Council in the Twilight Zone

Better late than never? Here are a few comments on the City of DeKalb meetings Monday night.

Group Therapy

When I switched on the Committee of the Whole meeting (admittedly not right at the beginning) there was an immediate feeling of disorientation. The mayor was complaining about a constituent taking up too much of his time. It came across as a group therapy situation, specifically some sort of assertiveness training session for our unhappy figurehead.

Within this context, Alderman Gallagher named a civicly-participating resident. If the result is a slander suit, I guess I’m a witness!

Corn Fest

Next for discussion was charging parking fees for Corn Fest. Here’s what the agenda says:

2) CONSIDERATION OF CORNFEST PARKING FEES.
The City of DeKalb has negotiated with the Big Brothers / Big Sisters of DeKalb to enter into an agreement to provide labor for the collection of funds at the CornFest summer festival at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport. Per the direction of City Council, staff has been investigating ways to recoup some of the costs expended for the support of the CornFest event.

LAST year it was about recouping staff overtime for security and cleanup. THIS year, it’s about not getting into trouble with the FAA. Read the rest of this entry

I am not surprised that after high-profile news reports of mobs of thugs attacking people in downtown Chicago in broad daylight that the attendance at the Taste dropped. But, attendance was down in previous years as well. No matter what anyone says, unless there is a popular band at Corn Fest, its attendance dropped, too. Sun Times columnist Neil Steinberg wrote some hilarious yet probably good suggestions (if anyone had the guts to use them) on how to improve attendance at the Taste, most of which could be applied to Corn Fest:

http://www.suntimes.com/news/steinberg/6406989-452/city-doesnt-need-a-genius-to-fix-taste.html

DeKalb County Online has the scoop, in the form of an e-mail from the FAA:

Partial closures, which I hear Corn Fest is, still requires approval by FAA. And if Corn Fest has previously been held at DKB and closed part of the airport for a weekend, I would say that it should have been coordinated.

[...]

Of particular importance is the amount of money received by the airport from the event. This MUST be some form of Fair Market Value revenue received from the event and put into the airport operations fund. Failure to do so could put the airport in noncompliance with its Grant Assurances. IDA/FAA may request proof of payment to ensure compliance. I would also add that a token sum of something like $500/day or $1,000/day for what appears to be a pretty big event is not considered Fair Market Value.

How did we end up with an airport manager who does not know that a) closures of the airport must have prior approval and b) the airport is supposed to be a money-making venture.

There has always been a group that embraces Corn Fest and another that leaves town. However, public sentiment against Corn Fest Committee seems to be reaching an all-time high with the latest decision to continue it at the airport.

But the real problem here is not so much the Committee as the City of DeKalb, with its boundary issues and its preferential treatment of certain private organizations. Read the rest of this entry

About Last Night…

First, I want to give a shout-out to Misty Haji-Sheikh, who presented the findings of apparently self-initiated research into the likelihood and implications of a rail transfer station on the south side if the landfill expansion is approved. She recommends council anticipate these developments and put ordinances in place to protect us pronto. Thank you!

I strongly encourage listening to the public comments section of last night’s council meeting for her presentation, if you haven’t already. Read the rest of this entry

Corn Fest Gives Back

GuideStar is great for researching charities and, if they pass muster, donating to them on-site. It’s a gathering place for data on other nonprofit organizations, too — apparently for any that file IRS Form 990, which is marked “Open to Public Inspection.”

One I looked over recently is DeKalb Corn Fest, Inc., a group that continually gets a bad rap. There are several reasons for this — totally my personal opinion, based on observation — starting with the mistaken but widespread notion that Corn Fest is a city committee spending taxpayers’ money. Tied to that is the expense of participating as a vendor. Then there’s the perception of a takeover by the unpopular ReNew DeKalb, as well as an old buildup of resentment over one or two former members who reputedly had what I call “bulldozer” personalities.

At any rate, if you’ve ever wondered where the money goes, you can register with GuideStar and read three years’ worth of DCF 990s. Check out the administrative expenses and the grants made to local charitable organizations, which is part of its mission. It may change how you think about the Corn Fest group.

Corn Fest Cancellations

There will be no amusement rides or other entertainment this evening, though some local restaurants and other downtown merchants will offer specials to lure the strong swimmers. Head on over to DeKalb County Online for details on the Flood of ’07 and what’s left of Corn Fest.