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:

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. (see DeKalb County Online coverage here and here.) The parking fee money will have to go into the Airport Fund. You would never know this from the agenda, the discussion, or the newspaper coverage.

Vehicle Fund MIA

If there was a bright spot in the meeting, it was Alderman O’Leary’s insistence on seeing exactly where in the budget the Vehicle Maintenance and Acquisition Fund is located. Because she couldn’t find one. This is how we found out that, by state mandate, the City of DeKalb was supposed to establish this fund in 2007 and put into it a certain portion of police fines. Instead, it’s all gone into the General Fund until, what, last week?

While waiting for answers to a list of questions submitted to the city manager, I have refreshed myself as to the definition of the word “misappropriate” so as not to misuse it. From

–verb (used with object), -at·ed, -at·ing.
1. to put to a wrong use.
2. to apply wrongfully or dishonestly, as funds entrusted to one’s care.

“It would appear that for the past four years, the City of DeKalb has misappropriated at least $1400 per month that should have been put into a Vehicle Maintenance and Acquisition Fund.”

There was no newspaper coverage about this revelation, either.

Management Raises

And then there were the raises.

Ah, yes, the raises. Council handed out raises to management last night —

— despite evidence of mismanagement presented at the very same meeting.

— in direct contradiction to the declared priorities of building up public safety and our reserves.

— seemingly 100% oblivious to the connection between chronically inadequate capital outlays, as described that night by Alderman Naylor, and the tradition of putting every spare dollar into personnel goodies to the detriment of buildings and equipment.

— in denial of our financial position, which in many ways (and exhaustively covered by this blog) remains precarious.

Something Positive

In addition to Ms. O’Leary’s sharp eye and assertiveness as noted above, I’d like to thank Alderman Lash for demonstrating independent thinking on the management raises and voting in accordance with her principles.