Another Example of DeKalb’s Business Friendliness

Remember this, from our financial consultants last April?

[I]f you survey potential businesses, would they consider DeKalb business friendly? I don’t know the answer to that question. We have heard anecdotal evidence; some say that DeKalb is one of the most business-unfriendly cities they’ve ever encountered. Well, if that’s the case, economic development will be a challenge. So, it’s something that perhaps could be addressed.

Yesterday I spent the day at the DeKalb Farmers Market. I’d previously understood from the ReNew person in charge that the city had agreed to keep Locust Street open for the duration of the market, which runs until 6 p.m. But they got antsy to start setting up for Corn Fest by mid-afternoon, put up barricades and killed traffic. Vendors started fleeing as early as 4 p.m., leaving little for the after-work crowd to shop for.

That’s not even getting into the impacts to downtown business people in buildings. Some of them already know they will see their worst weekend of sales for the year this weekend with Corn Fest back downtown. And even if the city’s/Corn Fest’s impatience didn’t worsen the sales outlook, the powers-that-be clearly squandered an opportunity for goodwill. There was some real anger expressed in the Van Buer parking lot yesterday and the blame was laid squarely on the City of DeKalb and Corn Fest. It sounded a lot like what the financial consultants heard.

DeKalb is run by a relatively small group of self-anointed VIPs, within government and without, who regularly tramp roughshod over the interests of others in the community. Some are the very same people who talk about economic development all the time yet seem to lack a clue about how to provide it.

Here’s one: Get over yourselves and start thinking about somebody else for a change.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Proclamation

Among the presentations at Monday’s council meeting was a certificate of appreciation given to DeKalb’s team members in the America in Bloom beauty contest a couple weeks ago (see p. 5).

  • City of DeKalb Staff
  • Members of the Environmental Commission
  • Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission
  • DeKalb Park District Staff
  • NIU Staff
  • DeKalb Public Library Staff
  • Ellwood House Staff
  • Master Gardeners
  • Proven Winners
  • With the exception of the Master Gardeners, the list represents a love-in between bureaucrats plus a business that has managed to get the city to advertise its brand and to make residents pay for that advertising. Continue reading A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Proclamation

    Write-In Candidates in DeKalb County So Far

    *Update: Final list of candidates is here.*

    In the article, “DeKalb County Certifies Preliminary Ballot,” the county clerk stated that there are about six people who have filed as write-in candidates in April’s Consolidated Election so far. As of 9:30 a.m. today there were indeed exactly six:

  • Michael Franckowiak – Genoa Park Board
  • Veronica Bruhl – Kaneland Board of Education
  • Rick Goken – Shabbona Township Trustee
  • Virginia E. Toppe – Malta Library Trustee
  • Charles G. Rose – DeKalb Regional Board of Education
  • Antonio C. Amaya – Genoa Park Board
  • We could see additional declarations of write-in campaigns this week because the deadline is Thursday, after which the final list of candidates will be posted at

    While I’m at it I’d like to recognize John Acardo and the Office of the DeKalb County Clerk & Recorder for their high standards of professionalism and customer service. Nobody answers requests for information faster than they do, the communication is very good and I like how I am treated.

    Something Odd About the Public Library Construction Grant Program

    Because the local library applied for a state construction grant in 2012, I decided to read up on these grants. One result of the research is doubt that all the money from a new library grant “pot” has all gone to libraries — but I am having a difficult time finding out for sure. This is a progress report for citizen watchdogs and others interested in state level grant programs, the Illinois State Library and/or the Freedom of Information Act.

    Sandwich Public Library found out about its $1.6 million construction grant award months ago, but word is just now circulating. DeKalb Public Library was likewise notified in July that it wouldn’t receive an award this fiscal year, yet suddenly now it’s getting $8.5 million from the state for its planned expansion.

    The questions that arise out of these announcements — and their peculiar timing — are related to what I would describe as an uncharacteristic lack of transparency by the Illinois State Library in administering a $50 million construction grant program. I’ve used the Internet and, just lately, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to try to part the curtains.

    Though the FOIA adventure continues, having local libraries and their good fortunes in the news seems a reasonable excuse to lay out the story so far, so here goes. Continue reading Something Odd About the Public Library Construction Grant Program

    Park District Wants to Fix the Pool with Its “Revolving Credit Line”

    In a story that appears to be designed to make us feel ashamed about questioning the destruction of recreation space that has become important to the community (I’ll comment further on the land swap deal another time), the Chronicle drops in this tidbit:

    About that pool: Although the DeKalb Park District won’t be building the aquatic center complex envisioned in 2010, Capek said there is a plan to fix the pool at Hopkins Park.

    The pool there now was built almost 40 years ago and is nearing the end of its useful life. The park district pursued a grant for the work, but missed out in the face of stiff competition, Capek said.

    “The board made the commitment to do that within existing financing,” Capek said. “The project will move forward at end of pool season in 2014 and they hope to have it open for the 2015 season.”

    Unlike the old plan, this time park officials plan to save money from their annual bond issue to put toward the pool improvements. The new pool will fit within the footprint of the existing pool, Capek said.

    The park board has agreed to allow staff to stat moving forward with the project, and it should be discussed more at the park board’s budget meeting Dec. 6, Capek said.

    It so happens that the McHenry County Blog has just explained well this lovely loophole that park districts have made an annual ritual: Continue reading Park District Wants to Fix the Pool with Its “Revolving Credit Line”

    Rental Association Positions on Proposed Housing Ordinances

    DeKalb’s city council will hold a special workshop meeting August 22, 6 p.m. in council chambers, to discuss proposals related to the work of the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force. The agenda and backup materials (a 109-page PDF) are here.

    If you’ve been following the work of the task force, especially lately, you know that its advice differs in several ways from recommendations advocated by city staff.

    Now, the DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) is weighing in on those same recommendations with a position paper its board released today.

    I’m posting the paper in its entirety, with very minor editing, after the jump. Continue reading Rental Association Positions on Proposed Housing Ordinances

    Website Transparency Standouts

    The Illinois Policy Institute recently re-tested government website transparency in DuPage County’s York Township and released results last week.

    Dubbed “The Local Transparency Project,” grades are based on the availability to the public of vital community information such as public meeting schedules, government employee salaries and tax rates. Since the project was launched by the Institute in February 2010, more than 160 government entities have been graded.

    The government entities that scored above 80 percent were: DuPage County, Elmhurst School District 205, DuPage High School District 88 and the municipalities of Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Downers Grove and Lombard. The village of Lombard, in fact, maintained a score of 100 percent that initially awarded in May 2012.

    Almost all of the websites gained points the second time around, and the top sites made such improvement as to suggest conscious responses to the first test.

    And it’s not just about uploading content, but organizing it in such a way that it is easy to find.

    The Village of Lombard website is tops for several reasons. Redundancy is one. For example, you can get to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) information and forms from both the “How Do I…?” menu on the front page, and via the “Online Forms by Department” menu. An “A-Z” index is also available, which is how I found out the village offers extra goodies for residents, such as a directory of local contractors who meet village requirements for insurance and so on. Continue reading Website Transparency Standouts

    Corn Fest Financials Through 2010

    ear of cornDeKalb Corn Fest was lucky to have funds in reserve when it moved from the downtown to DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport in 2008.

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    Except for the “Lady Antebellum boost” in 2009, revenues have been trending downward. Revenues are no longer itemized on the tax forms, so we don’t know which categories have gotten hit.

    The expense story is not so mysterious: expenses jumped with the move to the airport because site costs rose from $20,000 to $38,000.

    It will be interesting to get last year’s numbers to see what effect, if any, the new parking fees had on the bottom line. You will recall that the City of DeKalb, not Corn Fest, benefits from the parking fees; nevertheless they could still affect attendance and spending.

    Source: Foundation Center 990 Finder

    Joint Meeting of City Council & Housing Task Force

    The meeting is Tuesday, June 26, 6 p.m. in DeKalb council chambers.

    The joint meeting is a signal that the work of the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force is almost done and that proposals will come up for votes at council soon.

    The city’s agenda does not list specific items, so I got mine from the DeKalb Area Rental Association. The issues include discussion of:

    • Three different mandatory inspection ordinances
    • Licensing and fee requirements for rental housing
    • A new Vacant Housing ordinance with possible $500 fees
    • Increased registration requirements and fees for rental housing
    • A Disorderly House ordinance

    I’ve attended several Task Force meetings. In my view, this whole exercise was started as another attempt by administrators to latch onto the teats of a new cash cow, aka DeKalb landlords. However, to my utter delight I have become a fan of the Task Force. This is no puppet committee.

    Meanwhile, the cow in the form of DARA obviously is going to kick and kick hard; but please do not make the mistake of believing these ordinance proposals only affect landlords. Come for the potential fireworks but stay for a conversation that ultimately will involve all of us.