DeKalb can become “business friendly” when this city manager is gone

DeKalb city council had another goal-setting session Tuesday evening.

It was a good session, as was last month’s, but at one point I had to laugh, and it was during the perennial make-DeKalb-more-business-friendly discussion.

I dearly wish more council members truly understood that friendliness is impossible under city manager Anne Marie Gaura. Unless you are one of a favored few, you run into a culture that not only disregards the basic tenets of good service, but systematically finds ways to make the going harder.

Alderman David Jacobson tried to explain this again Tuesday. He talked about “the hoops you have to jump through, and the games you have to play” as a local business owner.

Likewise, I’ve become an expert in the travails of the general public, and the latest example involves council’s establishment of a state-mandated “TIF interested parties registry” for the proposed new downtown TIF district. The TIF Redevelopment Act only requires that the city adopt “reasonable registration rules,” which this crew took as an opportunity to create something decidedly unfriendlier than what came before.

I first signed up for TIF registries in May of 2014. Back then it was easy. Via email, the special projects coordinator sent me one form for both TIFs, confirmed registrations, and let me know they were good for three years.

But what a difference three years have made. The city is supposed to notify registrants before expiration in case they want to re-register. Somebody should have notified me in May 2017, but nobody bothered.

Also, they decided the process needs more red tape.

— You have to submit a separate registration form for each TIF you’re interested in.
— You have to submit a copy of your driver’s license with each application to prove residency.
— You have to start from scratch to re-register when your three years are up.

I don’t even know if they’ll email you the form. Last year the city discontinued emailing responses to Freedom of Information Act requests, so you may have to go find the city clerk’s office. Good luck with that. It’s upstairs, about as far from the front door as they can place it, with no signage to direct you.

The little inconveniences and “oversights” of the registry story may seem small, but after a while it’s about a preponderance. What they add up to are manifestations of a deep and abiding contempt for public service that embeds malice into every decision and process that it can.

It’s the source of DeKalb’s “business unfriendliness,” and until we stop pretending that things somehow got this way accidentally, we’re just spinning our wheels.