Go play with the graph and other local stats by clicking here.
[Tip o' hat to: D.J.]
Go play with the graph and other local stats by clicking here.
[Tip o' hat to: D.J.]
I want to offer a few words on my write-in candidacy for DeKalb City Clerk so it doesn’t get weird between us. I filed last Thursday, aware by that point of one other person who might be running and found out later that we are four.
A public statement of candidacy and a Facebook page are planned, and I’ll let you know when they are available.
Outside of those things I am still working out what’s fair to post here during the campaign. Of course I have opinions, strong ones, on the so-called “neutering” of the city clerk’s position, on Kapitan’s candidacy and about the mayoral candidates, but I don’t know that City Barbs will cover any of these topics directly between now and April 9.
One matter we will explore soon for sure is the City of DeKalb’s improved website. You may be aware that the City of DeKalb recently passed, in the “B” range, the Illinois Policy Institute’s transparency test for its online postings even though it’s gotten an “F” from me on the same test in the past. The good folks at IPI are waiting for me to rate the site again; it will be a good test not only of the site but of the IPI scoring system as well. The matter is on my list in ink and I hope to get to it sometime this week.
In the course of a year I submit to the city at least a half-dozen requests under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The vast majority of requests for information are filled as a matter of routine. Every once in awhile, though, the city denies something I’ve asked for by citing an exemption under FOIA, in which case I ask the Public Access Counselor (PAC) of the Office of the Attorney General to review the decision.
The review process naturally feels a bit combative. Of course I’ve asked for information I feel entitled to under the law, while the city obviously has concluded that its reasons for denial are solid. The PAC acts as referee.
But if the Request for Review under FOIA can get a little contentious, the same process under the Open Meetings Act (OMA) almost surely will be. With FOIA, it’s usually a matter of either being vindicated in the denial or being told to release information. With OMA, the PAC is investigating an allegation of lawbreaking for which penalties can apply.
A video recording from the last city council meeting alerted me to the PAC review of an alleged OMA violation by the City of DeKalb in October 2012. Since you probably will not hear about it anywhere else, I want to tell you.
Even more importantly, I would like to compare the facts as I understand them, to the city attorney’s report of the matter. Read the rest of this entry
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
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
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
The following is a report from DeKalb Police of a gathering on the 800 block of Edgebrook Drive in the wee hours of Saturday, August 25.
Due to a large crowd gathering the previous night, I assigned officer Boldt to monitor the lot at 809 Edgebrook and to advise me of any large parties forming.
He advised me that there was a party at apartment 8 and the apartment was full with some people standing outside. We arrived and advised the occupant to move everyone inside and not allow any more people inside. He was warned that if a crowd gathered outside his apartment, that he would be cited. During this time other officers cleared the lot of approximately 10 cars and 30 people who did not reside at the complex.
Cars that had exited the lot were stuck in traffic from other cars wanting to enter the lot. The lot was blocked as was the intersection of Normal and Edgebrook. During the time it took to clear the road, two groups of people began to gather on opposite sides of the street where officers were directing traffic.
Officer Boldt was getting names of tenants in other apartments with loud parties. While preparing to clear officers from the scene, I heard a passerby speaking on his phone. I heard him say, “We are taking Edgebrook.” Read the rest of this entry
The Daily Chronicle lays out today the arguments for and against licensing and inspection of rental properties.
There are four proposed laws before the council, but it’s the issue of licensing that has garnered the most attention and debate from aldermen, city officials, and landlords. City Manager Mark Biernacki has previously described it as being the linchpin of all the city’s efforts to improve the quality of its housing stock.
[Local realtor and landlord Dan] McClure said he believes a licensing program could be abused by the government in the future. Although he does not mind firefighters coming through his various properties to inspect them, McClure disagrees with the notion that expanding inspections would help.
“It just seems like a tremendous invasion of privacy of the tenant to me,” McClure said. “I don’t understand why they want to get involved with this.”
Good point, Mr. McClure. However, no interviews of tenants appeared in the article, so we’ll never know what they think.
But let’s move on to asking why city staff want licensing and inspection so badly that they’ve hired people to manage a licensing programs that didn’t exist and to do an end run around its own Housing Task Force.
You could argue that the main motivator is concern for tenants of very modest means and few options, but then I’d have to ask why none (save for a few students) were included as members of the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force.
You might also suspect that the plan represents a new revenue stream, and you probably wouldn’t be wrong- wrong.
But here’s an alternative theory: that the main point of pushing licensing and inspection so hard for so long is because a grand plan is involved, and that plan is the 2008 Amendment to the Central Redevelopment Area Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. Read the rest of this entry
Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune: “Towns Borrow, You Pay”.
When the Trib covered the Rosemont story a few weeks ago, it looked at Home Rule but more tangentially. This time, the poster child is Bellwood and Home Rule, which gives municipalities free rein on borrowing and taxation, is front and center:
The vast majority of states — including all of the largest ones — do not offer municipalities such blank checks.
Ken Small of the Florida League of Cities said he would worry if his state had Illinois’ loose rules.
“It is like giving your teenager a credit card,” he said.
In Illinois’ home-rule municipalities, the onus is on voters to decipher the financial ramifications of what their local officials are doing. And even then, residents may only get a say come election time, and only if their local officials face competition on the ballot.
DeKalb residents never really get a say, because in addition to Home Rule it has the council-manager form of government. This means the CEO is the appointed city manager, not the mayor. Not only that, but the city manager has an employment contract with no expiration date on it. And furthermore we’ve been cursed with councils that, for whatever reason, don’t think we can do better.
**Update 9/7: Here’s an image of yesterday’s print edition of the Northern Star with synopses and photos. In reading it again I’m struck at how much time and money have been spent already and still NIU is unable to determine whether any of its employees have done anything wrong.**
One of the two employees who resigned in July was John Gordon, director of the university’s 10,000-seat Convocation Center, which hosts about 200 events a year, including concerts, athletic events and meetings. Gordon allegedly had a Convocation Center custodian go at least four times in the past year to his home, where she cleaned the windows and floors, washed dishes and vacuumed, according to an interview and documents obtained by the Tribune.
The employee told the Tribune she was picked up in the morning at the loading dock outside the Convocation Center and driven to Gordon’s home about two miles away. She said she was given a “tip” of $20 to $40 for the work.
According the the article, the employee filed a grievance about this treatment in May.
Other allegations against both Gordon and Robert Albanese, the other NIU administrator who resigned under a cloud, include accusations that they kept NIU property at their homes, according to the report. For example, Gordon was said to have kept a snowblower and vacuum cleaner.
And, yes, the “coffee fund” information is there, too.
The article was written by Chicago Tribune reporter Jodi S. Cohen and front-paged for print subscribers this morning. The link to the online article is here, but it’s behind a subscription gate. The Northern Star and the Daily Chronicle also posted stories today on their own websites that contain the allegations uncovered by the Trib.