Five reasons to slow down expansion plans for DeKalb’s in-house administrative hearings

There’s city council support for a Committee of the Whole meeting to air issues with the city attorney’s project to expand the types of ordinance violations the city will hear in-house. I think the CoW is going to happen, and I’ll keep you posted.

If so, it’s an excellent development, and shows council’s responsiveness to constituents’ concerns. Perhaps we’ll soon see the end of the pattern of staff’s working on pet projects in secret, then bursting onto the scene in create-a-crisis mode.

Here are five considerations for discussion.

1. The circuit court’s deadline does not have to be our deadline. If the court decides to conduct its ordinance violations process at the courthouse instead of city hall as of July 1, then people will have to travel to Sycamore for a while. If the court changes the day of the week that it conducts the hearings, people will have to change their calendars. These logistical inconveniences are not good enough reasons to risk errors. To get the ordinances right, we need to set our own pace.

2. This is the city manager’s job. It’s the city manager who oversees DeKalb’s administrative hearing procedure, via appointments to the city’s ordinance enforcement division. The new manager should have an opportunity to provide his or her perspective, including an opinion on the scope of the program. We also have no idea so far about the financial consequences of adding permanent staff, not to mention our continually increasing dependence on punishing people to fill budget holes.

3. We must eliminate the appearance of conflicts of interest. Why is the city attorney driving this initiative? It feeds the perception that he is the de facto city manager, and also that he is serving his own interests by expanding his role. This project must not proceed until he is put back, and seen to be put back, into his proper place in the organization. Continue reading Five reasons to slow down expansion plans for DeKalb’s in-house administrative hearings

County support of Frieders’ initiative?

So as we were saying the other day, DeKalb city attorney Dean Frieders made a pitch for in-house adjudication of local ordinance violations via administrative hearings.

To be clear, DeKalb already does administrative hearings, but it’s limited to violations related to the administrative towing ordinance, parking citations, and city-issued licenses. So what we’re talking about is an expansion in what DeKalb would handle itself, as opposed to using the circuit court process.

Frieders said the chief circuit court judge and state’s attorney support the changes. I’m sure that’s true and it’s fine. These officials get to run their offices the way they see fit. But county board members contacted by citizens since the presentation, including members of the Law and Justice Committee, hadn’t heard of it. They should have, because budgeting. Continue reading County support of Frieders’ initiative?

The hidden agenda item

At the end of last week’s council meeting in DeKalb, city attorney Dean Frieders presented an argument for in-house adjudication of ordinance violations. Currently, DeKalb conducts administrative hearings on very minor ordinance violations at city hall once a week as an administrative branch of the circuit court. Frieders’ plan would detach DeKalb from the county-level judiciary, and DeKalb would handle more types of ordinance violations than it does now.

This would be major, right? You could reasonably expect the changes to affect ordinances, staffing and budget, with impacts to individuals and businesses. Yet the item did not appear on the agenda for the meeting, because Frieders made the pitch during the part of the meeting listed as “Reports – Communications” (“Reports”).

“Reports” does not individually specify what to expect, because nobody knows. It’s essentially a “Good of the Order” that involves non-actionable items such as announcements, updates and general comments on the conduct of city business.

Doing it this way also provides no opportunity for public comment.

So what you wouldn’t expect is use of “Reports” to introduce a major initiative as if it were a routine progress report on a course of action already publicly approved. Yet that appears to be what happened. I’ve talked to at least a half-dozen fellow city watchers and nobody remembers any public discussion of in-house adjudication. It’s also not on any city agenda posted this year that I can find.

Where this item actually belonged, then, was “New Business,” with its own subject line and its own explanatory memo stuffed into the backup packet. People actually do skim city agendas to find and research items of importance, and in this case they couldn’t because it wasn’t there.

I have no firm idea why they did it this way, but transparency it ain’t. Continue reading The hidden agenda item

A look at the county’s nursing center renovation project, and what it might mean

I have a dark red brick on my mantel that came from the old DeKalb County Home, now known as DeKalb County Nursing and Rehabilition Center (DCNRC). On one side of the brick is a sketch of the Home, on another a short history of the facility in dates and names.

The brick tells me that DCRNC’s previous location on Sycamore Road was demolished in the year 2000, which means it has taken the county more than 15 years to bring to light chronic logistical issues at the “new” place that create congested hallways and risk cold food.

I asked myself, “Why now?” And this is where I landed:

Also planned is an addition to the north of the existing structure, adding 18 single-occupancy rooms. These rooms will be the Medicare rooms, but also help the facility keep up with the times.

Presenting the addition as almost an afterthought to a primary mission of logistical remediation is hilarious to me. It’s actually much more likely that the desire for the addition kicked off the project. Because money. Continue reading A look at the county’s nursing center renovation project, and what it might mean

Cindy and Ed Must Be Part of Voters’ Conversations about County Tax Referendum

***Note: This was originally published in June 2016. I am posting an updated version today, since the referendum ended up on the April 4, 2017 ballot instead of last November’s.***

The DeKalb County Health Department is trying to persuade our county board to place a referendum on the November election ballot to begin levying a property tax specifically for health services.

If this referendum does appear on the ballot, the most pressing questions for voters must include evaluation of needs, and of DeKalb County’s stewardship of our money.

Turns out, I have an example related to the latter for you to consider. Let me introduce you to Cindy and Ed. Continue reading Cindy and Ed Must Be Part of Voters’ Conversations about County Tax Referendum

Accountable healthcare: a national trend may have just landed in a hospital near you

In July 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into existence, and handed former President Harry Truman the first Medicare card. There was much celebration.

The next day, the struggle began to keep the program solvent.

It’s not much of an exaggeration, really. Medicare was less than a decade old when, in efforts to contain rapidly escalating costs, Health Maintenance Organizations and managed care were born (1973).

At its most basic, managed care is a model for keeping healthcare costs as low as possible without actually sacrificing human lives to save a buck. Continue reading Accountable healthcare: a national trend may have just landed in a hospital near you

Schrader: Loss of KishHealth Holdings, a Community-Owned Asset

**Update: More about this now posted at Barry’s Blog.**

KishHealth System officials answered questions from the public following a presentation before the DeKalb County Board last night. While the Daily Chronicle chose not to address an exchange regarding who owns the real estate where Kishwaukee Hospital operates (as well as other KishHealth System holdings acquired by Northwestern Medicine), journalist-cum-blogger Barry Schrader did. Here’s an excerpt from an emailed statement (my emphasis added): Continue reading Schrader: Loss of KishHealth Holdings, a Community-Owned Asset

Former DeKalb County Treasurer is Banned from Banking Activities

Remember Mark Todd? He’s the former VP of Farmers and Traders State Bank in Shabbona who got himself appointed DeKalb County Treasurer, ran unopposed for the same office as the bank failed, and then resigned to move to Hawaii.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is just finishing up with him.

The FDIC considered the matter and determined it had reason to believe that:

(a) The Respondent has engaged or participated in violations, unsafe or unsound banking practices, and/or breaches of fiduciary duty as an institution-affiliated party of Farmers’ and Traders’ State Bank, Shabbona, Illinois (“Bank”);

(b) By reason of such violations, practices acid/or breaches of fiduciary duty, the Bank has suffered financial loss or other damage, the interests of the Bank’s depositors have been or could be prejudiced, and Respondent has received financial gain or other benefit; and

(c) Such violations, practices and/or breaches of fiduciary duty involve personal dishonesty on the part of the Respondent or demonstrate the Respondent’s willful or continuing disregard for the safety or soundness of the Bank.

The FDIC further determined that such violations, practices and/or breaches of fiduciary duty demonstrate the Respondent’s unfitness to serve as a director, office, person participating in the conduct of the affairs, or as an institution-affiliated party, of the Bank, any other insured depository institution, or any other agency or organization enumerated in section 8(e)(7)(A) of the Act, 12 U.S.C. § 1818(e)(7)(A).

Todd has waived his right to a hearing on the above allegations and entered into an agreement with FDIC that he is prohibited (except with express written permission from FDIC) from “participating in any manner in the conduct of the affairs of any financial institution or organization” including voting for directors and so on.

To read the prohibition order yourself, go here to find and download the PDF file.

Another Jail Referendum? Really?

Déjà vu. DeKalb County Board is considering placing a proposed sales tax increase on the ballot next spring, for…an improved jail.

“What I plan to do is on the county board meeting on Dec. 17 is to review where we’re at with the jail expansion and some options for where we might go, one of those options being whether we go for referendum,” [County Administrator Gary] Hanson said.

Never mind that they’ve told us ad nauseam about how the tipping fees from the landfill expansion will pay for the jail expansion.

What changed?

[The landfill tipping] fees are estimated to total about $2.2 million a year, with about $1.9 million being available for the jail expansion project.

But that also is what the county would lose if Sycamore’s sales tax agreements with two airline fuel-purchasing companies collapses under a legal challenge from the Regional Transportation Authority, which is arguing that the companies don’t actually buy the fuel in Sycamore.

Boo-effin’ hoo.

When the airlines set up shop in Sycamore about 10 years ago, it doubled the county’s annual sales tax take from $2 million to $4 million.

Did you hear all the discussion back then about how to use the extra $2 million? Me neither. The jail expansion project was apparently not important enough to get a piece of the windfall.

And windfall it most certainly is: So much money was coming from just two companies, and they made it clear during the referendum discussion of 2006 that they would leave for cheaper pastures if the county tried to apply any sales tax increases to them. They have no loyalty to DeKalb County.

Nevertheless, instead of setting aside a stream that — clearly — could disappear at a moment’s notice, the county quietly absorbed the extra revenue into operations faster than a Bounty® brand towel.

Do we really want to reward this kind of shortsightedness?

We Don’t Know if Dogs are Biting People in Forest Preserves or Not

The key word must be “verified,” though nothing in the story actually is.

“Over the years, the amount of dog-walking has increased, so we’ve been getting more complaints and more problems,” said Terry Hannan, DeKalb County Forest Preserve superintendent.

Although Hannan said more people have been bitten in DeKalb County’s forest preserves during the past few years, Greg Maurice, director of health protection at the DeKalb County Health Department, said he hasn’t received many reports. Maurice supervises DeKalb County Animal Control, which documents and follows cases of dog bites.

The health department has written a couple of off-leash tickets to people at the county’s 17 forest preserves during the past few years, but no verified dog bites at county forest preserves have ever come into the health department’s office, Maurice said.

I’m confused. Are dogs biting, or not? Are reports of dog bites passed on to the health department, or not? Seems like a couple more questions might have cleared this up.

Related:
Illinois Animal Control Act