization will broaden its focus to include economic development in the entire city, public safety, and creating a marketing brand for DeKalb.
First of all, that’s some serious mission creep they’ve got there. Secondly, the Chamber already gets $50,0000 per year from DeKalb’s Economic Development Fund for marketing and tourism.
Speaking of the Econ Fund:
The money would come from the city’s economic development fund, which is funded by the city’s hotel/motel tax. Biernacki said the city expects to see a boost in this fund with the new Hampton Inn and Suites being built at the corner of South Annie Glidden Road and Taylor Street.
No, I’m thinking the money probably wouldn’t come from that fund. Reason(s): the Econ Fund always a) gets a transfusion from the General Fund, and/or b) runs in the red. Read the rest of this entry
I was ready to get all congratulatory on Alderman Dave Baker for allowing electronic public input during discussions at the April 8 council meeting, but it turns out the celebratory spirit was premature because the texting was of a personal nature.
A Freedom of Information Act opinion says that electronic communications made during meetings are public records, but only if they have to do with public business.
Could be Mr. Baker had an actual emergency, in which case I hope everything turned out OK. However, he does this a lot so I’m guessing most days he’s just being rude.
Some municipalities might choose to ban electronic communications during city meetings, but I’m torn. Sometimes it’s better to know without a doubt who the jerks and louts are.
The two sides in a settlement conference on a federal lawsuit regarding public input at public meetings were deemed “too far apart” to come to terms, so it is expected a trial date will be set at a conference hearing June 21.
Two allegations from Count II of the suit, having to do with possible Freedom of Speech violations made by Winnebago County and some county officials, have survived a Motion of Summary Judgment. They are as follows (PDF):
Winnebago County’s motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, Count II remains as to the allegations that defendants violated Castronovo’s free speech rights by refusing to permit him to speak at the public works committee meetings and to the allegations that the Board Chairman instructed Castronovo that he could not speak before the Board as a whole if he were to name names in his speech.
If the Court finds that the chair did instruct Mike “C” Castronovo not to name names, it would constitute a content restriction, which is a First Amendment no-no. As for the allegation that the county did not permit his input at all during some meetings, the judge noted that the public works committee meetings are already covered by the state’s Open Meetings Act and as such must permit public comment during their meetings except under the exemptions for closed sessions. Read the rest of this entry
Robert Wechsler, director of CityEthics.org, has just released a new intro to local government ethics called “Local Government Ethics Programs in a Nutshell”, in which he has distilled an 800-page digital book and years of blog posts into a 27-page resource for public officials, journalists and others interested in good government. Here’s a bit out of the intro:
Government ethics is not about being “good” or “a person of integrity.” It’s not something officials learn at home, at school, or in their house of worship. In fact, conduct that is praiseworthy outside of government, such as helping a family member get a job or returning a favor one has been given, is considered wrong in a government context…It is about preserving institutional rather than personal integrity. Government ethics decision-making should be just another professional routine.
We also sometimes talk about ethics in the public domain as public morality vs. private morality, and I favor an approach that deals with what to do when conflicts occur, not if. Read the rest of this entry