The key word must be “verified,” though nothing in the story actually is.

“Over the years, the amount of dog-walking has increased, so we’ve been getting more complaints and more problems,” said Terry Hannan, DeKalb County Forest Preserve superintendent.

Although Hannan said more people have been bitten in DeKalb County’s forest preserves during the past few years, Greg Maurice, director of health protection at the DeKalb County Health Department, said he hasn’t received many reports. Maurice supervises DeKalb County Animal Control, which documents and follows cases of dog bites.

The health department has written a couple of off-leash tickets to people at the county’s 17 forest preserves during the past few years, but no verified dog bites at county forest preserves have ever come into the health department’s office, Maurice said.

I’m confused. Are dogs biting, or not? Are reports of dog bites passed on to the health department, or not? Seems like a couple more questions might have cleared this up.

Related:
Illinois Animal Control Act

The Daily Chronicle notes that new DeKalb city manager Anne Marie Gaura has made some personnel changes. I am particularly gratified by this statement:

The moves all deal with personnel issues, a subject on which employers are generally limited on what they can say, but they could have announced they happened.

The Chronicle’s actual main point is that Gaura is shaking things up and it looks like the aim is to save money while improving service. This is something I’d love to embrace 100% but I keep getting hung up on the city’s failure to communicate these decisions until confronted.

By passing up opportunities to announce changes, DeKalb is squandering opportunities to rebuild trust that previous city leaders destroyed through a culture of dishonesty and secrecy.

Speaking of which, have you seen the video of Saturday’s town hall meeting yet? Distrust and suspicion were recurring themes.

Mayor Rey has un-ironically declared on his Facebook page, “I see a better, safer and more transparent DeKalb.”

Yet DeKalb is a town that:

– Told no one that its finance director had resigned until specifically asked about it more than a month later.

– Refused to announce the location of its warming center during the worst of the winter.

– Allowed citizens to find out the hard way last week that there was no one available to issue the permits that they needed.

The above events don’t reflect a better, safer or more transparent DeKalb. They are anti-public relations and furthermore enough removed from common sense as to have ventured a toe into the realm of the bizarre.

The Daily Chronicle may have just published one of the most important investigative reports ever written about City of DeKalb finances.

Since early 2013, the DeKalb Police Department has used around $300,000 of the $350,000 collected in administrative tow fees to buy a wide range of items outside of its regular budget.

There are a lot of potential issues arising from this revelation, from whether the tow fee ordinance is fair to how much the equipping of the new police station might have gone over budget. The article seems to suggest that, right now, the city is mostly concerned about the administrative tow ordinance itself coming under attack. But to me, we’re taking our eyes off the prize if we stray too far from the simple fact that $300,000 in public spending was not publicly accounted for in 2013.

I mean, doesn’t it make you wonder:

  • What other accounts holding fines and fees are used for “extras”?
  • How this might relate to the $3-million-plus “excess expenditures over budget” that the city’s auditors found noteworthy?

  • Why the city has begun changing the policy even while insisting there’s nothing wrong with the status quo?
  • That’s just for starters. So I’m going to keep my eyeballs on this for awhile, yes, yes indeedy.

    Now We’re Getting Somewhere

    Turns out, City of DeKalb’s press release this week about hiring outside help has a backstory, and the Daily Chronicle has unearthed it..

    New DeKalb City Manager Anne Marie Gaura wants the city to hire an outside financial expert after staff recently broke rules for making purchases in excess of $20,000.

    First, the council approved the changes to city hall that included moving the finance office to the first floor and upgrading security. When city staff sought council approval, $14,000 in work had been completed, but the project was slated to cost $36,000. During their last meeting, aldermen approved a $22,864 expenditure for fitness equipment at the police station that had already been purchased using administrative tow funds.

    “This just goes to the long history of the organization,” Gaura said. “It wasn’t anything intentional, but it indicated to me we need to improve our purchasing policies.”

    Wow, dig it. The new city manager is saying it’s not OK to come to council for authorization to exceed the $20,000 spending authority after the fact. Think about what that might mean for fiscal discipline and accountability in DeKalb if the city manager is a stickler for the rules.

    The Daily Chronicle has come out against the proposed Sycamore Road TIF District, pointing to Mayor Rey’s recent comment that two developers are interested in one of the properties even with no incentives.

    So why bring tax increment financing into the equation? It certainly might give the city some more money it can spend on projects of its choosing, but it doesn’t appear necessary here.

    For one thing, I think maybe NIU has gotten the idea that the city is going to fix up one of its buildings. TIF in DeKalb has ALWAYS been about generating slush for pet projects.

    But tax increment financing is supposed to be used to encourage development in areas that need it, not just to generate revenue for City Hall to spend.

    The South Fourth Street corridor needs redevelopment, no question. But the South Fourth plan is a horrible plan. In fact, both of the TIF proposals are bad, as in ill-conceived and lazy. The TIF consultant should be fired and the Joint Review Board publicly shamed for its lack of proper oversight.

    I’m glad to hear that the city council is questioning these TIF proposals and I hope at some point this body also sees the need to review and reform how TIF plays out in DeKalb.

    The City of Springfield is expecting to approve a new contract with its firefighters’ union soon.

    Golly, I wish we had that kind of news coverage. Remember the last-minute hoop we had to jump through to find what the 2011 contract with our firefighters was about?

    The Springfield story reminded me that the longish closed sessions our council is holding lately have something to do with collective bargaining and not just horse-trading over the appointment of the new city manager. Sure enough, DeKalb’s agreement with International Association of Firefighters Local 1236 expires June 30, 2014.

    I meant to look at the contract anyway because during the last council meeting, they were speaking in code while talking about the latest emergency services contract. The code was “7(g)” and turns out “7(g)” is shorthand for, “How much the city is going to pay emergency personnel to attend sporting events.”

    But on to the quid pro quo. Read the rest of this entry

    Did You Get Invited? Me Neither.

    Last week I decided to email our almost-daily newspapers to let them know I’ve been searching them each day for news of the DeKalb city manager interviews. You’ll remember that last summer the date for the interviews was set for November 1, but a lot could have happened since then.

    Then an article appeared in the weekend edition of the Daily Chronicle. (I don’t know if I can take credit for this or not.) It confirmed the date of the panel interviews but not much else.

    You see, in July when the interview schedule was set, the Community Committee interview panel and a candidates’ evening meet-and-greet were designated public meetings, so I’d expected to get details about those events in the article as well.

    I guess we second-class citizens who would like to attend the public events will need to make an extra effort to find out the where and when, unless we’re content to wait for the state-required public notices to come out Wednesday and scramble from there.

    Of course, it’s entirely possible city officials have decided instead to renege on the earlier plans for openness and are now keeping all panels and the meet-and-greet limited to the select few. Read the rest of this entry

    A Chronicle article last week talks about all the new building, equipment and personnel the City of DeKalb is investing into its fire department.

    I read the article after just having skimmed through the city’s check register for August. The police department spent, among other things, $125,000+ on software and $2600 on the new dog, including $79.95 for a water bowl. They seem to be having fun. 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.

    Power Shifts and Pushback

    Let’s cut loose a couple of these agenda items for tonight’s DeKalb council meeting and try to paste them into the big picture.

    It is odd that this fiscal year’s budget allows for the hiring of code inspectors into the police department’s Crime Free Housing Bureau instead of mingling them with the rest of the code enforcement people. It also has seemed wrong to members of the DeKalb Area Rental Association, who have been questioning this arrangement from its inception. They’ve finally gotten a couple of aldermen to bring up the question again so these assignments and allocations can be reconsidered.

    The Chronicle does a good job with the story if you need something to get you up to speed. Of course the misplacement is major mission creep and strikes a blow against accountability in blurring boundaries between code enforcement and what Crime Free Housing is supposed to accomplish.

    Then there’s the new truancy ordinance (see pp. 157-9 of the agenda PDF). Here’s what home-schoolers are reacting to most: Read the rest of this entry