[Updated with link 5:30 p.m.]

The DeKalb City Council is planning three special meetings on housing issues, scheduled as follows:

  • Wednesday, Aug 22 at 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept 19 at 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct 10 at 6 p.m.
  • The meetings will not include Safe/Quality Housing Task Force members except as members of the audience who are invited only to “attend and observe,” according to a city e-mail that is making the rounds.

    Count me among the Task Force members, landlords and others who are concerned the lack of public input will leave the administrators’ agenda inadequately challenged. For example, the city has included a $150,000 rental property licensing and inspection contingency in the FY2013 budget that was rejected as a Task Force recommendation yet continues to be pushed by city staff.

    Soon the DeKalb city council will be deciding what steps to take, if any, in response to recommendations made by the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force and by its own staff. They include proposals for a “disorderly house” ordinance, issuance of Crime Free Lease addenda, and regulations for the registration, licensing and inspection of rental properties.

    As longtime readers know, licensing and inspection of rental properties — and new revenues to pay for them — are dreams that have danced in the heads of city administrators for several years. The question is whether such initiatives would be worth the cost to residents, especially the group living here who’ve been walloped by the economy and made to watch the TIF boondoggle at the same time.

    Obviously I’ve been suspicious from the get-go — and not buying the new crop of staff arguments for licensing and inspection, either. Read the rest of this entry

    The meeting is Tuesday, June 26, 6 p.m. in DeKalb council chambers.

    The joint meeting is a signal that the work of the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force is almost done and that proposals will come up for votes at council soon.

    The city’s agenda does not list specific items, so I got mine from the DeKalb Area Rental Association. The issues include discussion of:

    • Three different mandatory inspection ordinances
    • Licensing and fee requirements for rental housing
    • A new Vacant Housing ordinance with possible $500 fees
    • Increased registration requirements and fees for rental housing
    • A Disorderly House ordinance

    I’ve attended several Task Force meetings. In my view, this whole exercise was started as another attempt by administrators to latch onto the teats of a new cash cow, aka DeKalb landlords. However, to my utter delight I have become a fan of the Task Force. This is no puppet committee.

    Meanwhile, the cow in the form of DARA obviously is going to kick and kick hard; but please do not make the mistake of believing these ordinance proposals only affect landlords. Come for the potential fireworks but stay for a conversation that ultimately will involve all of us.

    Alderman Baker’s Signs

    copy service 2 copy service 1

    On a tip, I sought and found these signs displayed May 11 at The Copy Service, Dollar Video, Lukulos, and Mason Properties. Information in the lower right corner identifies the business as The Copy Service, part of the local business empire of Alderman Dave Baker.

    We know from a previous post that temporary signs in DeKalb require permits. A May 13 request of the city for a list of permits was misunderstood, and a list obtained early last week was incomplete. Finally on Friday arrived a document from which we can fairly confidently ascertain that Alderman Baker did not obtain permits for these signs.

    That’s not all. Read the rest of this entry

    Advance Auto

    Advance Auto

    Photo taken May 10. Watch for more soon, along with a sign permit update.

    The City of DeKalb’s Safe/Quality Housing Task Force met Tuesday. Greek Row safety was a popular topic of discussion, and so were code enforcement issues. The Quality Subcommittee had several suggestions about the latter, including:

    • Condense and summarize housing codes for public consumption where possible.

    • Institute a tracking system for code complaints, preferably an online public system such as Elgin has.

    • Prioritize code violations in order of severity.

    As a person who understands that our code enforcement division is understaffed — and as someone who has occasionally nearly fallen off or through rotting front stairs and porches in this town — I totally support the idea of prioritizing dangerous states of disrepair over, say, stands of too-tall weeds.

    Here’s a possible place to start: DeKalb’s sign regulations. Read the rest of this entry

    1. Ask the City to find a little space on the front page of its website to advertise upcoming meetings.

    2. Review the codes.

    3. Request the City conduct public hearings to start a comprehensive evaluation of the fairness and effectiveness of code enforcement activities.

    4. Direct the crafting of an electronic survey to incorporate more public input into goal-setting.

    5. Support the formation of a voluntary rental inspection program.

    Housing Task Force?

    The Daily Chronicle reports on the mayor’s formation of a housing task force:

    The Task Force for Safe and Quality Housing will ensure that housing units in the area are up to code and safe to occupy, Povlsen said. It is important that the city make public safety a high priority, he said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

    It’s sad we need this, having a paid code enforcement crew. I’m wondering if it’s a back door attempt at reintroducing the unconstitutional yet temptingly dollar-riffic Rental Inspection Program.

    The plan is also inconsistent with other stated objectives. We were told a few months ago that several committees and commissions were to be eliminated or consolidated as a means to save money. How is that project coming?

    Lastly, it’s breathtakingly hypocritical for the city to talk about public safety as a top priority as long as the Council continues to smear lipstick on the downtown despite likely first responder layoffs come January, and tolerates the riven strands in the local social safety net.

    Calling Fowl in Batavia

    The Daily Herald reports that the City of Batavia’s Community Development Committee is researching the possibility of allowing residents to house chickens.

    This Kane County development seems kind of fitting in view of Garfield Farm’s efforts to save the Black Java breed.

    I’ve done some homework on keeping chickens in the city, and I know city slickers who raise chickens (not in DeKalb, though). It is legal in cities and towns across the country. What happens in your neighborhood depends mainly on whether your neighbor is conscientious, just as it does with dogs. Given a properly staffed code enforcement division and the right ordinance, I could maybe get behind a few coops in DeKalb.

    Comments on 4/12 Meeting

    I jumped in about 7:30 last night, in the midst of citizens’ comments so the proclamations must have taken a long time! Here’s my assessment of what I saw.

    The Bad

    The saddest part, of course, was Council’s approval of almost all of ReNew DeKalb’s wish list. With that they closed the door on the possibility of using TIF funding for the badly-needed police station expansion for the next 10 years; an option that, in light of our poor financial position, we should have held onto.

    Also, the city left out something important in its repayment calculations. It’s all well and good to ask whether we can repay the $12 million if EAV within the TIF drops another 5% or 10%, but nobody mentioned what the threshold is for real trouble. Why is a 10% drop the arbitrary worst-case scenario? Is it because we’d hit trouble at 11%? 15%? Holy cow, I can’t believe nobody asked. This is a failure of imagination that could really end up biting us.

    The Good Read the rest of this entry