City Claims Ellwood Plan a Product of Public Meetings. It’s Not

I kinda figured they would do this (my emphasis).

II. Background:
In May, 2010, community members, financial institutions and city officials participated in an informational meeting to discuss the progress of the 2003 North 5th Ward Neighborhood Plan. The meeting was facilitated by the Center for Governmental Studies on behalf of the City. The meeting had four main purposes:

1. Update the community on the progress of the original plan that City Council adopted in 2003.

2. Determine if uncompleted tasks were still relevant and important.

3. Identify boundaries of the 5th Ward North, the Historic District and the TIF District; and

4. Identify current issues facing the neighborhood today and actions needed to address them.

Since the first meeting in May, 2010 when original recommendations were made, the City, and most importantly the residents, have worked together for positive changes. Throughout the process the City and residents have used multiple contact methods to ensure that residents, neighbors, landlords and community members had an opportunity for input. There have been several public meetings held to discuss implementation strategies and in July, 2010 a neighborhood association/watch was formed to help address resident issues. The results of these efforts are illustrated in the attached Ellwood Historical Neighborhood Implementation Strategies document.

I’ve looked over all the documents available from the City of DeKalb having to do with the North 5th Ward Neighborhood aka Ellwood Historic District, and made a report previously.

The City of DeKalb cannot honestly claim that the EHD meetings were public meetings. Public meetings include public notices and meeting minutes that the city council receives and files. Neither of these things has happened.

It is my opinion that, as soon as city officials started spending money on EHD and attending its meetings, it should have begun following the Open Meetings Act. However, EHD is not officially a city committee. It falls into a gray area so I didn’t say anything before.

I’ve done some reading, though. In OMA case law you can find examples of such de facto government committees being made to follow OMA because the government unit dedicates resources to them and they function as committees. Clearly, this is true of EHD. The city has sent out mailings, hired NIU as a facilitator and given the group an allowance of $100,000 of TIF money. A lawsuit would probably be a winner.

Meanwhile, I’ll not allow them to lie about the meetings being public and I hope you won’t, either.