State of the Blog

Hello there.

I’m one of the new mods/writers for the City Barbs Blog selected to fill in for Lynn Fazekas after she took the office of City Clerk. While some readers already know me, I thought it would be best to introduce myself.

So, firstly, I’m an NIU alum who majored in computer science. Yes, sadly I didn’t major in journalism. But if it makes you feel any better, I once pursued an associate degree in philosophy before I realized that it wasn’t going to make me money any time soon. On the plus side, there is likely to be data in posts of mine if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ve written several letters to the editor and attended/watched some city council meetings in the past. Lynn would tell you she picked me because of my commitment to the truth, but I’m doing this because I’m easily bribed with food (just kidding, sorta). What else? I’m an Air Force veteran where I worked in metrology; I have interests in the 1st Amendment, OMA, FOIA, local history, and education; and I used to catch plagiarism in computer programming courses for a living when I worked as a teaching assistant, so I can pay quite a bit attention to detail.

I’ve been conversing with Lynn and Bessie over the past few weeks to get an understanding of the forum rules, the origins and the role of the blog, current issues, etc. while we transition the responsibility of running this gig. Please forgive us for any delays as Bessie is still learning how to use the newfangled Facebook thing, and I’ve been somewhat apprehensive to act independently and make snap judgments. We appreciate your patience while we try to get things settled, and I can assure that all of us have the same desire to maintain a forum of political discussion where everyone feels welcome to participate. We do have some posts planned for this month but let us know if there’s anything you’d like us to focus on.

I also want to say something about the State of the City Address held last week. I had planned to attend and had taken the day off from work, but I was turned away because they didn’t have a card reader at the door. While it has been pointed out that the address was recorded and posted online, the event itself was nevertheless one of breaking bread and a mingling of minds. There was more there than the statements of a couple government officials, there were conversations – ones of not just economic importance but social and cultural as well. As a citizen journalist who wishes to be informed of matters so that I might in turn better facilitate discussion, I am now less able to do so. And considering the relatively steep price of the event and the fact that this was done prior to the official State of the City Address, the impression given (hopefully inadvertently) is that the interests of the community at large are less of a priority than solely business interests. In the future, the City should make every effort to avoid barriers which prevent all members of the public from listening and contributing to such conversations, and if it wishes to continue holding these events with the Chamber of Commerce, then I would recommend hosting it in the commons to avoid even the semblance of impropriety.

City Barbs Turns 11 Today

The other day, an acquaintance asked if calling City Barbs a “blog” is an insult.

Yeah, I get it. I’ve seen the curl of the lip when some speak of blogs and bloggers. But look who’s doing it. I’m proud of the crowd of lip-curlers we’ve got. They indicate we’re on the right track.

And while blogging often constitutes an act of self-indulgence (as it obviously does today, on this here anniversary) it can also be an act of achievement. I’ve built a significant body of work that has generally served the public interest despite an abundance of vanity. Not bad, I say. 🙂

So, no, calling City Barbs a blog, or me a blogger, is never taken as an insult.

Let’s talk more about the “we” of City Barbs, which is a group achievement. Over the years, I’ve received tons of support behind the scenes: readership, advice, articles, education, documents, pep talks, and donations. I am tremendously grateful for the support. It makes City Barbs feel like a community, and to me this likewise indicates we’re on the right track.

Thank you.

Another Anniversary

As City Barbs turns nine today, I want to express my pleasure and gratitude to you who have let me know in so many ways that the blog has value to you.

I am as excited as ever to begin another year. There’s the fresh smell of grassroots growing in the air and it makes sense to me that City Barbs continues to operate in service of perspectives and ideas that differ from those of the local political-media establishment.

Do you come here often? If so, you’ve noticed less frequent postings over the past several months. Schedules come into play, of course, but much of the change reflects a shift to posting more on Facebook. A lot of interesting public documents have come to light since the College Town Partners leak and I can’t resist the Facebook photo album format for displaying pages side-by-side with descriptions of their context. Hope you will check out the group if you haven’t already.

Lastly, here’s a plug for some o’ that grassroots freshness. You are invited to attend FOCUS DeKalb’s latest meeting — Part Deux to the town hall that drew almost 100 individuals. Find the deets here: Town Hall Meeting Tonight.

City Barbs Turned 8 this Month

That’s probably, what, 24 in blog years?

The actual anniversary date was November 6 but I’ve been distracted by other business. Luckily it’s Friday so I can hoist one to celebrate Joe’s creation and the work of the original Internet Research Commandos. Hope you will, too.

I’ve also cleaned house a bit. (Yes, sadly, that’s my current idea of a good time.) Among other things I’ve developed a Policies page and have eliminated links to blogs that haven’t provided new content for a year or more.

If you have a blog you’d like to link under Local Voices or you’d like to blog here, use the contact form below. Continue reading City Barbs Turned 8 this Month

Justice is Served in Bell

We return our attention to Bell, California. Administrators and council members there paid themselves exorbitant salaries while cutting city services, overcharging taxes and fees, and creating a major municipal revenue source out of a vehicle impounding program.

This and more was accomplished in a roughly DeKalb-sized town with per capita income of $24,000.

Now, today I was sent a link (thanks!) to an article with this beautiful headline: Bell Council Members Guilty of Multiple Corruption Counts.

Five former council members were found guilty of stealing public money. Two former city administrators are still awaiting trial.

Key factors in the corruption seem to include a lack of oversight — Bell does not have its own newspaper — an aggressive city manager “mastermind,” and Bell’s status as a charter city, which allows its government to ignore state limits on salaries and other spending.

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Site news: Posting is sure to remain very light through the rest of March and into April as the write-in campaign for city clerk continues. One way to be notified when I’ve posted is to visit or ask to join the City Barbs Facebook group if you use FB a lot.

There is no “r” in Fazekas

I want to offer a few words on my write-in candidacy for DeKalb City Clerk so it doesn’t get weird between us. I filed last Thursday, aware by that point of one other person who might be running and found out later that we are four.

A public statement of candidacy and a Facebook page are planned, and I’ll let you know when they are available.

Outside of those things I am still working out what’s fair to post here during the campaign. Of course I have opinions, strong ones, on the so-called “neutering” of the city clerk’s position, on Kapitan’s candidacy and about the mayoral candidates, but I don’t know that City Barbs will cover any of these topics directly between now and April 9.

One matter we will explore soon for sure is the City of DeKalb’s improved website. You may be aware that the City of DeKalb recently passed, in the “B” range, the Illinois Policy Institute’s transparency test for its online postings even though it’s gotten an “F” from me on the same test in the past. The good folks at IPI are waiting for me to rate the site again; it will be a good test not only of the site but of the IPI scoring system as well. The matter is on my list in ink and I hope to get to it sometime this week.

Miscellaneous Municipal Election News, Site News

First off, I want to follow up on the question of repealing home rule in Mt. Vernon. Voters defeated the challenge, meaning home rule is retained. High profile business backers, a core group of “Vote No” volunteers plus use of social media are credited with the success.

While the Mt. Vernon pro-home rule group won with 57% of the vote, there was a veritable smackdown by 70% of voters of the proposition to make the city clerk’s office in DeKalb an appointed one. It’s difficult not to look at this as a referendum on city administration, and on the performance of city manager Mark Biernacki in particular. Let him laugh at the suggestion that the ballot question was an attempted power grab — that doesn’t make it untrue.

With the retention of an elected city clerk, congenitally optimistic residents like me can hope for a real watchdog in the position.

Lastly, I’d like to note that City Barbs is now seven years old.

Treat this as an open thread if you like. Name yer topic.