In last Thursday’s post I shared some preliminary observations about the latest contract between the City of DeKalb and the firefighters’ union.

Since then I’ve gotten a little feedback on it behind the scenes. The gist of the response is this: What’s the deal? Does yinn have something against well-compensated public employees?

The short answer is that I believe city employees and especially public safety employees deserve every penny we can afford.

The larger deal is that since late 2007 — despite hiring freezes, layoffs, reorganizations and attrition — the City of DeKalb has essentially been reacting continually to financial crises and deficits and in early 2010, city officials said that something drastic had to happen in order to avoid being $5 million in the hole by the end of FY2011.

Then DeKalb ended up with a $6.3 million audited surplus for FY2011.

The question is, does this surplus reflect real recovery and growth? Or will we, in the midst of hiring and giving generous raises a couple years out, be forced yet again to lay off and reorganize due to personnel costs outpacing revenues? Read the rest of this entry

Citizens Community Enhancement Commission members are upset their logo was totally rejected as the new design for the police cars, so now they want a do-over:

BUSINESS:

1. New Police Squads

[Assistant City Manager Rudy] Espiritu distributed pictures of the new police cars. A survey was done with Police personnel, and the staff selected the logo in the pictures, he said. The logo recommended by the CCEC
received no votes, he added. However, he said, it is placed on the bumper.

Mr. Barnes disagreed that the logo selected was the best choice. He added that police cars market the image of DeKalb.

He suggested that in the future, the voting be open to all City staff, residents and the CCEC. Mr. Rasmussen agreed and added that the logo looks garish and needs to be subdued. Read the rest of this entry

In “Council in the Twilight Zone,” I lauded 7th Ward Alderman Monica O’Leary for questioning this part of the July 11 meeting agenda:

2) APPROVAL OF A RECOMMENDATION TO AUTHORIZE THE POLICE DEPARTMENT TO PURCHASE TWO NEW SQUAD CARS THROUGH THE STATE PURCHASING PROGRAM.
The Police Department was awarded a Grant through the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority Board (ICJIA) to purchase a replacement for the Police Shift Command Vehicle. The award amount is $20,000 and the city is required to provide the remaining funds. The Police Departments portion will be taken from the Vehicle Maintenance and Acquisition Fund.

Ms. O’Leary said she couldn’t find this fund in the budget, and with good reason: It doesn’t exist.

There’s a Q&A about the fund/vehicle funding after the jump. Read the rest of this entry

Last in Line

As predicted in Sunday’s post, suddenly DEKALB’S FIRST RESPONDERS ARE #1 PRIORITY AND OMG WE MUST BUILD THE POLICE STATION RIGHT NOW, according to our city council.

It offends me deeply, because the The NUMBER ONE PRIORITY statement is a BIG LIE. The people who really have made public safety the priority are the folks who have protested new SUVs, serial land acquisitions, and ReNew DeKalb’s insatiable appetite for baubles ever since the first of the budget troubles appeared three-plus years ago.

If first responders were really the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, Council would have insisted one or two of them be hired instead of a central purchasing person and an economic development person/company.

If public safety were really the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, Council would have found a way to squeeze a couple more cops out of the $400,000 freed up from the debt restructuring.

They should knock it off already. The real story is probably some combination of a) the City being shamed by recent events, and b) the banker overlords requiring a new infusion of tax dollars now that the downtown project is winding down. Read the rest of this entry

A special meeting Monday of the DeKalb City Council and the Financial Advisory Committee is set to examine two Municipal Building remodeling/building options with emphases on police station space needs and improved access for people with disabilities.

The Good
One of the options presented includes a proposal to sell off city property worth $2.2 million to help finance a renovation and addition.

The Bad
We don’t know where the rest of the money will come from. Perhaps some bucks have been “freed up” by the debt restructuring. After paying some employees twice for not working and having the General Fund balance dip to $22,000 recently, it’s uncertain whether they can make a solid case for it, though. Read the rest of this entry

City Layoffs

Here is a comment that popped up in another post this afternoon:

Well as of today start to look for your own way of provideing some city services. Twenty employees got laidoff today, and 10 others were taking the early retirment package, and reportly 2 got terminated. So what does this mean no one left to do the blue collar work.

At this moment the Daily Chronicle states that a news release with the specifics is expected about 4 p.m. It is 3:40 as I type this.

The budget hasn’t been finalized yet, but some contracts — AFSCME comes to mind — require prior notice for layoffs, in case the unions can come up with an alternative plan in the interim.

In 2008, in the midst of a self-proclaimed fiscal crisis, City Council voted to allow the (former) Community Development Department to obtain a new SUV.

This is symbolic, see? The Police and Fire departments have had to put off replacing vehicles and some equipment since then. The Police Department, in particular, is getting nickel-and-dimed on old patrol cars that should have been retired last year, and the year before, and the year before that. But Community Development got exactly what it wanted.

And, as each new downtown brick paver is tamped into place, it must seem like a slap in the face. Read the rest of this entry

Chronicle story here.

Having DeKalb County Sheriff’s Police handle the arrest was the right move.

I am making a different decision about comments than the Chronicle has but please note I am ambivalent and may change my mind. Depends on what we end up with.

Renew Our Trash

catbox1

Yes, that is a cat box. Sorry about that but the city started it by deciding that they think they know best on dictating how people take out their trash. Although called a “pilot” program at this point, as described in the Daily Chronicle article, my guess is the city will put this program in place. I do not believe this is a cost-savings plan. Instead, this gives the city the opportunity to make everyone’s trash look the same. DeKalb would look like some sort of Yuppieville, with matching garbage cans. I do not need nor want a trash can. I certainly do not want to be forced into buying two new ones. How will the city buying trash cans for everyone save citizens any money? Read the rest of this entry

The First Step

One of the citizen commenters at the council meeting last night brought up the City of DeKalb’s Management Pay Plan. She was scandalized by the leap from Step 1 to Step 2. It is easy to see why. Grade One starting pay, for example, is $18.158 per hour but on the first anniversary it jumps to $21.199. That’s a 16.75% increase. After that, annual increases are a more modest 2% per year and in fact they call it the “Two Percent Pay Plan.”

What the commenter seemed not to know is that all city contracts take a big jump from Step 1 to Step 2 (or Step A to Step B).

In 2008, the Police Contract (p. 35) started a patrol officer at an hourly wage of $26.69, which increased to $29.08 at Step B.

The AFSCME contract schedule (p. 40) pays a Building Supervisor at a rate of $28.291 the first year and $33.20 the second.

A new fire fighter makes $23.979 hourly to start, then goes to $29.524.