The Burden of Transparency


You’ve probably seen this e-mail wherein Mayor Povlsen scolds Mark Charvat for making plans to pack the house during the DeKalb Township Annual Meeting without telling him.

— On Mon, 3/19/12, Povlsen, Kris wrote:
From: Povlsen, Kris
Subject: So much for Transparency
To: “‘’”
Date: Monday, March 19, 2012, 2:30 PM
Guess this says a lot about your character and walking the talk! You are a hypocrite CITIZEN CHARVAT!

What’s even more hilarious is where the seed for this outburst came from.

About 40 minutes earlier, city manager Mark Biernacki had sent around a message containing this (my emphasis):

The topic below came to our attention via an email from a citizen. Apparently, the DeKalb Township Board has on its april 10 annual meeting three pending advisory referenda questions that address the forms of government for the City of DeKalb and the DeKalb Library (Home Rule, City Mgr Form of Government, and a separate Library District. [sic]

…At that meeting, if a simple majority of the registered electors who show vote “yes”, then these advisory questions will appear on the November ballot. As you can see, Mr. Charvat has initiated this (interesting in that he appears to want this to sneak by without too many people knowing about it, in contrast to the transparency he so strongly advocates for when discussing governmental matters).

There is a big difference between city government and Mark Charvat. Mark Charvat is a private citizen exercising his rights as, you know, a private citizen. He is under no obligation to keep the City of DeKalb in the loop.

On the other hand, the City of DeKalb MUST keep its citizens in the loop and boy, do they resent it. Last night Alderman Gallagher called people who file FOIA requests “repeat offenders” who are looking for the “silver bullet” (and incidentally he completely missed the point that most FOIA requests are, and always have been, commercial requests). Recently the mayor called people who want a referendum on the city manager form of government “a group of obstructionists that really, truly don’t have the interests of the community in mind”; and at the first meeting of the state’s attorney’s anti-corruption initiative Povlsen called anti-corruption advocates Woodward and Bernstein wannabes.

We must watch the mayor carefully, as he may be working up to some serious slander.

Meanwhile, another seed was planted in that same Biernacki e-mail:

I recognize that if successful these are only advisory referenda and cannot bind the City Council. However, the Mayor and Council are asked to assess and determine what would be the political implications for the City should these advisory referenda pass.

The business of the city council is supposed to be policy, not politics, but as ever it’s Biernacki who sets the agenda and the rest of the council follows like puppies.