Archive for the ‘ County Watch ’ Category

The key word must be “verified,” though nothing in the story actually is.

“Over the years, the amount of dog-walking has increased, so we’ve been getting more complaints and more problems,” said Terry Hannan, DeKalb County Forest Preserve superintendent.

Although Hannan said more people have been bitten in DeKalb County’s forest preserves during the past few years, Greg Maurice, director of health protection at the DeKalb County Health Department, said he hasn’t received many reports. Maurice supervises DeKalb County Animal Control, which documents and follows cases of dog bites.

The health department has written a couple of off-leash tickets to people at the county’s 17 forest preserves during the past few years, but no verified dog bites at county forest preserves have ever come into the health department’s office, Maurice said.

I’m confused. Are dogs biting, or not? Are reports of dog bites passed on to the health department, or not? Seems like a couple more questions might have cleared this up.

Related:
Illinois Animal Control Act

**Update 12/24 on the hearing: Kane County Chronicle reports that a decision on the campaign disclosure complaint against Show You Care Kane is not expected until next year.**

What would you say if Kish Health Systems were to send its chief executive to open and fund a political action committee (PAC) in order to promote passage of a referendum for a special property tax levy to fund its services?

That is NOT happening here, but a similar scenario IS shaping up for real in Kane County.

About a year ago, The Association for Individual Development (AID) in Aurora sent its president/CEO to head up a PAC called Show You Care Kane (SYCK). The stated purpose of the PAC is to “help children and adults with developmental disabilities” and The Chicago Tribune described some specifics in October:

Kane County voters could see a tax increase request on next spring’s ballot that would generate about $12 million annually for services for the developmentally disabled.

The proposal would tax property at 0.1 percent of its assessed value, and the money would be distributed by a disability board, made up of people from throughout the county, that would hire agencies to support independent living, jobs, therapy, transportation and supportive care for those with development (sic) disabilities.

Here’s what the Trib didn’t mention:

–AID has a $20 million annual operating budget and serves up to 5,000 clients each year. It would probably qualify for a big chunk of that $12 million considering there’s little competition within the county when it comes to DD adult services.

Show You Care Kane is funded either exclusively or very near exclusively by AID.

–SYCK used $73,000 of a $76,000 contribution from AID to pay a professional company to collect the number of signatures needed to place the referendum question on the ballot.

If I hadn’t dug up these things, I’d be inclined to treat the “disability tax” effort as grassroots. All I smell so far is artificial turf.

Yet, for all of its synthetic sophistication, SYCK will appear before the State Board of Elections tomorrow on a complaint that it did not properly report contributions to its PAC on two occasions. Read the rest of this entry

Boone County Watchdog tipped me off about a new revenue source for the blog’s home county: transporting and housing federal prisoners. The full story comes from the Register Star:

BELVIDERE — A negotiating firm plans to generate tens of thousands of dollars in new revenue for the Boone County jail without changing day-to-day operations.

The Summerill Group, LLC will negotiate with the U.S. Marshals Service the amount that the Boone County Sheriff’s Office is paid for housing and transporting federal prisoners. Joseph Summerill, managing principal of the agency, said in a contract a preliminary analysis indicated that the county could increase its per diem from $65 per inmate per day to $79.12.

If the average daily federal prisoner count remains at 18, the new rate would generate an additional $92,000 in revenue annually, boosting the county’s total revenue from federal prisoner housing to $519,000.

Yes, and if that happens, Boone County will be able to hire a new public defender and buy a squad car or two. Read the rest of this entry

Fun with Friends of Goliath

The Illinois Supreme Court refused last week to hear an appeal against the DeKalb County Board’s decision to allow Waste Management’s landfill expansion plan. In response, Daily Chronicle editor Eric Olson patted the Stop the Mega-Dump people on the head.

Their effort was driven by their convictions. Members of the unfortunately named Stop the Mega-Dump believed what they were doing was right and the county was in the wrong. They took it as far as they could because they cared about the effect this landfill expansion would have on our shared environment.

There, there.

[sympathetic cooing noises]

Suddenly, he attacks! Read the rest of this entry

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

*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.

    **Update: You may have noticed we were offline most of the day yesterday, due to the host’s making a change in server hardware. The last step, restoration of data via a backup, left a draft version of this post that I’ve tinkered with and republished.

    Winnebago County has opened up its board committee meetings to public comment, according to an RRStar.com article.

    There’s a federal lawsuit involved and the judge in the case has confirmed the requirement for public comment, though the county claims it has always planned to comply with the new provision of the Open Meetings Act anyhow. The Open Meetings Act is a state law.

    The county began to allow public comment at committee meetings after the newly elected board organized on Dec. 3. The move was needed to comply with a 2011 change to the Open Meetings Act.

    Mike “C” Castronovo filed the lawsuit Feb. 23, 2011 in part because he was denied the ability to speak at a May 2009 Public Works Committee meeting.

    Castronovo’s lawsuit stems from a time before the change to the Open Meetings Act, said Deputy State’s Attorney Dave Kurlinkus. The decision to open meetings for public comment was not a response to Castronovo’s lawsuit, “but it certainly was called to our attention through it,” Kurlinkus said.

    Maybe it wasn’t a response to the lawsuit, and maybe it was. But hearing from a federal judge on the matter must be somewhat reinforcing, yes? Read the rest of this entry

    The new state’s attorney for the county is “reviewing” the following incident:

    Election of the chairman was listed on the County Board’s public agenda.

    Members, wanting to discuss the contentious subject of who should chair the board after a prearranged agreement fell apart during public discussion at the meeting, first suggested going into recess and heading to separate meeting rooms[…]

    Schmack advised the board such a move would be in violation of the Open Meetings Act. Then, County Board members suggested standing at ease to allow an ad-hoc committee to meet, which Schmack also advised against. During the roughly 15-minute ordeal in the public portion of the meeting, board members Paul Stoddard, D-DeKalb, and Charles Foster, R-Shabbona, were in off-microphone discussions with each other.

    The board eventually voted to stand at ease and divided into two groups to talk about who they wanted to elect.

    The Illinois Senate goes “at ease” sometimes. Here’s an example (PDF p. 29).

    Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate, the hour of 9:20 standard Senate time having arrived, the Committee on Assignments will meet immediately in the President’s Anteroom. Will all the members of the Committee on Assignments please report to the President’s Anteroom immediately? The Senate stands at ease. (at ease)

    Here’s another example (see 11:48 update). Clearly, members who are “at ease” are waiting around for the official meeting to reconvene. They are not conducting the people’s business.

    Keep in mind as well: not all provisions of the Open Meetings Act apply to the bodies of the General Assembly as they do to local units of Illinois government.

    I believe a violation of the OMA probably did occur.

    Furthermore, the thrashing about for a loophole when their partisan machinations fell apart does not speak well for either party.

    Chronicle staff should live in this county for awhile before commenting on certain issues, such as what one can find today in “Our View: Falling home values a trying trend in county“.

    When the housing market was healthy and new homes and businesses were built at a healthy clip, the opposite was true. Property values grew faster than the rate of inflation, property tax rates fell, and along with them, the tax cap led to decreases in annual tax property tax bills.

    The person who has seen her property taxes rise on a modest home since 1993, some years by HUNDREDS more, is somewhat irritated to hear the Chronicle try to tell her otherwise.

    Still, let’s stick to the facts. Here are the property tax rates and levies for the City of DeKalb* for each tax year since 2000:

    2000 – 0.50490, $1,892,659
    2001 – 0.52989, $2,121,088
    2002 – 0.60566, $2,514,566
    2003 – 0.59666, $2,600,088
    2004 – 0.60000, $2,738,052
    2005 – 0.59302, $3,022,165
    2006 – 0.59672, $3,400,147
    2007 – 0.60000, $3,742,937
    2008 – 0.60000, $3,875,130
    2009 – 0.65000, $4,185,457
    2010 – 0.68990, $4,196,889
    2011 – 0.72052, $4,197,062

    Rates never fell during this period. Why? Because tax caps don’t apply to Home Rule communities.

    Let’s do another one. Read the rest of this entry

    In “Time to Dump Landfill Protests,” the Chronicle lays out reasons for trashing the efforts of the little people.

    Reason 1:

    There’s nowhere else for the anti-landfill group to turn short of the Illinois Supreme Court, which might decline to hear the case.

    Stop the Mega Dump should quit because the Supremes might reject it? WTH?

    Reason 2:

    It’s understandable that an expansion that would allow the landfill to accept as many as 2,000 tons of trash a day would be unpopular. At some point, however, the community and the company should be allowed to move forward.

    Yeah, like maybe after an attempt at a Supreme Court appeal. What’s the rush, Chronicle?

    Reason 3:

    The impact of the expansion has not been felt. Waste Management has assured residents that a larger landfill will not endanger their health and safety.

    Wow, great show of healthy journalistic skepticism.

    More importantly, though, the newspaper is in effect trashing STMD’s contention that the process of approving the expansion was so fundamentally flawed, the threats to public health such as hydrogen sulfide emissions, groundwater contamination and vulnerabilities to seismic activity were never seriously examined and considered. Read the rest of this entry