*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

Procurement

In its May 2009 report, Executive Partners, Inc. (EPI) recommended the City of DeKalb centralize its purchasing.

DeKalb never followed through. Now that the consultants have returned (as EPI/Crowe) they must repeat themselves.

Once again I offer a transcription, taken from the April 13 workshop between EPI/Crowe and City of DeKalb officials. And once again the speaker is my new BFF, Larry Kujovich of EPI/Crowe.

Here’s the setup. One of the council members is grumbling that the estimated yearly savings was determined by a benchmark instead of an actual invoice analysis.

I couldn’t consolidate by vendor what you spend, or by commodity. I was incapable of doing that because the system doesn’t allow me to do that right now. So for me to say, “Hey, if I go from Vendor A to Vendor B I’m gonna save “X” percent of this,” I couldn’t do that.

DeKalb’s expenditures are $12 million a year paid out to some 250 vendors and the benchmark for savings is 10%. Yet even though we could conceivably have saved something in the neighborhood of a million a year since the recommendation was first made, we couldn’t be bothered to set up the system for a proper analysis to find out. Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb’s expenses are outpacing revenues:

The city will spend at least $30 million from its general fund, a 5.4 percent increase from this fiscal year. The city’s general fund pays for city personnel, equipment, and contractual services.

The city is projecting $31.1 million in revenue for fiscal 2014, a 4.2 percent increase from this fiscal year. In fiscal 2014, the city is paying $750,000 more on police and fire pensions out of their general fund.

Today I want to look closely at the revenue increases.

In dollars, the 4.2% expected net increase equals $1.08 million, which will cover the pension contribution hikes plus a bit more. However, so little of it comes from natural growth that you won’t need to pull out the tarot cards to see a shaky future. Read the rest of this entry

There is going to be a special meeting tonight at 6 p.m. to talk over amendments to the draft budget. Then, during the regular meeting beginning 7 p.m. there will be a public hearing on the proposed budget.

Really?

Two of the proposed amendments are sizeable, and would set off lots of juggling. (PDF p. 7). There is also the possibility of creating deficits for the year that were not originally anticipated.

There is way too much being thrown into the air here to be absorbed in such a short amount of time.

I don’t know about you, but one of the ways I show respect for the process is by studying the plan before I comment on it publicly.

Do council members hold a similar respect for reasoned public input? If so, they will reschedule the hearing.

DeKalb’s Business Friendliness

I am rapidly developing a crush on Larry Kujovich, a member of the group of financial consultants hired by the City of DeKalb.

Still working on taking in the whole of the April 13 workshop video, I swooned this time during a discussion of image-building as part of economic development strategy.

Use terms like “image building” and “branding” and I reflexively roll my eyes because such exercises are futile when the desired image and reality reside in different zip codes. But I quickly regained focus when Mr. Kujovich said this:

[I]f you survey potential businesses, would they consider DeKalb business friendly? I don’t know the answer to that question. We have heard anecdotal evidence; some say that DeKalb is one of the most business-unfriendly cities they’ve ever encountered. Well, if that’s the case, economic development will be a challenge. So, it’s something that perhaps could be addressed.

Read the rest of this entry

Last night I was lucky to attend the candidates’ night hosted by the DeKalb Area Rental Association. Candidates running for DeKalb mayor and aldermen participated.

Some performances I liked real well, others I didn’t. Later, I realized the people who impressed me the least were the ones promising regular town hall meetings, ward coffee sessions, open-door policies, transparency!™ and citizen input up the wazoo. Read the rest of this entry