Chronicle’s Corn Fest 2011

ear of cornDeKalb Corn Fest just filed its IRS Form 990 this month for calendar/fiscal year 2011.

Let’s add the numbers to our chart:

YearRevenuesExpensesGain/LossGrants
Given
Ending
Fund
Balance
2004129,016153,600-24,584None25,805
2005174,734140,83933,895None59,700
2006183,392163,69819,69425,20079,394
2007167,509156,17411,3353,00090,699
2008160,999178,519-17,5204,00073,179
2009183,662184,376-1,01430072,165
2010155,804171,748-15,944None56,221
2011133,058151,358-18,300None37,921

Corn Fest was able to to reduce its costs over the previous year. Unfortunately, its revenues took another dive. This (along with the sorry parking fee revenue total for 2012) is consistent with our hypothesis that Corn Fest is back downtown because it was dying at the airport, no matter what public officials say about it.

I’m calling it “Chronicle’s Corn Fest” for fun, though it really isn’t funny. In fact, let’s talk. Read the rest of this entry

The Chronicle covered the public hearing on the proposed Sycamore Road and South Fourth Street TIF districts last night. The article seems a bit short but I’m gratified to have been quoted.

Three of us spoke at the hearing: Kerry Mellott, Mac McIntyre and me. If you did not observe Mac’s and Kerry’s contributions, let me assure you they are worth an ear when the city makes the video available.

Today I offer my prepared remarks* because they represent a somewhat organized body of objections that I haven’t yet shared here.

Jump to look. 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

Fun with Friends of Goliath

The Illinois Supreme Court refused last week to hear an appeal against the DeKalb County Board’s decision to allow Waste Management’s landfill expansion plan. In response, Daily Chronicle editor Eric Olson patted the Stop the Mega-Dump people on the head.

Their effort was driven by their convictions. Members of the unfortunately named Stop the Mega-Dump believed what they were doing was right and the county was in the wrong. They took it as far as they could because they cared about the effect this landfill expansion would have on our shared environment.

There, there.

[sympathetic cooing noises]

Suddenly, he attacks! Read the rest of this entry

*Update: Final list of candidates is here.*

In the article, “DeKalb County Certifies Preliminary Ballot,” the county clerk stated that there are about six people who have filed as write-in candidates in April’s Consolidated Election so far. As of 9:30 a.m. today there were indeed exactly six:

  • Michael Franckowiak – Genoa Park Board
  • Veronica Bruhl – Kaneland Board of Education
  • Rick Goken – Shabbona Township Trustee
  • Virginia E. Toppe – Malta Library Trustee
  • Charles G. Rose – DeKalb Regional Board of Education
  • Antonio C. Amaya – Genoa Park Board
  • We could see additional declarations of write-in campaigns this week because the deadline is Thursday, after which the final list of candidates will be posted at dekalbclerk.com.

    While I’m at it I’d like to recognize John Acardo and the Office of the DeKalb County Clerk & Recorder for their high standards of professionalism and customer service. Nobody answers requests for information faster than they do, the communication is very good and I like how I am treated.

    Here’s the latest.

    DeKalb library leaders asked the DeKalb City Council on Monday if it would consider borrowing $7.5 million for the $24 million construction project, which would add 47,000 square feet to the 19,000-square-foot building at 309 Oak St. Library leaders need to secure $15.5 million by June 1 to qualify for an $8.5 million state construction grant they were offered last month.

    No, that’s not quite right. They weren’t “offered” anything. DKPL applied for the grant last April and its number finally came up, probably because a couple other libraries lost referenda in November (but we don’t know for sure, because I’ve been foiled in my FOIA inquiry).

    It’s a crying shame for taxpayers that DKPL turned in an application with a plan to spend $24 million, because the eligible construction costs only come to about $13 million. This means there are a lot of goodies in there that the state won’t cover. When DKPL board members say they really, really tried so hard to save taxpayers money, the fitting response is a derisive laugh, IMO. Read the rest of this entry

    DeKalb TIF Absurdity

    Wow, today’s Chronicle article about TIF seems very one-sided and in need of additional viewpoints.

    That’s what blogs are for!

    Let’s start with the statement about Sycamore Road.

    DeKalb’s districts helped revitalize Sycamore Road with the additions of Target, Walmart and major shopping corridors.

    Revitalize? Do they think Sycamore Road was full of slums? It was mostly farmland. Last I checked, farmland was an asset in DeKalb County. But, to start a TIF district you need to declare the area you want to develop as a sort of disaster area known as “blight.” In Illinois TIF parlance, “blight” is anything a municipality needs it to be, as long as it can persuade the General Assembly and governor to buy in. So…corn fields equal blight in DeKalb.

    Yes, it’s a corruption of TIF; and the most amazing part, to me, is how a publication can write about Illinois corruption on a regular basis and yet not recognize local examples of it.

    Back to the article. How about this:

    “We’re blessed to have the working relationship we do with the taxing districts,” [DeKalb city manager Mark] Biernacki said. “We work to make that longer term more short-term by ending TIF districts in less than 23 years.”

    DeKalb’s largest TIF district was amended, expanded and renewed for an additional 11 years in 2008. This assertion of Biernacki’s that DeKalb closes TIFs early should not have gone unchallenged, yet it totally did.

    Also going unchallenged is the notion of opening new TIFs in town AT THIS TIME. I can’t believe we are going there and will spend the rest of the post explaining why it we shouldn’t. Read the rest of this entry

    In “DeKalb Gives First Approval to Property Tax Levy,” we get this:

    The aldermen had previously set the ceiling for a property tax levy at $9.67 million, and were given two options by city staff to set the request at either $9.67 million or $9.63 million – the amount the city levied last year.

    According to the Chronicle, the city council appears to support the higher levy, and the rate would go up, too, to about 79 cents. Anything else?

    The city uses property tax revenue to fund pensions of city staff, police officers and firefighters. The $9.67 million request would be able to fund all the police and fire pensions, and 45 percent of the pensions of city staff. The other 55 percent will have to be made up from one of the city’s other funds, she said.

    Let us summarize (using both today’s Chronicle story and Monday’s CB post.)

    • As a rule, city property tax collected ONLY goes to city pensions.

    • The property tax levy will probably go up for tax year 2012.

    • As the levy goes up, the rate will go up, too — about 7 cents.

    • A 7-cent hike would probably set a record.

    • Despite a probable record hike — and the investment gains we showed you Monday — it’s said we still need to put more money up front to cover rising costs.

    Read the rest of this entry

    Chronicle staff should live in this county for awhile before commenting on certain issues, such as what one can find today in “Our View: Falling home values a trying trend in county“.

    When the housing market was healthy and new homes and businesses were built at a healthy clip, the opposite was true. Property values grew faster than the rate of inflation, property tax rates fell, and along with them, the tax cap led to decreases in annual tax property tax bills.

    The person who has seen her property taxes rise on a modest home since 1993, some years by HUNDREDS more, is somewhat irritated to hear the Chronicle try to tell her otherwise.

    Still, let’s stick to the facts. Here are the property tax rates and levies for the City of DeKalb* for each tax year since 2000:

    2000 – 0.50490, $1,892,659
    2001 – 0.52989, $2,121,088
    2002 – 0.60566, $2,514,566
    2003 – 0.59666, $2,600,088
    2004 – 0.60000, $2,738,052
    2005 – 0.59302, $3,022,165
    2006 – 0.59672, $3,400,147
    2007 – 0.60000, $3,742,937
    2008 – 0.60000, $3,875,130
    2009 – 0.65000, $4,185,457
    2010 – 0.68990, $4,196,889
    2011 – 0.72052, $4,197,062

    Rates never fell during this period. Why? Because tax caps don’t apply to Home Rule communities.

    Let’s do another one. Read the rest of this entry

    In “Time to Dump Landfill Protests,” the Chronicle lays out reasons for trashing the efforts of the little people.

    Reason 1:

    There’s nowhere else for the anti-landfill group to turn short of the Illinois Supreme Court, which might decline to hear the case.

    Stop the Mega Dump should quit because the Supremes might reject it? WTH?

    Reason 2:

    It’s understandable that an expansion that would allow the landfill to accept as many as 2,000 tons of trash a day would be unpopular. At some point, however, the community and the company should be allowed to move forward.

    Yeah, like maybe after an attempt at a Supreme Court appeal. What’s the rush, Chronicle?

    Reason 3:

    The impact of the expansion has not been felt. Waste Management has assured residents that a larger landfill will not endanger their health and safety.

    Wow, great show of healthy journalistic skepticism.

    More importantly, though, the newspaper is in effect trashing STMD’s contention that the process of approving the expansion was so fundamentally flawed, the threats to public health such as hydrogen sulfide emissions, groundwater contamination and vulnerabilities to seismic activity were never seriously examined and considered. Read the rest of this entry