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
I was reading an article at DeKalb County Online about the City of DeKalb’s new towing policy. Comments on the story included a reference to this tidbit from Section 35.05, Orders for Towing and Impounding of Vehicles by City:
f) Towing Policy: The Chief of Police is and shall be authorized to approve changes, amendments or modifications to the City’s official Towing Policy from time to time, without requiring approval of the City Council or amendment of this Ordinance, and shall maintain a current copy of the Towing Policy at the Police Department office, for public inspection.
The above was taken from the online version of the DeKalb Municipal Code, where I read the rest of the policy while wondering what might already be out of date. Perhaps in the past month new violations were added to the list, or the $500 fine was changed to $1000. To be absolutely sure, I’d have to stop by the police station each day to see if things have changed, and in between visits a bit of uncertainty would ever remain.
Only two council members voted against the ordinance, and they did so only because they disagreed with the provisions for establishing a towing company rotation. Everyone apparently thought it was fine for the council to cede its authority and responsibility to act as a check on executive power.
We return our attention to Bell, California. Administrators and council members there paid themselves exorbitant salaries while cutting city services, overcharging taxes and fees, and creating a major municipal revenue source out of a vehicle impounding program.
This and more was accomplished in a roughly DeKalb-sized town with per capita income of $24,000.
Now, today I was sent a link (thanks!) to an article with this beautiful headline: Bell Council Members Guilty of Multiple Corruption Counts.
Five former council members were found guilty of stealing public money. Two former city administrators are still awaiting trial.
Key factors in the corruption seem to include a lack of oversight — Bell does not have its own newspaper — an aggressive city manager “mastermind,” and Bell’s status as a charter city, which allows its government to ignore state limits on salaries and other spending.
Site news: Posting is sure to remain very light through the rest of March and into April as the write-in campaign for city clerk continues. One way to be notified when I’ve posted is to visit or ask to join the City Barbs Facebook group if you use FB a lot.
Just in time for Sunshine Week, I’ve re-scored the City of DeKalb’s website transparency score from scratch.
Does it come anywhere near the Illinois Policy Institute’s score of 88.1 points? No.
But at least I have found out why. Check out the scoring rubric, here. This is the one I used both in December 2010 and yesterday, but it’s been unhooked from the main scoring page. You can see that six of the 10 categories originally required documents to be searchable for full credit, but this requirement eventually got dropped in favor of simply encouraging the posting of more documents online.
Without further ado: Read the rest of this entry
*As promised, I’ve continued pursuing the mystery of last month’s awarding of the Illinois Policy Institute’s website transparency award. Here’s an update.*
I’ve been in communication with Brian Costin, director of the Local Transparency Project at the Illinois Policy Institute, about the award for website transparency he gave last month to the City of DeKalb.
Click here for the campaign Facebook page, new today.
Click here for my answers to the Daily Chronicle editorial board’s questions for DeKalb city clerk candidates.
Watch for my guest post at DeKalb County Online, coming soon.
I do not have plans for a campaign website, and of course I will not use City Barbs for campaigning. The FB page is it — along with the other sites listed above plus any other public forums all the candidates can use.
Once again let me express deep, deep skepticism that DeKalb Public Library will actually raise the stated goal of $6 million in private donations to contribute to its expansion costs.
Witness the latest step toward putting it on the taxpayers.
In order to meet a looming June 30 deadline, the DeKalb Public Library will borrow $6 million from a private bank as a part of its fundraising strategy for its planned expansion.
How does that even work? If DKPL can just walk into a bank and get a loan of millions, why is it asking the City of DeKalb for help?
Just as importantly, is there anyone who believes DKPL will honestly commit to fundraising once a bank loan is in hand?
If the library board were serious about raising funds from anybody besides Mr. & Ms. Taxpayer, it would have launched a capital campaign well before last month and passed the hat ’round its own table. As of December it hadn’t identified even one major donor and that’s got to be the case today, else they wouldn’t still be looking at borrowing the entire $6 mil.
I truly believe DKPL’s “fundraising strategy” is to use public money, period. Only the city council can change that course and it can start by applying the brakes Monday.