DeKalb Mayor Vigorously Defends Council’s Breaking of Its Own Law

In a recent letter to the editor, Misty Haji-Sheikh asked — and answered — who is supposed to ensure that DeKalb ordinances are enforced. Why? Because she found out there is an ordinance that is not being enforced.

The mayor, city manager and city attorney all have legal duties regarding ordinances. Since the ordinance 2015-30 is to hold at least quarterly meetings (these must be on the same day as the City Council after 1 p.m.) for discussion was passed as ordinance more than 14 months ago, can the mayor, city manager or city attorney explain why no required meetings have been held? Why aren’t they faithfully discharging their duties?

The ordinance, in part, says (my emphases):

Discussion, Planning and Vision Meetings: In addition to all other meetings contemplated herein, the City Council shall conduct at least four special meetings, with one such meeting occurring no less than quarterly, for the purposes of discussion, planning and visioning.

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If the ordinance language had been written as “may” instead of “shall,” the meetings would be optional. “Shall” means they are not optional. (Find the rest of the ordinance in the Municipal Code, here, in 2.05(b)).

Now, this wouldn’t even appear on my radar today, but for a member of the City Barbs Facebook Group having posted video of Monday’s council meeting, towards the end of which the mayor defends not having the meetings required by ordinance. He calls these meetings “goals.” He then lists all the council meetings he’s attended over the past 14 months and declares, “The suggestion that the city has not been engaged in strategic planning is nothing short of ridiculous.”

What’s ridiculous is the mayor’s pretending that the issue is something other than council’s failure to follow the ordinance it passed last year, and suggesting that ordinances are “goals” that do not carry the force of law.

I suppose we could test that when we park in downtown DeKalb. “Officer, please do not write me a ticket. I swear to you, following the parking ordinances is a goal of mine, and I’ve managed it occasionally in the past.” Yeah, that’ll fly.

There are three real remedies for the planning meeting ordinance: follow it, amend it, or repeal it.

Now to the video. The mayor’s remarks begin at 3:36:20 and run to just about 3:40:00. (No, I do not understand his accusation that the people who want the ordinance upheld are trying to place a wedge between council and city staff. Your guess is as good as mine.)

When ward and departmental reports are finished, Ald. Jacobson comes back around to the ordinance at 3:49:00, saying, “The law is the law,” and taking some responsibility for himself in the failure to call the required meetings. The mayor then calls Ald. Jacobson’s comments “semantics.”