This Election, Let’s Discuss Remedial Action for DeKalb

The Chronicle has published a letter to the editor that caught my eye. It’s about local candidates and their positions on the issues.

The words that they use may change, but the rhetoric is the same.

The writer goes on to list the same old, same old: DeKalb-NIU relations, easing of the tax burden, and jobs/business climate. He wants to hear specific ideas.

While I largely agree that some city candidates are hard to pin down, I believe the real issues in DeKalb are more fundamental, and require remediation before we can progress.

Here’s an example from Sunday. I attended the DARA forum for DeKalb mayoral candidates. One of the candidates took the position, in what struck me as a somewhat scolding tone, that residents should not share grievances unless they have the solutions already worked out. Apparently this person has already adopted city hall culture where citizens are separated into friends who have their attention, and whiners who don’t.

That’s not how “equal treatment under the law” works, people, and we shouldn’t ignore these views.

Put it this way. DeKalb’s business-unfriendly reputation didn’t just arise from an accidental overabundance of red tape, but about preferential treatment for some private individuals and organizations — the same kind of preferential treatment for which the above-mentioned candidate signaled support. We will find no solution to our business climate until the basic rules of fairness are followed.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about how the city manager and city attorney of DeKalb recognize very little in the way of behavioral boundaries, how they drive the agenda in DeKalb, and how they have cowed our council.

Let’s also confront the mismanagement of our finances, which has worsened our pension position and allowed our streets to crumble.

And let’s acknowledge unlawful actions at city hall, such as Open Meetings Act violations and the malicious destruction of the elected city clerk’s office.

It is our civic duty to try to put into place a mayor and council who respect grassroots citizens as much as they do their pals, who insist on proper and lawful procedure in every endeavor, and who are not afraid to smack down bureaucratic overreach.

If we prioritize public ethics in our elections, as well as afterward, things like business-friendliness will more easily fall into place.

I found it kind of shocking that a candidate would advertise intent to exclude folks from the conversation this early in the game. Usually, they don’t show their hands until they’re sworn in. But it sure does give us an opportunity to make better choices, if we pay attention.