Last Saturday I attended a “strategic planning retreat” of DeKalb City Council, department heads and a couple others. Here’s a slideshow of the agendas, planning guide and timeline. Read the rest of this entry

I’ve isolated the comparison charts for you and put them after the jump (or you could teleport to the agenda instead and go to page 5 of the PDF file).

First, though, I’d like to spend a minute on city staff members’ reasons for requesting approval of new fees and fee hikes:

The changes of these and others are recommended at this time as it is convenient to do so with full implementation of financial tracking software.

So: We are doing this now because it’s convenient for us.

The CPI increases of building permit fees since 2003 has not kept pace in some cases for present day inspector rates of approximately $60 per hour including overhead. Also since 2003 more commercial activity occurred to track anecdotal information that inspection time for instance is significant for large amperage commercial building electrical services with intricate electrical cabinet circuits to inspect for code compliance. Other recommended fees are new to account for recent national or state building code requirements or to account for outsourcing for expedited plan reviews or in-house reviews not previously charged for having more than incidental review time.

More reasons: We pay our inspectors a whole lot. We finally figured out the real costs of some of the inspections. We’ve discovered there are more things we can charge for. Read the rest of this entry

The Manning Numbers

A request made by Brad Manning Ford came up in the last DeKalb council meeting agenda:

The dealership says it can get $400,000 from Ford to put towards the [$2.3 million expansion] project, but that it still can’t foot the rest of the bill. The $110,000 that it is requesting from the city represents about 4.7 percent of the total cost – below the city’s traditional maximum project cost-sharing percentage of 20 percent.

The requested rebate would come from new sales taxes generated over and above the existing taxes that the dealership generates now, according to city documents. The program would end after seven years, or whenever the $110,000 mark is met using a 50-50 split – whichever happens first.

According to documents that the dealership provided to the city, it expects to generate a total of $110,000 in sales taxes in 2014 and more than $170,000 per year by the year 2020.

I left a comment with the story:

I like Manning Ford a lot and have had great experiences with their sales, service and rental departments. However, I note that the City of DeKalb purchased a $29,350 Ford Explorer from them in June, and I wonder which dealer ended up supplying the new squad cars totaling $151,700? In other words, maybe Manning is already getting enough help from the city?

Read the rest of this entry

The city manager, not the mayor, is the chief executive officer in DeKalb’s council-manager form of government. Ideally we should be paying as much attention to selection of the city manager as we do the mayoral election — especially these days, when the city council declines to put expiration dates on their managers’ contracts and allows the manager to spend up to $20,000 at a time without council approval.

Personal conclusions notwithstanding, there is a process in place for hiring a city manager that is supposed to let the cream rise to the top. Recently I sifted through documents obtained through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to bring you an update. Read the rest of this entry

**Update September 15: Here’s the link to the full, 56-minute Housing Bureau discussion (HT M.C.)**

The City of DeKalb and the Chronicle recently made a big deal of a Housing Bureau employee’s using city email in negotiating her rent. But now that looks like the tip of the iceberg.

For adequate context, I recommend watching from about 6:30 to 9:30. The money quote from Alderman Baker comes after 8:30 and he makes another comment about the matter at 14:00.

What should be our conclusion here? That there’s rampant corruption but it’s kept secret unless the employee is stupid enough to put it in writing?

And where’s the Chronicle? This happened on Monday.

*Update 8/22: City IT director Jeremy Alexander notified me early this morning that an encoding error is the cause of the audio glitch. They expect to have the problem corrected before the end of the day.*

It has come to my attention that the audio portion for much of the August 12 city council meetings is missing from the recorded video uploaded to the city’s website.

At this point I don’t know if they will be able to restore the audio, but I do know that two sections of that meeting, the TIF hearing and the Irongate discussion, are important for people to hear, and unfortunately both have been affected by the technical glitch.

So here they are. Thanks once again to Mark Charvat, who pulled them from his home recorder for us.

I know it’s over a week since the last city council meeting, but I finally found the time to look at the video* of the Irongate annexation discussion and it was an even worse mess than I remembered.

The agreement, defeated last month, was brought back via a parliamentary procedure called a “motion to reconsider.” Reconsider was handled incorrectly by the council.

We’ll start with a rough chronology of the procedural steps taken during the discussion, along with the approximate times they occur within the recording in case they might prove useful to your own research. Read the rest of this entry

From a memo attached to the Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting agenda for August 12:

1. 2.04(a)This section indicates that regular meetings of the City Council shall be convened no sooner than 7:00pm. As last meeting illustrated, when the City Council does not have material for a Committee of the Whole meeting, the Council may seek to move the regular meeting up to 6:00pm. Accordingly, a revision is suggested, to indicate that the COW or Council meeting shall not start prior to 6:00pm, unless otherwise directed by the Council for a special meeting.

Yes, the council violated its ordinance governing meeting conduct last meeting. But as long as state law — such as Open Meetings Act — is not violated, they can ignore any ordinance they want without penalty, except of course for the hits to their sterling reputations. Council can also review (and change) the rules at any time, which actually isn’t a bad idea for a new council. Read the rest of this entry

City Pay Raises Approved

In reading the agenda for last night’s meeting, I noticed council members were getting set to “reconsider” Resolution 13-56, the same one they shot down last meeting that would have given the contracted attorney a 2% raise.

I would’ve liked to have read a summary of the contentious June 24 discussion, but alas! I couldn’t find the regular meeting minutes in the agenda packet, nor was approval of those minutes part of last night’s agenda. Wonder what’s going on in the clerk’s office that they’re running late on something so basic?

Anyway, after two weeks of the miracle of “reconsidering,” the lawyer and others will now enjoy 2% increases; and apparently anything less now constitutes abuse of city staff. Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb’s city council met again with DeKalb’s financial consultants, EPI/Crowe, to consider the latter’s latest report and recommendations.

The most important information to pass on to you is that the consultants told the council, at least twice AND in so many words, that the city will enter another financial crisis within five years if it doesn’t drastically change its operating model.

Yes, this concern has been a recurring topic at City Barbs since at least the time of the analysis of the Reduction in Force of 2010. Maybe they’ll listen now that they’ve paid someone to tell them these things. We’ll see.

Key to change, said the consultants, is strategy. Laying off people when you get into financial trouble is not strategic, it’s tactical. Strategic means planning for fulfilling needs 3-5 years out. Tactical is doing whatever it takes to get through the next year. One way is sustainable, the other a grubby little bandage giving temporary relief.

Bottom line, in my words alone: Getting rid of 30-plus employees is a desperate act borne of failure to recognize changing realities, and those responsible should not be allowed to pretend they are financial geniuses. Read the rest of this entry